Dear Sam: My story goes like this...I graduated with a B.A. in history at the age of 32 in 2007. I took a job that paid less than before I earned my B.A. because my father had passed away which left me responsible for taking care of my mother. She passed away in January of 2009. On April 30, 2009, I lost my job. I have been highly unsuccessful in finding a job since. I have had only a few interviews (all resulting in no job). I realize my résumé is awful. I have presented at history conferences and have been given great reviews because of my aptitude for writing history, but my résumé is another story. The only way I can describe it is a psychological block. I have books, read articles, and yet my résumé is dreadful and lacks direction. I have spent months of just staring at the screen (almost willing it to change) and, as I sit there, my frustration and blood pressure begin to rise. I'm an intelligent person; however, writing a résumé for me presents the same frustrations as math. I feel like an absolute failure and my résumé conveys this. Help! - Tamara

Dear Tamara: I'm so sorry you are feeling this way; unfortunately, feeling helpless is an all-too-common feeling for job seekers. Let me see if I can shed some light on the direction you need to take with your résumé.

You open your résumé with a summary of qualifications which is a great start; however, it is a little underdeveloped. Currently, you have four brief bullet points presented which simply note that you have a degree, 8 years of customer service experience, 7 years of training experience, and strong written and verbal communication skills. While these are all nice qualifications, none of them will differentiate you from your competitors.

Assuming you are seeking a position in the customer service field, you need to build a summary which tells your audience why they should bring you in for an interview. In this summary, focus on what makes you different. From a scan of your résumé, I can clearly see aspects of your background that would separate you from the pack. Here are some ideas of what you could say:

  1. Provided dedicated administrative support to senior-level leaders, handling mission-critical initiatives including internal and external communications, vendor coordination, and operational reporting.
  2. Proven track record of identifying and capitalizing on continuous improvement opportunities, streamlining processes through the development of new filing systems to organize records and ease retrieval.
  3. Demonstrated exceptional communication strengths along with the ability to connect with diverse audiences while facilitating training to drive achievement of scorecard metrics.

Do you see how, just by improving the language, that your experience looks stronger?

I would also recommend a few improvements in the structure of your résumé. First, you have 3 strong career positions to present (1997-2005, 2006-2007, and 2007-2009), with more recent experience (2009 and 2009-present) that really needs to be minimized on your résumé. Currently, you are including months of employment which is preventing the ability to delete short-term jobs such as your freelance writing position for 2 months in late 2009 and your student assistant position (2005-2006). By omitting months of employment and only presenting years, you gain the ability to remove or reprioritize your roles. I would open your professional experience section with a brief byline which states, Recent experience in customer service, client relations, and business development as the owner and operator of a pet care business. I would then immediately flow into your impressive administrative, program coordination, and training roles. This is very important as you want the reader to only glance at your recent self-employment and instead spend time focusing on what you did within your career roles. This reorganization and reprioritization of your experiences will ensure your most related and relevant responsibilities and accomplishments come to the forefront.

Speaking of responsibilities and accomplishments, be sure you are not merging the two together in your professional experience section. Currently, your résumé is a long list of bullet points; instead, you will want to create the paragraph and bullet point combination. When using this approach, you will create a short paragraph overview of your job with bullet points highlighting specific achievements, contributions, or other notable highlights. As your résumé stands now, you have one bullet point presenting a rather mundane job responsibility and the next presenting a rather impressive achievement. When all of the content is presented in a bullet point, there is no prioritization to the information and the reader will not know what to read first.

If you take some more time to develop your résumé, reprioritize content, further develop your section summaries, and make sure you develop a differentiating qualifications summary, I am certain you will have a great product that will market you effectively. I wish you the best of success.


Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Do you have a résumé or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at For more about Sam's résumé writing services, visit or call 614-570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).