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A resume is the last thing you need

A resume is the last thing you need

Susan (not her real name) is in need of a new resume. She tells me she hasn’t been happy at her job for a couple of years and that she’s feeling stuck. She’d like to move to the other side of the country but isn’t sure where. When pressed she tells me she’d like to find ‘this’ job or ‘that’ job or maybe ‘this other’ job. She could work for a big company or a small company depending on who is hiring.

“Let me stop you right there, Susan. Being open to everything means being focused on nothing.”

This surprises people. It’s counterintuitive. Most people think that casting a wide net in a job search will ensure the capturing of plenty of responses. When you cast a wide net, however, your focus isn’t on what you catch but rather catching a lot. So let’s say you cast a wide net and catch a lot of responses. What if what those responses turn out to be a waste of your time, not a good fit, too much work, too little work? Turning down these responses takes you away from doing the work to focus on the right opportunities.

Don’t waste your efforts. Instead, focus on what you want and put all your time and energy into designing the right plan. In Susan’s case, she has to choose where she wants to live before she can devise a job search strategy or write a resume that will get her what she wants.

The first step is to decide where you want to build a life.


Before you start looking at job boards, talking to your network or reaching out to potential employers, choose where you want to live. Research the cost of living, investigate a few options. Will you buy, rent, or share accommodations? Are there barriers to employment such as language, visa restrictions, political or economic instability, or cultural incompatibility? If that’s all too much, think about it like this: You can live in lots of different places but where’s the next place you want to live? This question helps to alleviate that feeling of finality once you’ve made your decision. You’re not picking one over the other, you’re simply choosing one for now and another for later. If you already know that you want to look for work in the city where you currently live, then you’re ready for step two.

The second step involves research. Some industries are thriving while other industries are downsizing. Find out which is which in your area.


Now that you know where you want to live, you’ll want to get to know that area a little better. Even if you live in the city/town/village where you are planning a job search, do the research; find out about what is happening in the local economy. This information is formally called “Labour Market Information (LMI)” and you use it to help make career decisions.

For example, if you were considering a move to Alberta to find work in the oil and gas industry this time last year, you would have used LMI to learn “more than 60,000 energy professionals [were] laid off in Alberta since the beginning of the oil price downturn.” Using LMI can help you make informed career choices. LMI is particularly useful to students. It is important that students not only identify what problems they want to solve, and what areas of interest they want to study, but also explore the viability of finding and pursuing a career in that field post-graduation!


Culture. Size. Scope. Commitment.

There are so many factors at play when choosing where to work. Does the company share the same values that you hold dear? Is it the right size? Do they hire the kind of people you can work with? Are they big, small, somewhere in between? Are you committed to their mission/mandate? Doing research in this manner will not only help you decide whether or not the company is a good fit for you, it will also help you understand the organization better and prepare you for an inevitable interview. Do your homework.


You have all kinds of talents you can offer an employer. Focus on the ones you most enjoy doing.

  • What accomplishments am I most proud of?
  • What am I doing when my time at work seems to fly by?
  • What do I most enjoy about the work I’ve done so far in my career?

Do more of that!!


Be careful of words like “maybe”, “various”, “any”, “open”, “some” …these are words that keep you stuck. Decide on your direction. If you’re having difficulty making a decision, break it down.

Before you need a resume, you need to make good decisions that you fully support.

Tip: Once you’ve begun to decipher these options sleep on it, see how you feel in the morning. How you feel is your gut instinct. It will tell you whether or not you’re headed in the right direction.


Employers are not looking for someone who is willing to consider all possible options. Employers want to know that the candidate they choose, wants to work for them. It is, after all, a relationship. Make them feel special.

If you’ve read through this post and have made some decisions about the direction of your job search that’s great. That means now is the time to get started on creating a resume that is tailored to the jobs you most want to pursue. Don’t worry if you got stuck in this process though. I’m here to help.

As for Susan, after working and following this strategy she had this to say about our work together:

Now, not only do I have a new resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile but I am also much clearer on what I am looking for…. After going through this process, I have far more confidence in what I have to offer.”

If you’re looking to make a move in your career follow these simple steps in this simple order to move boldly and confidently forward in your job search:

Geography | Determine where you want to build a life.

Industry | Research and select the top three industries where you want to work next.

Company | Select organizations where you believe strongly in the work they do.

Position | Identify meaningful work; what you most want to offer your next employer.

Related Categories: Resumes & ATS

About The Author
Maureen McCann is an award-winning career coach, master resume writer, and master certified interview, employment, and career strategist whose clients include C-level executives, managers, and professionals in all industries including the Canadian banking, oil and gas, healthcare, IT, and government sectors.

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