Meet Jake!

Jake was an unfortunate victim of the downturn in his chosen industry. Graduating in 2005 from a Master's in Aviation program, he entered the job market and was unsuccessful in securing a position in his field of interest. Then, with the global economic crisis just a few years later, he put his dreams on hold and decided to continue to work in the retail field for Sam's Club, not knowing if he would ever be able to use his degree to break into aviation.

Original Strategy...

Jake came to me with essentially the same résumé he had put together after high school. His résumé lacked formatting, any aesthetic appeal, it focused on the retail sales-related tasks he had performed since 1998, and his résumé was doing nothing short of sabotaging his chances of launching his aviation career. Jake's original two-page résumé was doing little to position him for entry into the aviation field and was instead hurting his chances to move forward toward the accomplishment of his dreams.

Some key pitfalls of Jake's original résumé were:

(1) Amount of Experience Presented - Jake had presented his experience back to 1998 (when he was a high school sophomore) which was unnecessarily aging his candidacy and making him seem like a nontraditional student seeking to change fields.

(2) Lack of Prioritization - Jake had not only performed in his retail sales roles but also had been tasked with special assignments that were related to his field of interest (safety, compliance, etc.), yet he had not prioritized these items and therefore they appeared on page two of his original résumé.

(3) Omission of Positioning Statement - Instead of opening his résumé with a qualifications summary, Jake opened with an objective statement, telling potential employers that he wanted to use his skills in his desired field. While certainly true, this statement wasted the most valuable real estate on his résumé and it did nothing to differentiate his candidacy nor sell him to his target audience.

(4) No Visual Appeal - Jake's formatted Word résumé looked more like a plain text résumé void of any interesting formatting. Not only was every piece of information presented in a bullet point, but the headings were underlined with no white space between them and the information to follow. The result was a cluttered sea of black and white text.

New Strategy...

Writing and designing Jake's résumé was a thrill for me as I was excited about the opportunity for improvement that existed and, from that, the opportunity to illustrate to Jake that he really was qualified to open doors in the industry. However, as it had been 5+ years since graduation, and since he had continued to work with the same retailer since high school, we had some significant hurdles to overcome.

Key tactics used to overcome obstacles and turn around Jake's résumé mistakes included:

(1) Presenting the Right Amount of Experience - Showing experience back to Jake's days in high school was inappropriate, unnecessarily aging his candidacy and taking him out of the running for entry-level roles. Instead, presenting his positions since 2005-when he transferred to a different store-allowed us to show experience post-graduation while still conveying his loyalty, hard work, and dedication.

(2) Prioritizing Related and Relevant Experiences - Through my consultation with Jake, I learned more about his work during his degree program and while engaged in special assignments with Sam's Club. Leveraging this information, I created a Highlights section which conveyed Jake's most related and relevant experience up front before the reader would even see the Experience section and Jake's tenure in the retail industry. This prioritization allowed for added focus on Jake's most related skills including understanding of TSA guidelines, compliance, safety, and performance improvement.

(3) Positioning Strategy - Jake's new résumé opens with a qualifications summary which serves to tell potential employers what Jake offers and what he can do for them. Replacing the self-serving objective statement, this summary allows for increased focus on Jake's qualifiers versus his potential disqualifiers.

(4) Visual Appeal - I felt it was key to Jake's success to create a design that sold him as an aviation candidate with just a glance at his résumé. To do this, I developed a unique look to Jake's résumé which included some masculine blue and brown tones, a solid sans serif font, a personal tagline, a small image of clouds, and positioning of critical aviation-related skills and qualifications in a highlighted, right-aligned border.

With his new résumé Jake now has a chance to be seen as a competitive candidate in his field of interest and he is going to re?launch his search, with never-before-felt enthusiasm and confidence that he has put on hold for 5+ years.

Jake's Response...

I have been meaning to tell you for a while now that the résumé and cover letter are awesome. You did an excellent job with them. Everyone I have shown my new résumé to thinks it is outstanding. Thanks for the great work. It is a pretty good feeling knowing that I am not embarrassed about my résumé anymore. Thanks again!

View Jake's before and after résumé on

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).