View Full Version : having a tough time with functional resume!

4-12-11, 7:02pm
Hello, folks,
I am struggling with creating a functional resume. I think the biggest problem is a lack of confidence, and being somewhat depressed after being out of work 2 yrs now.

I am a writer by trade, which makes this somewhat embarrassing (having trouble writing a simple resume). Since I can't find work in my field (journalism/PR) I am going to apply to a local architectural firm that is seeking a secretary/receptionist/office assistant. Fifteen yrs ago I worked as a legal secretary (from age 18 to about 30) and have been out of the clerical field ever since. In the meantime I graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English, worked as a reporter and as a college public relations professional.

Because I am overqualified, I am trying to downplay the fact by doing a functional rather than a chronological resume. Every time I try to work on the darn thing, I end up distressed, sometimes to the point of tears.

I know I can do the job. It's just applying for it (and interviewing) that is so difficult. I haven't even started on the cover letter!

any advice? Thank you for listening to me.

4-12-11, 7:10pm
Look up a model on the 'net, and mimic it. That will get you started. For the cover letter, start by writing as if you're writing to a long time friend about why you want this job, and what you think you'd contribute.

4-12-11, 7:16pm
I've been doing that, looking up samples on the net. It's been helpful; thank you.
I think the "contribute" part is mostly the problem. I have so little self-confidence that I don't feel I have much to contribute anywhere. The problems are deeper than just writing the letter, I'm afraid...

4-12-11, 7:21pm
Definitely look up examples for a starting point. With a function resume (of which I am a fan, since a good one got me my current job :)), I think it's good to choose a few categories of things that are relevant to the position you are trying to get, and then under each heading, list the skills that you have.

For instance, for a secretary/receptionist/office assistant, you would of course have a heading for administrative assistance (covering all the various admin. tasks that you can do (e.g., answer phones, edit/format documents, coordinate meetings, etc.), plus headings for marketing, accounting, human resources, and any other areas that are likely to be covered by the position in a small company.

I also highly recommend investigating any career/job search resources at your local community college or adult school. The last time I was looking for a job, I felt so lost and depressed (I was being laid off from a good job after 6 years) until I took a 2-day job search strategies seminar, and that class absolutely gave me the skills and confidence to find a great job.

Good luck!

4-12-11, 7:36pm
Are you frustrated because you can't find the words, or you feel you're resistant to being an AA/secretary?

I had spent years in TV production, public relations, freelance writing etc., and found myself as a word processor back in 1990. I was bummed about that. So, I have to ask YOU the question, because if I had "resigned" myself to an AA/secretarial job that resistance might manifest itself as a psychological, or writer's, block. Even your words speak to your pride in your accomplishments ("Summa Cum Laude"). So perhaps, your writer's block is really an attitudinal block.

Having been there, I think I would advise really trying to change your attitude to not think you're above secretarial jobs, but instead being grateful for any opportunity that your skills might be a good fit for. Write your resume in that spirit. This is going to sound new-agey but if you open your spirit to service, no matter what the title or the job description, I think your "writer's block" will disappear and new opportunities will appear.

My word processing job turned into a brand new career with a six figure salary, so don't look down on any opportunity that comes along.

4-12-11, 7:43pm
OK, I will confess: I am desperate. I am about to run out of UC benefits. I cry every day. I hate working. I hated being a secretary, I grew to hate both my "professional" jobs. I am disgusted because I spent 7 years in night school busting my ass, and found that my "dream" of being a "writer" was a sham. I hated the work but spent 7 years doing it because I needed the money. And now, my years of busting my ass are for...what? So I can go back to a job I hated?

I'm not happy with my life, when I come down to the truth. I'm a mess...and yes, I've been in and out of counseling, tried everything, meds, you name it. I don't even want to keep telling you more here...I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

iris lily
4-13-11, 12:06am
Sorry, this has nothing to do with the OP, but it is freakin' amazing what people put on their job applications. Recently I went though 40 applications. One said "I am maticulous [sic]." Due to our specific requirements there only about 5 sentences on these applications, so it's not as though there was a lot of proof reading to do. No I do not think this applicant is meticulous.

All of that said, the quality of presentation of resumes is really high these days. Almost everyone has a resume form that is easy to read (easy on the eyes) and has everything spelled correctly, etc. So that's one tool I no longer have, to weed people out.

4-13-11, 5:25am
I am afraid I don't know anything about resumes since I have had the same job for so many years, but I certainly know about being miserable at work. Just tody I told someone I thought the cleaning crew had a lot more fun than the rest of us most days - we are just better paid. But I digress. Have you tried to imagine you are writing it for a friend of yours, rather than your own? Most people are harder on themselves than they would be on another person. Have you considered trying some sort of temporary work? It might get some $$ coming in and give you some new ideas. I believe there is demand for techical writers as well and it might be contract type work.

4-13-11, 5:31am
A lot of churches have employment support groups that are free and will help with resumes, cover letters, and emotional support. Not sure if this is so where you live, but it was when we lived in a more populous area. I wish you healing energy and totally hear your pain, having had a long period of underemployment and a tough job search. just remember, it only takes one job, so try to hang in there, and maybe try the technique of saying, I will worry about this, stress about this, cry about this at one time a day, for half an hour--you pick the time and for how long, and then don't let yourself do this any other time. It can work amazingly well!

4-13-11, 12:39pm
Oh, believe me, I have seen some good ones in my time. In this age of easy word processing, one guy put a P.S. on his resume!

4-13-11, 12:41pm
Thank you. Those are all good suggestions. I've checked with the local community college but so far there are no workshops happening up there--maybe because we're nearing the end of the semester/academic year?

I will be doing temp work if/when the money runs out. That's kind of my ace in the hole. :)

I'm going to try and take it one day at a time in the meantime, or I'll be losing my mind for sure.

4-13-11, 1:20pm
Yes, I totally think you should get some help with writing the resume (just for the feedback/emotional support as well as the concrete resume suggestions). Sometimes non-profits that help the jobless help with this, but at worst you can pay someone who does this for a living to. Yea, I know, you probably don't have lots of money right now, but it often only takes having them helping you on your resume once and you have a shiny new polished resume to job search with. Some may work on a sliding scale.

4-14-11, 5:31pm
I have finally finished it, and the cover letter. My husband has been a great help with it. I'm also hoping that an acquaintance who is also a professional writer can take a look.


4-16-11, 11:32am
If you want to post some of it here, some of us can look at it. You can post as generic as you wish, or post little sections or phrases you are having trouble with.

4-16-11, 6:20pm
I feel your pain, as I am in an intense job search too, with the accompanying money worries. One website I've found helpful (she also writes a syndicated column just on resumes!!) is http://www.ladybug-design.com/. I've found it helpful to take lots of deep breaths, take a walk, listen to good music, and to 'schedule' the hours I'm working on the job search - as otherwise, it can feel like a 24/7 worry-fest. I actually like working on resumes (I know, strange). If you'd like someone else to take a look or 'crack' at it, you can send it my way :) Best wishes!

4-17-11, 12:22am
One of the advantages you get if you are unemployed that you almost never get otherwise is time sweet time. Now, this only helps so much if you need money sweet money! :)

But yes, I think some of the excess time truly should be SAVORED (savored cheaply of course). Some must be allocated to job search if you are seriously looking of course (but that goes without saying, you already know that).

4-17-11, 2:15am
I hope the resume leads to an interview and eventually a job, ladyinblack.

It can be hard to swallow your pride and take a position that you are overqualified for, but sometimes it really is the right thing to do. When I left my previous HSSJ, I was pretty damaged goods. Like on the verge of a nervous breakdown damaged -- I was in a horrible depression for months. AN opportunity rolled around that I was overqulified for, and that paid about 20% less than I had been making, even lower if you figure some of the benefits I had that didn't come with this job. But I had met the hiring manager before and he struck me as a good person, so I went in to talk with him about the position. Pretty much laid it on the table that I had been traumatized by my prior job, even though that is something you are not ever supposed to talk about. but he was cool and encouraged me to apply. I ended up getting the job, and he was able to negotiate a slightly higher starting salary for me. It was not as challenging as my last position, but at the same time I am 100% capable of doing the job and I excel in it, and that is universially recognized by funders, colleagues, and grantees. The team I work with is wonderful and my boss is a true mensch. Being recognized for my work and not having to deal with a dysfunctional environment gave me the space to rebuild my self-esteem and recover from my depression. I also now have energy to tackle other changes I want to make in my life. And since I have proven myself to be a capable worker, I have gotten regular raises and now am getting opportunities to do program design work again. Not in the same field I was before, but nice that my talents are being recognized there. I think if you can manage to get your foot in the door in a healthy, responsible organization you will find that there may be room for growth. I know it is hard when you have had so many challenges, but try not to lose faith in yourself and don't let your bitterness about past hurts block off better opportunities for the future.

Take care and best of luck,


4-18-11, 9:24am
Wow Ihamo, your story is truly inspiring. Helps me be much more open to opportunities that may pay less, but be healther for the mind and soul :)

4-21-11, 6:38pm
I decided to take a step and sent my cover letter and regular (i.e. not the functional) resume to an online acquaintance who says she is a freelance writer. I don't know her very well. I've only read her fiction, and she keeps a VERY low profile online--so much so that all I could find when I Googled her was her name/addy/phone #. I thought that if she was a published writer, I'd find something online written by her. Not so.

That said, she wrote back and said she would do it for $25 an hour. Here is what she said: I don't think the resume is too bad. It's not as though it looks unprofessional or fails to cover an impressive range of experience. However, I can see you're right that you don't play up your strengths to your best advantage. As it is now, the resume doesn't "pop." The language isn't as dynamic as it could be, and, more importantly, the descriptions are often vague. I don't think the resume needs to be scrapped or anything like that, but I think we need to "tease out" your unique abilities as well as more concrete specifics about the tasks you performed and how they contributed to the success of both operations. In addition, we could potentially flesh out your resume with an introductory summary of your special talents, a bulleted list of areas of expertise since you've worn a lot of hats (i.e., writer, assignment editor, proofreader, layout designer, etc.), and a section for awards and recognitions.

The cover letter, on the other hand, really does need to be totally rewritten, I think. This format, which basically just presents and sums up the resume, is rapidly becoming outdated. The favored cover letter today adds a dimension that's missing from the resume, filling in details about your personal and professional style and what you can offer the company that someone else can't. It's not uncommon to weave in an anecdote and/or a thematic touch, especially if you're applying for something that requires writing ability. Some cover letters these days also incorporate a bulleted list of achievements or skills. If you're not getting interviews for jobs you're qualified for, my guess is that it's due to your cover letter. If you could only revise one thing--the resume or the cover letter--I'd say you should revise the cover letter.

when I read this, I sort of panicked. I felt like laughing/crying/throwing up. First of all, I felt crappy because I have no achievements or awards. Other than being in two honor societies in college 10 years ago. For seven years I struggled in a job where my boss and I hated each other and it just about did me in. Awards? I was written up for tardiness and making errors. I've never, ever achieved anything professionally. I realized the other day that more than half my life, I've been struggling with what to do for a living, my vocation, etc. (I am 47 and working full time since I was 18).

Second, I'm familiar with this style of cover letter--and it makes me want to upchuck. It's so phony or something.

Third, I honestly don't know this person well enough to pay them when I can't even find samples of their work online.

SO: 1. I apologize for the looong post; 2. If anyone here wants to take a crack at my letter/resume, just e-mail me here and I'll send it to you privately so as not to clog up the board. 3. Anyone know of a reputable person online (I am checking out the Ladybug)? 4. Maybe I am not getting called because I live in a depressed area with few or no writing jobs.

Edit: I have no achievements to quantify on the resume, my reviews were always "meets expectations," never "exceeds expectations," and I think they were dying to get rid of me at my last job but just could not because I DID actually get my work done. I have a very rough time, under the circumstances, tooting my own horn. Does this make sense?

4-21-11, 9:52pm
My guess is that you're feeling less confident than you need to be! I'll be glad to look at it if you'd like :)
And FWIW, I would trust your instinct. If you don't have great trust and confidence in this person, I wouldn't pay them either :)

4-22-11, 4:36am
I would take her advice with a grain of salt, and definitely wouldn't pay for it. How much experience does she have in this area, anyway? If she's such a successful writer, why can't you find links to her articles? Or other evidence of her professional achievements.

I think you should feel comfortable being yourself and writing in whatever style you want. YOu are trying to find a place that will be a good fit for you, and if you pretend to be something you are not you may get the job but if they value something you don't have or feel comfortable with how long will it last?

I broke ALL the rules -- I even cried at my job interview -- and I still got the job. I was lucky, I know, and I don't recommend crying at an interview. But I know what it is like to be damaged by a dysfunctional environment and how important a good fit at your next position can be in rebuilding self-esteem.

Not a professional HR person or writer, but if you email me your stuff I'd be happy to have a look and see if I can give you any constructive feedback.

You deserve better than what you had in your last position. Happy to try to help make that happen.


iris lily
4-22-11, 11:10am
That's funny! I, too, hired someone who cried at an interview. She was just passionate about these things and it has all worked out.

4-22-11, 2:47pm
when I read this, I sort of panicked. I felt like laughing/crying/throwing up. First of all, I felt crappy because I have no achievements or awards. Other than being in two honor societies in college 10 years ago.

Well you actually did something at your last job right? List those accomplishments - just the projects you worked on or whatever. I mean ok there are top performers with ALL the achievements and awards. And I don't deny they will be the first people snapped up generally. But almost no company just hires top performers, for one thing they probably can't afford to, that cream of the crop is expensive! :laff: But really companies hire within a wide range, they may try to avoid bottom of the barrel yes, but even *that* is subjective, and they certainly don't just hire top performers.

For seven years I struggled in a job where my boss and I hated each other and it just about did me in. Awards? I was written up for tardiness and making errors.

Post-traumatic stress from an abusive workplace, that is what that is. If it goes on for 7 years that's abuse plain and simple and not just dissatisfaction with your work (if it was just dissatisfaction they would have let you go much sooner). ABUSE, from an abusive (work) relationship. I know I've been there before (only stayed 9 months at that job luckily but ....).

I'm not sure I'd trust the person you are thinking of paying either. Is this person a person actually employed in the field you wish to work in? If not, I'd at least hire someone whose job it is to write resumes. Hiring such professionals has weaknesses, they still might not know much about your particular field and what in specific it is looking for on a resume, but at least they know something about resumes in general.

Maybe I am not getting called because I live in a depressed area with few or no writing jobs.

Hard to say. I mean we can sabotage ourselves pretty badly regardless of the job market :laff: (with bad resumes etc.) But yes a bad job market doesn't help anything at all! Maybe you could talk to employed writers and see what their impressions are on the prospects for the field? I don't know.