Writing a great resume under ideal career history conditions (several consecutive, gap-free, lengthy spans of employment which match well with what you are applying for) is challenging enough. It becomes even more difficult when you are up against one or more additional challenges, so I thought I’d address a few of those and offer some insights.

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1) I’m just out of school and have no real experience, how can I create a professional resume?

We write for lots of college students seeking employment and internships. Begin with a couple short paragraphs detailing your value, skill sets and achievements. Include a list of 9-12 core skills you feel you possess which are applicable to what you may be applying for. Be sure to capture your degree, majors and minors–something like this:

Bachelor of Science – Business Administration, TRUMAN STATE UNIVERSITY – Fall 2012
Minor in Economics

If you have already completed the degree you do not need to put the year of graduation, and you never are required to state your GPA. I suggest to use these on a discretionary basis with consideration of whether it will help or hurt the cause.
Capture your involvements on campus and in the community. Be sure to spell out acronyms and it is great to provide a brief description of the organization as well. Highlight any chairs or significant roles taken in those groups.
At this point in the resume, add any jobs you HAVE had. Even if it is seemingly unimportant, if you worked a year or two waiting tables or in a campus position, share it. This suggests to an employer you have proven an ability to hold down a job of some kind, and that you may have references available.
2) I am returning to the job market after many years staying at home with the kids, and haven’t thought about a resume in a very long time. Where do I start?
Take some peace in knowing you are not alone, not at all. The economy of recent years has forced many back into traditional employment after long periods of time away from it.

The important thing is to do justice to what you accomplished, even if it was some time ago. Detail your duties and achievements to the best of your ability, and use your cover letter to explain your return to work. I do not suggest, “I am applying for this job because I need the money, and have no other desire to do work of any kind.” I might go with, “I am eager to pursue this opportunity as I return to my career path after an extended maternity leave.”

If you have several gaps in your employment with a good reason, you can state this on the resume. Stints of maternity leave or otherwise are acceptable to share. Also, do not be terribly shaken if you have been unemployed for a year or more. Employers understand the nature of the job market and will not discredit you immediately just because you were laid off and have been searching for awhile.

3) I have a good amount of experience in one industry, but now would like to pursue an entirely different career path. What do I do?
This is another common question and a challenge which can be overcome with a strong resume. Your experience is what it is, and you still need to capture it in a strong manner. Be mindful of what an employer in the newly sought field would want to see, and use this to guide how you explain your roles and accomplishments. In your opening paragraphs describe yourself and your values with respect to what makes sense for them. If you have a history in accounting but are pursuing HR, share your soft skills which you feel would serve you well in that capacity. Again, the core skill list is key here. Review job descriptions you might be interested in and match your skills with what they are seeking–just be able to defend them if asked! The cover letter is another opportunity to overcome this obstacle. Share your career highlights and explain succinctly why you would be a good fit for this opportunity. You may spend a line or two describing how you have taken on this new direction, and that you have developed the skills in your career to adapt well in a new arena.