Notes of a résumé writer

BY SAMANTHA NOLAN Modified: July 6, 2012 at 11:38 am •  Published: July 7, 2012
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Dear Sam: I am sure you find your inbox filled with requests like mine, but I don’t know where else to turn. I have been on unemployment for more than eight months and have not landed a single interview! I have actually never been able to secure a "job of my dreams" since I immigrated to the United States 14 years ago. I possess an advanced degree in music education, but am unable to find a job and unable to retarget my résumé to secure work in an alternate field. I am losing strength and perseverance. I invested so much money, energy, and time in my education, and now what? I know that you are not a counseling agency and I apologize for spilling all the bitterness, but I need a bit of support. I appreciate any commentary you can provide on my résumé. – Nada

Dear Nada: I’m so sorry to hear that since coming to the U.S., you have been unable to secure your “dream job.” From looking at your résumé, I can see you are a highly qualified music educator with a document that should be fairly effective in positioning you for professor opportunities at the college level. What I am concerned about, however, is the appearance¾with this résumé¾of the transferability of your qualifications and experience into other fields.

I imagine that professor opportunities with area colleges and universities, within departments of music, are few and far between, so having a résumé that sells your transferable skills would be vital in opening doors in other areas of interest.

Determine what you are qualified to do and interested in pursuing

The first step in writing a résumé, which positions you for opportunities outside of your main field of experience and education, is to determine what those alternate opportunities may be. You could take your training and experience in multiple directions. I can think of several options I have seen other candidates pursue with similar backgrounds: teaching at a middle or high school level, a business development position with an organization in the music industry, or even a program leadership role in a nonprofit with work closely associated with your craft. Start perusing job postings and identify what positions are out there for which you fulfill the majority of qualifications, and start to think of your experience in a different light.

Keyword map to outline content development strategies

Once you have found a handful of positions of interest, I recommend performing a keyword mapping exercise in order to outline the content most important to include in your résumé. To perform keyword mapping, I suggest the following steps:

(1) Print a representative sampling of job postings (10 or so) you are interested in;

(2) read the postings and write desired qualifications, skills, etc. on the left side of a piece of paper;

(3) cross-reference the list with your qualifications, transferring the items you possess to the right side of the piece of paper, and crossing them off the left side of the paper;