HOW I CAME TO WRITE
THE DAMN GOOD RESUME GUIDE
For many years I’ve had a great interest in people’s work lives and job satisfaction (including my own); this first showed up in a three-year volunteer job as director and coordinator of a community youth employment service. That led to a job with an upstate New York community college project to train unemployed high-school dropouts in job-related skills, and then on to a similar position as “Community Worker” with New York state employment offices in Albany, Troy, and Schenectady—a job I really loved.
Later, living in California, I noticed that many of the people in my personal network were involved in career counseling and small business development, so I started organizing get-togethers to brainstorm and strategize about our own work, just for the fun of it. Then, in 1979, I decided to try self-employment, using my writing skills and my new red-hot IBM Selectric typewriter. I resigned from office work in the big city to use my talents in a more personally rewarding way. I began by offering an editing, typing, and business-writing service out of my home in Oakland, but soon specialized in resumes, because it turned out to be a natural for me, and because very few people seemed to know how to do it well.
The Humble Freebie Gets Status
I never really set out to write or publish this book. It started out, in 1980, as just a few loose pages of instructions and examples, handed to clients as “homework” before we’d get together to work on their resume. (I’d grown weary of giving the same instructions verbally over and over, so I’d finally written them down.)
In our “Briarpatch” self-help group of small-business people, there was a financial consultant, Roger Pritchard, and one day I hired him to help me look critically at the fragile economics of my business. He noticed the packet of “homework” pages I gave to clients (by now it included sample resumes and a list of action verbs), and he asked, “Why are you giving this away? Don’t you see that it’s valuable, and that you could easily get a few dollars for it?”
So I took his advice and at the same time expanded the packet and wrote up the instructions in greater detail. I designed a card-stock cover, stapled everything together, and priced it at $2. Over the following year I expanded it twice more, the cover price increased, and I began to suspect that it might be marketable as a how-to guide independent of my resume writing business. So I typed it up even more carefully, added some graphics, designed a more professional cover, and persuaded two Berkeley bookstores to carry a few copies on consignment.
It turned out that Phil Wood, owner of Ten Speed Press, almost immediately found a copy in Cody’s Bookstore, liked it, and proposed publishing it.
Now, many years and multiple revisions later, The Damn Good Resume Guide has clearly become respected and very popular in its field, with well over half a million copies in print. Professional job counselors call it “the best available,” and a fair number of job clubs and career development centers (and even college instructors in business writing, psychology, and women’s studies!) use The Damn Good Resume Guide as required reading.
IN YANA'S FOOTSTEPS—REVISING
THE DAMN GOOD RESUME GUIDE
Since Yana first pioneered the idea of a resume as a marketing tool, times have changed. We are now moving rapidly through the twenty-first century—and barely able to keep up with ourselves, in many ways. In the world of job hunting and resume writing, some things have changed, while others have remained the same. It’s still important to create a document that is clear, accurate, articulate, and easy to read. It’s still crucial that job seekers highlight their experience and accomplishments in a way that is relevant to the prospective employer, and it’s still crystal clear that many people need help with marketing themselves and their skills to get a job that meets their needs. Now, however, there are many more ways available to create, deliver, and distribute resumes to the outside world, due to the explosion of the World Wide Web and the ever-expanding assortment of online marketing tools.
I’ve been “walking in Yana’s footsteps” for more than fifteen years, writing resumes, cover letters, and other materials to help job seekers navigate the ever-changing job search landscape. As a “bridge builder,” I have worked with people from all over the world—corporate, nonprofit, public sector, military to civilian, career changers, executives, college grads, fifty-plus, public figures, parents and others reentering the work force, white collar, blue collar, and green collar! As it was for Yana, resume writing was a natural for me, and I’ve enjoyed finding ways to support, empower, and build the confidence of every job seeker, with the same sense of humor and the same straightforward, no-nonsense compassion that Yana was known for.
During my training to become a resume writer in 1995, I had lunch with Yana. We talked about many things, including but not limited to resume writing. I was glad to meet her and appreciated her warmth, humor, and clarity. For the next several years, I contributed to Yana’s Damn Good newsletter.
Yana herself was always keeping up with trends and ideas; she would readily change her opinion and/or attitude about job-related subjects and publish her latest findings and thinking in her monthly newsletters. Although some things have remained the same in the job search world, there are now distinct differences, particularly related to the digital age. In the digital world what has changed is how resumes are being read. This revised and updated book provides readers with tools to help quell their fears of technology, while also providing access to up-to-date information about the latest in resumes, cover letters, and other job search tools via the companion website, www.damngood.com.
It has been an honor (and great fun!) to update The Damn Good Resume Guide to bring it more fully into the twenty-first century.
To help us start off on the right foot, here are some definitions of terms that will be used throughout this book:
A “DAMN GOOD” RESUME is a self-marketing tool—a kind of personal advertisement—that shows off your job skills and their value to a future (also called “prospective”) employer. The main purpose of a resume is to help you get a job interview. So it starts off by naming your job objective and then describes your skills, experience, and accomplishments as they relate to THAT job objective.
Remember, writing a good resume is very different from filling out a job application. An application form is about JOBS and gives just the facts of your employment history. But a “DAMN GOOD” resume is about YOU and how you perform in your jobs. It’s very important to see the difference!
A CHRONOLOGICAL RESUME presents your work experience in a traditional, by-date format, listing the jobs you’ve held and describing the activities and accomplishments of each job in separate statements, also called bullet points, with the most recent job appearing first.
A FUNCTIONAL RESUME presents your work experience by listing the most important skill areas you’ve used, and then describing a number of your accomplishments and activities (drawn from ALL of your jobs and life experiences) to illustrate those skills.
A HYBRID (or COMBINATION) RESUME lists your work experience in the same by-date format as the chronological resume, but then, within the most recent job you’ve held, it organizes and presents your accomplishments within the skill areas that are relevant to your future job. It’s like a functional resume INSIDE of a chronological resume!
NOTE: A Damn Good Resume can be chronological, functional, or a hybrid of the two, because regardless of the format, it focuses on a clear job objective and then emphasizes your work/life accomplishments to clearly show your unique value to an employer. In Step 3, we’ll talk more about each format, to help you make the best decision for YOUR resume.
Onward to the Ten Steps!
On the following pages you’ll find that each of the ten steps is first explained in detail, and then is followed by “Yes, but’s”—some of the problems and dilemmas you may face as you do that step. When the “Yes, but” sounds like YOUR problem, then follow the directions to resolve it. But if you have no difficulty completing a particular step, IGNORE the corresponding “Yes, but” and move straight ahead to the next step. Got it? Okay, let’s GO!
Excerpted from The Damn Good Resume Guide, Fifth Edition by Yana Parker and Beth Brown. Copyright © 2012 by Yana Parker and Beth Brown. Excerpted by permission of Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.