How to Help Your Resume Stand Out if You’re in a Helping Profession – Part One



You’ve heard it before: hiring managers are impressed with numbers. That’s easy for someone in sales or finance, you may think. But how, exactly, are you supposed to impress anyone if you deal with people instead of figures?

Since it’s so difficult for many jobseekers in helping professions to think of things to brag about, often they don’t do it. And as a result, their resumes can be boring. Yep, so unimpressive that they don’t catch a hiring manager’s eye, and end up in the recycle pile instead.

So what’s a teacher or medical professional* or social worker to do? Helping students or patients or clients may be just part of the job, but the secret to setting yourself apart from other jobseekers is to find the ways you do that job better or more efficiently than those around you. And then brag about it.

You don’t like to brag? Trust me, you’ll need to venture out of your comfort zone for your job search. It’s okay, actually expected, that you tout your accomplishments in your resume.

If you need some help getting started, consider your answers to the following questions for each job you’ve held (and write those answers down!):

Why?- Why were you hired for the position? If you were hired to meet a particular challenge that your employer faced, then considering the ways you’ve met or exceeded your employer’s expectations regarding that challenge may give you something you can brag about. Perhaps you were hired to teach low-performing students, or to address high turnover in a nursing department. Were you able to improve the situation?

What?- The answers to these questions can yield all sorts of accomplishments worth bragging about. For example: What do you enjoy the most about your job? What are you most proud of? What do your coworkers and boss say about you? What is unique about how you do your job? What have you done to increase your responsibilities at work? Hopefully, you’re starting to see a theme here. It’s all about what you do for your employer to make a difference… and not necessarily to the bottom line!

Still coming up empty? Here are a few more questions to think about: What teams have you been a part of? What special projects have you worked on? What have you done to improve communications, procedures, efficiency, etc.?

How many?- Yep, this is where the numbers come in, even for someone who deals with people instead of profits. Dig deep and find ways to quantify what you do. For example: How many patients/students/clients do you work with in a day? How many people are on the teams you work with? How many/what different types of diseases/injuries/problems do you treat/solve? How quickly did you learn complex tasks? What was the competition like to get into your program/field/position? How many people did you beat out to get in? What percentage of time do you meet or exceed a standard you are held to (for example, client satisfaction or student improvement or timely resolution of problems)? Estimations are okay, but get very specific if you can. If you don’t, your competition will!

How?- Once you’ve identified some of the things you might brag about, take a few minutes to ponder how you manage to do those things so well. Are you extremely friendly or knowledgeable or focused? Perhaps you manage impossible deadlines with grace and humor. Or maybe you’re the go-to person in your hospital whenever there’s a difficult blood draw. Whatever your strengths, those specific skills or personality traits that set you apart in the workplace can help set you apart on your resume as well!

Are you with me so far? I hope you’re feeling more positive about all of the ways you’ve done a great job for each of your previous employers, and more pumped up about finding the next one. Before you go off to flaunt all your wonderful skills and achievements on your resume, though, there’s one last part to this bragging bit that you need to know about… how to write about it! I’ll cover that, in detail, in Part Two, my next post.

Meanwhile, if you need a bit more help defining your strengths or finding things to brag about, feel free to reach out to me.

Kristin S. Johnson
CARW, CCMC, CJSS, COPNS, CG3C, 360Reach Analyst
Profession Direction, LLC 

* Working with medical and healthcare professionals is one of my specialties. In fact, last year (2014) I was honored to win the Best Medical/Healthcare Resume, 2nd place TORI (Toast of the Resume Industry) Award from Career Directors International. You can see that resume here.

Did you notice what I did there? I used a number to brag about myself a little bit. ;-)

9 Tips for Targeting Your Job Search

In the business world you hear a lot about targets, and it rarely has anything to do with Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (unless you’re part of the studio who produces the movies). And it has nothing to do with an assassin’s prospective victim, either. When most of us hear the word “target” in the workplace, we’re hearing it as a substitute for “goal,” as when we’re looking to make certain sales numbers.

All of these usages of “target” have something in common, though: if Katniss wants to have meat on the table, she’d better shoot something. If an assassin wants his hit money, he’d better aim carefully. And if a company wants to meet its sales targets, it will probably require some actual selling to get it done.

So here’s my career-counseling corollary: getting a first/next/better job requires action on your part. You’ll need to take where you’re standing now, with your list of job requirements that will help you find a job that’s satisfying (see my recent post on 8 Tips for Finding a Job That Fits Your Values for help in figuring out what type of job will make you happiest). Next, you’ll need to identify your target. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to aim and fire.

But, wait! Where do you find your target? How do you go from knowing what type of job will make you happiest to finding actual employers who might be a good fit for your values and skills?

Here are some pointers for zeroing in on your “prey” / future employer:

  1. Look locally. Are there any employers nearby who are in your desired industry? Google, LinkedIn’s Company search function, and your local Chamber of Commerce can all be good sources for this info.
  2. Dream big. To your list, add companies that you secretly (or very publicly) admire. What services do you use, products do you buy, or things do you covet? Add those companies to your list. What have you got to lose?
  3. Ask around. If you want to know where the best fishing or hunting is, you ask someone who knows. It’s the same principle here: reach out to your friends, family, neighbors, and other likely sources. Grill them on what they think of their employers, and what they’ve heard about other employers. If you run across an exciting company, go one step further and ask your contact if they’ll introduce you to someone who works there. (See my post on Informational Interviewing for tips)
  4. Consider your competition. What do you hear about competing companies in your field? If it’s good (and you don’t have a non-compete agreement), your competitors may well appreciate your industry knowledge and experience.
  5. Build bridges. Sometimes, the gap between where we’d ultimately like to end up working and where we are now is a bit too far to cross in one step. For example, a new graduate is unlikely to be hired as CEO at a large retailer or manufacturer. Your best bet is to find a “bridge job,” or a stepping stone, that will give you experience in a position, industry, or company and allow you to make a future move toward your ultimate goal later.
  6. Use your alumni status.Many college and university career centers have special resources to assist job-hunting alumni, including job listings where alumni status might give you an “in.”
  7. Leverage lists. Dig up any “Best Places to Work” list you can find, and dig into them to see if there are any potential matches between your job requirements and listed companies.
  8. Explore Organizations. Are you a member of a professional association that hires people with your expertise? For example, a hotelier could add a hospitality association to their target list instead of solely looking to get hired by Marriott or Hilton.
  9. Be brave. If something feels a little scary, it’s an opportunity for growth. Open yourself up to the idea of working internationally. Not for you? Would you move cross-country? Across the state? I challenge you to find something out of your comfort zone, and try it. For you, using social media to identify potential employers may feel a bit risky. If so, use Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn to follow companies or brands you’re interested in. Or start conversations with other people about their jobs. Take a risk!

All of these methods can turn up good leads to help you in your job search. This is a critical step between defining the types of jobs that you might love and landing the right job at the right employer. After all, “The odds of hitting your target go up dramatically when you aim at it.” (Mal Pancoast)

For more information about targeting potential employers, feel free to contact me. Or if you’re in the Madison area, I invite you to join me at a presentation on Tuesday, October 21st by career counselor and author Elisabeth Sanders-Park on “5 Steps to a Shorter Job Search,” including advice on targeting employers. Click here for more information or to register:

Happy hunting!