Creating your resume and cover letter
If you think you can create a resume and cover letter on your own, Microsoft.com has some excellent resume and cover letter templates to use for free. For more tips, search online for “how to write a resume” and “how to write a cover letter.”
To make your resume strong, search online for “resume words,” and you’ll come up with lists of action verbs to use. It’s very important to choose appropriate words, because some companies use electronic screening programs to search the hundreds of resumes they receive.
For free help preparing your resume and cover letter, visit your local American Job Center. The American Job Centers are located in every state and are sponsored by the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. You can locate your local American Job Center by putting in your zip code at the above mentioned website. You can reach them by phone at 877-348-0502 for those who prefer to talk to someone directly.
At an American Job Center, you can find job leads, and get help with career planning, job training and transition solutions to re-enter the workforce. Most of them have special programs and dedicated counselors to help ex-offenders, veterans and the disabled.
Once you register at an American Job Center, you can go there as often as you like and take advantage of all they have to offer; academic and career assessment tools, job hunting resources, high speed Internet access, fax machines, photocopiers, phones to use and more. They offer a wide variety of workshops on various aspects of job searching, have listings of current job openings and on-site employer hiring events, and provide links to training and educational funding sources and referrals to community services and resources.
Each American Job Center has an assessment center, where you can take a series of skills and interests tests to determine what jobs your background might be suitable for and personality tests to determine what type of jobs might be most appropriate for your personality. At an American Job Center, you can also find out about training programs and whether you might qualify for any federal or state money available to pay for them.
You can also make an appointment for individual assistance with your resume, and a job counselor will help you put it together.
Types of resumes
A functional resume, which highlights your skills and abilities, will probably work better for you than a chronological, which lists your past jobs in the order in which you had them, particularly if there are gaps in time or excessive job changes.
Hide the resume game
The resume’s purpose is to be your sales tool. If you’ve had a long period of unemployment, gaps in employment and/or short periods of time at the jobs you’ve held, you’ll have to rely more on your network and other resources to build a relationship with someone who might be able to hire you.
You can say, “I’m working on my resume now, would you mind if I bring it to the interview?” All resumes look better when delivered in person, and having nothing to sell on paper can work against you. Many experts believe that a resume is something you should never send ahead but leave behind after the interview.
Dealing with gaps in employment and job hopping
Whether this is your type of job history or not, don’t send a resume. Just send a well-crafted cover letter instead. Your cover letter should summarize everything that a longer resume would cover. You can search online for “cover letters,” use the Microsoft templates mentioned above or visit your local American Job Center for help with your cover letter. Susan Ireland’s free cover letter guide is also excellent.
Is a JIST Card a better option?
Another way to handle gaps in employment – or even a lack of a solid employment history – is to use a JIST card instead of a resume
Although JIST stands for Job Information and Training, most people know it just as a JIST card. The cards, usually the size of an index card, just includes basic information:
• Your name
• Contact info
• Summary of your experience in a paragraph
The paragraph can highlight the jobs you’ve done and/or your skills.
A JIST Card is not only a unique way to present yourself, but it’s a concise snapshot of you and your job related experience and skills with nothing negative like employment gaps or unimpressive job titles.
Like a resume, it’s just a key to get you in the door to an interview, and for some people in reentry it might prove very effective.