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August 9, 2011 > Counseling Corner: Creating a Stronger Resume & Getting a Better Job

Counseling Corner: Creating a Stronger Resume & Getting a Better Job

One Tri-City Resident's Story

By Anne Chan, PhD, MFT

For the next few "Counseling Corner" columns, we'll be following the real-life progress of Jane, a long-time Tri-City resident who hopes to get a better, higher-paying job. I've changed the details of Jane's identity to protect her privacy, but she has graciously agreed to share her story with Tri City Voice readers so that others can learn and perhaps be inspired by her journey.

Jane came to me for a resume-makeover with the goal of finding a job with better pay and better career advancement. A single mother of three, Jane works hard to put food on the table, but struggles from time to time to pay her bills. Jane has been an administrative assistant for a small electronics company for the last seven years. For the most part, she likes her job as well as the people she works with, but there is little room for career advancement. Looking into the future, Jane knows she will have to earn more to support the needs of her growing children and she wants to take steps now to ensure a better future for her and her kids. Her greatest hope is that she will be able to find a better paying job in a larger company with good benefits and the possibility of future career growth.

One of the first things I like to know about my clients are their strengths and their interests. This information helps me get to know them better so I can guide them more accurately. This information is also helpful in resume writing. Jane's strengths include being a people person, a hard worker, a dedicated member of her company, and a fast learner. I told her that these were admirable qualities that we should highlight on her resume.

A big piece of my work with Jane will involve clarifying her career goals. This is critical because resumes have to be targeted toward specific jobs and industries. Like many people out there, Jane was focused on getting a higher salary. This is an important goal to keep in mind, but to get to this goal in an optimal fashion, Jane will need to know how she wants to get to this goal. It's like thinking of going to San Francisco, but not being clear on whether one wants to drive, take BART or bus, or carpool to the city. To help Jane clarify her career goals, I gave her the Strong Interest Inventory to complete - this is a career assessment that matches one's responses to the responses of people who are satisfied and happy with their jobs. This assessment will give specific ideas for jobs that are well matched to one's unique interests.

The second thing I did to help Jane clarify her goals was to ask her what she likes and dislikes doing, both at work and in her personal life. Although she is good at her desk job, Jane much prefers to work with her hands and to be building things. In fact, her hobby is fixing cars and she would be very happy if she could get paid fixing cars. She also likes to help people, but would rather not have to do customer service. She also said, half-jokingly, that she likes being paid for overtime. She would very much like to be in a larger company to grow in and she listed Google and Netflix as two of her dream companies to work in.

I gave her some "homework" to do after our first session -
* Identify and start looking for jobs in companies she would like to join
* Bring one or two job ads that appeal to her
* Think about the next salary range she would like to earn
* Do the Strong Interest Inventory

You might be surprised that we have yet to work directly on her resume. My advice to people wanting to have a stronger resume is always, always, always identify a job ad before writing or rewriting your resume. A resume without a specific job in mind is like Popeye without his spinach - your resume would be passable, but not outstanding. A targeted resume is that much more powerful and impactful AND is more likely to get you to the interview stage.

I am hopeful and confident that we can get Jane to a better job. Stay tuned for the next installment about her career journey!

Anne Chan is a career counselor and licensed psychotherapist in Union City. She specializes in helping people find happiness in their careers, lives, and relationships. She can be reached at 510-744-1781. Her website is

(c) Anne Chan, 2011

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