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I work with homeless women in a 15 month drug recovery program.  Most, if not all, have a terrible work history due to past choices and are working at turning things around.  Are there any specific recommendations you have for this situation?  

In the program they are a part of:
- in depth counseling
- work therapy (in retail, kitchen, reception, and addressing employability traits)
-Learning Center which addresses computer literacy, math, writing and financial education

Thank you

Hello Holly,

For the women that you help, my advice would be the same to them as it is to others that I work with every day.  Certainly their situation demands careful definition of their attributes, but fundamentally they need to do the same thing that others do: create the best possible profile of yourself in your letter and resume if you want a chance at an interview.

It looks like your work therapy takes care of some of that in "addressing employability traits" so that is an excellent place to start.   Rather than create chronological resumes that tend to emphasize career growth, I would probably recommend functional resumes which will list and describe skills that would be useful to a specific employer.  They need to do the same thing that others do which is to create a resume that targets the need of each employer to whom they apply.  Craft cover letters that do the same thing but in a narrative fashion (as opposed to the resume format which should be a concise bullet list).

If you are interested, I would be very glad to help you on a case-by-case basis.  My company typically charges for actually writing resumes, letters, etc., but I would be happy to give each lady some constructive feedback if you would like to send me documents to critique.  You can attach them (one at a time please) to an email and send it to the address below.

I look forward to helping you in your important work!

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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