How can I stay focused while rewriting my resume for the 1000th time?
March 6, 2013 2:06 PM   Subscribe

I’ve shuffled the words around so many times, they’ve not only lost all meaning to me, but actually blur in front of my eyes. I’m starting to make really dumb mistakes. Until the end of year 2 of underemployment, I had a few friends who were willing to give my applications a once-over, but I’m now embarrassed about asking for help so often. How can I stay on track? Any advice on a check system to minimize errors?

I’ve been underemployed for three years, after a layoff and a move back to my home country. I have to do substantial tweaking for every position to which I apply, because my career ‘path’ consists of 10+ years of stops and starts, mostly in support roles for smaller organizations in the non-profit and education sectors. (So, a bit of comms, a touch of generalist ‘research’, some coordinating & facilitating & outreach here and there, and more admin than I want to think about. Or do, really, maybe that’s part of it.)

Basically, if I think I meet 7/10 criteria for a job, or can make a strong case for a match, I apply. The specs are often different enough that serious surgery’s required every third effort. (E.g.: getting rid of sector-specific jargon; adding it back in; emphasizing one or another aspect of the hugely varied work I did, and translating it into sector-specific language, using relevant keyword sprinklage.)

Resume consultants have been mostly unhelpful. Seems they’re used to high fliers, or are unfamiliar with the sectors in which I have experience. (Have also been advised to basically spam 2nd and 3rd degree contacts on LinkedIn, but I suspect this might undermine confidence in my judgement. My profile there’s fuzzy, because I don’t see how I can make it all things for all people.) Reviving my ‘network’ from where I’m at’s been a nonstarter.

My area’s highly competitive, and I’m pretty sure people with graduate degrees are getting my target roles, which nominally asking for a BA. The private sector is not loving me, either. (Looking for non-admin ‘assistant’ type positions in marketing and communications departments, here.)

Long-term goal: shooting for an MA, tbd - either in an allied health field, or in something related to health policy - but it won’t happen for a while. Currently, I’m rehabbing my undergrad GPA on a part-time basis. Doing well in that, at least, getting 3.8-4.0 in all classes taken so far. It will take me up to June 2014 to complete this though, and I’ll be 40 when I’m done. Slightly panicking about that.

Mid-term goal: get a little place closer to friends; have enough money to go out more often than twice a month.

Also: I’ve got a huge mental block around doing 100% admin (reception, admin assistant, etc). I’m registered with and regularly contact three agencies wanting to put me in exactly this, in the suburbs (hate those, have no car). I know, I should be grateful for any opportunity, but I feel worn out and pissed off just looking at the specs. And I question how much a job like that will help my grad/professional school application down the line. I’m at the point where I know I have to not only consider but get excited about these kinds of jobs, but I'm having a hard time.

How can I accept my situation, and marshal enough focus to not completely fuck up my apps?
posted by nelljie to Work & Money (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A possible answer to your first question: print your resume out. read it out loud, pointing to each and every word as you say it. PIA but it works.

Partial answer to final question: Throw yourself a pity party. Invite supportive listeners, Ideally with others who are unemployed or otherwise being treated unfairly by life. Include alcohol if appropriate. Bitch and moan and complain in the most unreasonable, child-like way being as over the top as possible. Make sure listeners know that practical advice or reasonable perspectives are NOT welcome - appropriate response are "poor baby", "that's tough" or "you think that's got it bad, listen to my story" (Bonus points if it gets so absurd that you make yourself laugh.) Do this at least every week or two. When the party is over, it should be a little easier to do what you need to do for your job search.
posted by metahawk at 2:16 PM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I’ve got a huge mental block around doing 100% admin (reception, admin assistant, etc).

Reception and admin assistant are completely different jobs. I am in marketing in my company and I have been lobbying for 2 years to have someone (me, but really anyone) be a "project manager" coordinator person to consolidate everyone's comments on things, keep everyone on deadline on cross-departmental projects, etc. Too many cooks and nobody watching the stove. But it hasn't happened. Then they created a new admin position for our COO and guess what she's doing nearly half-time: project coordination. She is definitely not answering phones and she is skilled and respected and will probably leave here in a year with fabulous experience under her belt (and the rest of us well-trained & efficient). So don't write off admin positions.

I’m at the point where I know I have to not only consider but get excited about these kinds of jobs, but I'm having a hard time.

You don't have to fake enthusiasm, but you can be more open to the possibilities. Be slightly mercenary: what software training will I get out of this? What networking opportunities? What current references will you take away from it? (E.g., I'm in marketing at a credit union, totally not my thing, but we do a lot of community development work so my grant-writing is a plus and I am well-connected now with all kinds of nonprofits.)

Re: your main question ... I've job-hunted a lot over the years and I get the tweaking and replacing bits to customize, but rewriting every time? You should have a general resume file with cut-and-paste parts by now, and separate files called "admin resume" "writer resume" "tech resume" "editor resume" etc.
posted by headnsouth at 2:18 PM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

You should have a general resume file with cut-and-paste parts by now, and separate files called "admin resume" "writer resume" "tech resume" "editor resume" etc.

Sorry, yeah, I've got 7 templates I work from, but I mess around with them for each application. Glossy-eyed, still! (I even missed a typo just writing about it.) Reading aloud will help, it must!

Thanks, both. I love the pity party idea. Will work harder to see the silver threaded through the cubes.
posted by nelljie at 3:12 PM on March 6, 2013

Changing the font (or if your layout is crazy complicated, like mine) the zoom is a good way to see it fresh. I often print to PDF and view it in Acrobat at a different size and errors I overlooked in Word jump out.
posted by vegartanipla at 3:27 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Against typos: read your text backwards. Word for word (each word still left-to-right though), it keeps you focusing on form, not distracted by content.
posted by ipsative at 3:34 PM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Agreeing with headnsouth, every job has a take-away. In addition, it's always easier to find a job when you have a job. Finally, your energy level and confidence will get a boost when you are out in the world, with responsibilities, and daily human contact. Sign up with a Temp Agency and take temporary assignments.

In regards to your resume, I think you might be gilding the lily. Narrow down your selected openings into categories-- for example Research, Communication, Administration. Choose your best tweaked resumes for each category and proofread/polish one resume for each category.

I like "Ask a Manager" for tough simplicity.
posted by ohshenandoah at 4:25 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Where are you located?
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:01 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

ipsative, vegartanipla: those are useful tips, thank you.

oshenandoah: would call it more of a dandelion, but you may be right. I've done a wideish variety of things, outside of what I mentioned, from junior to sort of vaguely supervisory levels. Sometimes I'm trying to echo language in the ad, omitting things, moving them up or down, etc. I'm with three agencies. That's a great blog, I'd forgotten it, thank you.

Short Attention Sp: mailing you; kind of prefer to stay quietish about that sort of thing :)
posted by nelljie at 8:10 PM on March 6, 2013

There was a list of mefites willing to do resume review on the wiki. I'm on it and have done a few. Maybe check that, could give you some new people to try. May even find someone in your field who can give really specific pointers.
posted by supercapitalist at 8:14 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

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