UPDATED ON 12/28/2021
You don’t know what you want to do with your life. That doesn’t mean you cannot create the perfect resume.
During the last two years, the pandemic has forced millions back into the job market.
For some, this is just a little hiccup in their already flourishing careers.
For some, this event may have finally pushed them to toss away the jobs they have secretly hated forever and take on careers they actually desire.
Then there are those who hated their jobs…and have no clue where to go from here.
I have encountered quite a few of them in my consultations: people who do not know what they want, but they know what they don’t want.
Truth be told, I was one of these people.
We may have an idea of where we want to go. Certain industries draw us in, and we fantasize about being in them.
But what if we are not attracted to any particular industry? Or what if we are curious about too many of them? Or maybe we do not have the foggiest idea how we would contribute to the bigger picture.
This makes a resume awfully difficult to write.
It is, however, NOT impossible.
So whether we are new graduates who are stepping foot into the workforce for the first time or whether we are career changers who need a fresh start, let’s go back to the beginning.
Identifying Strengths and Preferences
I am sure many of us have done Myers-Biggs (MBTI), Gallup’s StrengthsFinder, or the gazillion other assessment tests out there at one point in our lives to figure out the career that best fits each of us.
I certainly have.
And they do work…to a degree.
In the end, we still have to reminisce over our own history starting with our school days. Do not just identify our favorite classes. Ask why we liked them.
Do the same for any past jobs we have accomplished thus far. This includes any voluntary experiences too.
Why did we enjoy them? Why did we feel confident doing them?
Usually, we like a class, task, or job because it aligns with our strengths, so answering why is incredibly important to understand.
The ultimate answer may still be vague, but at least this is one step closer than before.
Now comes the easier part.
The human brain is wired to remember the negatives more than the positives. When we experience something bad, our physical bodies literally feel sick.
That’s why we need therapists.
So the list of dislikes can frequently be done quickly.
But I have news for you.
Every job and career have aspects we love and aspects we — to put it lightly — don’t hate.
What is crucial to note are the deal-breakers.
Sounds a lot like dating.
Deal-breakers are deal-breakers. There’s no negotiating.
That said, really consider whether a task or circumstance is truly a deal-breaker. It’s highly possible that what initially feels like a deal-breaker could actually be an aspect we do not like but can be tolerated. The thing to decide now is whether that the aspects we do love about the role outshine the tolerable one.
Can we bear the dislikes and not let them overpower us? That is the question for any career.
Enjoying the Research
With the list of likes and dislikes, it is time to research.
Perhaps the majority of us have already done this, so I will keep this brief.
Researching possible professions means more than just Googling online or searching for library resources or taking further classes. It means more than just networking and conducting informational interviews with experts.
It means doing our best to find ways to experience the jobs for ourselves. Experiment with as many of them as we want, no matter how different they may be. All of them may come in handy on—and off—paper.
This could mean volunteering for a local non-profit. This could mean downloading and using an industry-standard open source software for a personal technical project. This could mean helping a friend or family member out with his/her work.
Whatever it is, this stage of research should provide a clearer picture and steer us into a more focused direction.
Presenting Our Best Foot Forward on Paper
Now, we might be thinking, “Wait. I have bills to pay. Mouths to feed. I don’t have time to explore without something coming in.”
Well, we can still refine our resumes while we explore.
Remember the deal-breakers we don’t want, but more importantly, recall our strengths and preferences? Those are the things to put on our resumes when we are still somewhat fuzzy about exactly what we want to pursue.
At this point, understand that our desired titles are flexible since we obviously are not clear about them. This suggests that a lot more effort needs to be spent on tailoring the title and summary section of the resume to something that better fits the positions presented to us.
It is imperative that we state what our top strengths are as well as what we are most proud of doing for other people. Afterwards, link them to the requirements that most resonate with us on the job descriptions. It is our job to connect the dots between our favorite accomplishments our resumes and the job descriptions for the recruiters and hiring managers.
Of course, if there is a skills gap, then we need to do our best to fill that gap. In fact, we can probably figure out whether we would like the job as a career during this process of trying to fill this gap.
It also doesn’t hurt to build trust with someone who believes in our abilities and who has the power to create opportunities for us.
Returning to Focus
Have you ever read a menu at a restaurant for five minutes and still don’t know what to order when the waiter comes because everything sounds so good?
The same can be said when it comes to choosing a profession.
And that’s okay. It implies interest. It implies curiosity.
If we think about it, we are not completely unfocused because we are guided by the things we don’t want.
Just like multiple choice test questions, use our dislikes to cross out professions that are wrong for us.
For the answers that are left open, research them. Explore them.
While we do that though, do not forget our strengths. Firmly present them on our resumes. Use them to boost trust with recruiters and hiring managers. Convince others that we have potential to solve their issues.
Sooner or later, we will find our footing again.
Have you done these things and now need to connect the dots on paper? My article series on how to bridge seemingly unrelated jobs can surely help with that.