Resume Help/back in the world


Hi Ralph,
I am a 49 year old, still ok looking (don't look like a dumpy housewife going back to work)female who has been out of work for over 7 years. I have a long list of jobs on my resume but almost every  one is out of business now and I have no idea where any of the people I worked with went. I have experience in many fields but it looks terrible on paper. If I can get an interview I always get the job and excel at it, itís just that my life looks bad on paper in the traditional resume format.
I have 3 excellent professional references so that helps, but my office skills are just so-so. I am willing to work as a receptionist or retail even though my experience shows I have risen higher, to be honest I am sick of the corporate grind and just need extra money for my daughter's college and our retirement and to get me out of the house.
Is there a new kind of acceptable format for a resume that says I have worked on and off but that I do have something to offer?
I need 2 resumes. I need to make one to use as a reference to fill out the tedious job applications for the retail jobs I am applying for and am wondering if just fudging a lot of it is something people do when everyone, including the company, is gone?
The other resume I need would be for office jobs. I would like to be able to say something about various administrative jobs since I got my associates degree in 1985 which gave my xyz skills, then highlighting the really good few jobs I have had, and the skills I have acquired, and what I can do for them. Can you get away with that type of resume? I am thinking things must have changed for everyone since the recession.
Thank you for any advice you can give me. I am really lost.

Hi Diana,

Don't worry about feeling "lost."  That's why people like me do what we do.  I am very happy to help you here all I can.  I am going to attempt to respond to your dilemma as best I can given what you have told me, but I think the best solution is for me to see what you actually look like on paper and then I can be much more specific with my suggestions.

My first rule of resume writing is "don't lie."  That includes the "fudging" that you refer to in your inquiry.  Perhaps our definitions of fudging differ.  I always think it is not only acceptable, but smart, to make someone look as good as possible on paper.  In other words, minimize the negative (which we all have) and maximize the positive.  I'm sure you have a lot of positive attributes so our job is to bring those to the forefront. But stating things that are, in some way, not exactly truthful is just asking for trouble down the road.  So I don't recommend it.

Having good references is a great start and we'll certainly include those.  You don't say how recent those letters are, but typically employers like to see them done within the previous two years.  The fact that previous employers are no longer around is one of those things we can minimize.  The more difficult issue is your seven years out of the workforce.  There are a lot of employers who are not even considering a prospective employee who has been out of work longer than six to twelve months, so we'll need to put the best possible spin on that issue.

Your idea of highlighting your skills and what you can do for an employer is exactly what you should be thinking.  That is the essence of a great resume, so keep thinking like that.  As to an "acceptable format," there are a few good ways of constructing a winning resume (using a template off the internet is NOT one of them), but I can give you specifics on that a bit down the road.

Do you have any specific jobs in mind at this point?  If so, I am going to suggest that you email me at the address below and attach three things: whatever resume you currently have, a sample cover letter, and the actual job announcement of a position in which you are interested.  Put "Resume" in the subject line (so I don't delete it) and send it to me at your convenience.  I will be glad to give you a free assessment of what you send and make some suggestions to you.  I think that is a better way of proceeding here rather than trying to deal in vague generalities.  Every person's needs and strengths are different, so my philosophy is to help you look as good as possible by dealing with your case as an individual, not as part of the large group of unemployed.

I look forward to getting your email.  Don't despair!  We'll get this done!

Best wishes,  

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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