Not all jobs are created equal. And it's every so often that we take on a source of income that's significantly below our skill level, just to make ends meet – those six months you flipped burgers to pay for an upcoming vacation, or the time you sold all of your mother's jewelry in order to afford that surgery that we don't mention anymore. Even beyond that, many people leave the workforce entirely for a period of time, and "soul searching" is not going to cut it, when attempting to impress your future boss in a job interview. (When it comes to an interview, it's important to be prepared. Find out more in 7 Things You Should Say In An Interview.)
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As such, not all resumes are going to jump off of the page when prospective employers are skimming the "work experience" sections. In order to make our resumes grab a reviewer's attention, we sometimes have to get creative. That can be harder than it sounds, but rest assured that any experience can be flipped into a valuable one, with a little imagination.
- "I Work Well with Others"
Potential employers want assurance that you will be able to adapt to their work environments - that you won't be the odd man out. Ensure that by displaying your ability to flourish even under the harshest of situations.
For example: prison is known for being a cold, merciless community - yet there are approximately 300,000 inmates released each year - that's 300,000 potential workers re-entering the job force. Since "Locked Up" would not be a wise position to list, as it relates to your last few professional years, a spin is required. Give this one a try:
"Thrived within a tightly-knit community of like-minded individuals. Learned the art of self-reliance, and the importance of personal hygiene. Balanced professional and leisure time in order to productively exist in a close-quarters environment."
The key here is to spin a negative - or lackluster - situation into a positive. Don't degrade your previous surroundings, as employers know that negative tendencies will eventually re-emerge.
- "I Learn Quickly"
Employers are looking for proof that the unique tasks associated with the job at hand will be learned quickly, thoroughly and precisely. So when previous duties included: "Open fry bag; heat oil; dip fries - sans fry bag - in oil," it is advised that your focus on what you learned (not specifically what you did) in order to impress the interviewer.
"Learned the importance of company compliance, and my role within the bigger picture. Ensured quality control of our product and customer satisfaction in line with our business's high standards."
That may seem vague, yes, but it's accurate without being overly-descriptive, fry-boy.
- "I Made a Difference"
It is often more important to focus on the impact you are having on your community than it is to relay template titles and job duties. After all - what's more impressive, that you filed your TPS reports properly, or that you changed the way people think? This next example depicts what happens with a little insight and some creative spinning:
"Ensured daily information and updates are offered to our client base, in the hopes of educating and informing politically and socially."
Is this a newscaster, or a college professor perhaps? No - it's a newspaper delivery boy, whose core responsibility is to toss folded-up papers from a bicycle to your front step. Most importantly, the role delivers what the resume relates.
- "I Expanded My Network"
Employers are also looking for conscious use of resources – assurance that you can use your environment to better your situation. Any experience in life offers the opportunity to do so. Even people who spent a significant amount of time unemployed, hitchhiking across the country, can spin their experiences into life lessons.
"Expanded my professional network nation-wide while studying a diverse variety of cultures, environments and socioeconomic situations."
Try to avoid discussing your time eating peyote and playing Hacky Sack in Corpus Christi, and focus on what made the trip unique - what did you walk away with that few others have experienced?
Like panning through the sand for gold, sift through the mud that is at the bottom of your resume to find the valuable nugget in your work history. The resume spin is not to be used as a distraction or a lie - after all, there's a great chance your interviewer will want you to go into further detail regarding the duties you're dancing around on paper. But in learning how to deliver the information your potential employer really wants to see, you may just realize that you learned something during that summer you cut grass in your neighborhood - environmental care! (For further reading, check out Taking The Lead In The Interview Dance.)
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