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Now that her kids have grown up, stay-at-home-mom Isabella, 52, is seeking full-time employment. But without a degree, she’s wondering what her options are for finding work in the social services sector. “I enjoy helping people,” Isabella writes. “When I am able to make a difference in someone’s life by assisting and guiding them, it energizes me and gives me a sense of purpose.”

Isabella has experience as an activities assistant at a retirement home. She has also worked as a remote receptionist for a therapy clinic. However, she believes she has been overlooked for positions in social services due to her lack of education. “I feel not having a degree puts me at a disadvantage,” says Isabella. “I’m hoping the right opportunity comes along even without a degree, but I understand I may need to get some type of education in order to find a fulfilling career that pays well.”

We reached out to career coach Jen Narayan and two professionals from Family Services of Greater Vancouver to review Isabella’s resume and offer their tips for her next steps.

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WHAT THE CAREER COACH SAYS

While Isabella’s resume is detailed and info-packed, Ms. Narayan believes that it lacks focus and is too long. “Isabella should make her resume just one page,” she advises. She can accomplish this by cutting down her summary and key skills section while also incorporating her technical skills into this top section. Isabella’s latest job description also has too many titles. “She should figure out which job title is most aligned to her target job,” recommends Ms. Narayan.

Her latest job description can also be condensed to around five bullet points. “This will ensure she just has the important points listed that are relevant to the target job,” she says. Adding a career tag line will also help Isabella target her resume to her desired position. Ms. Narayan also suggests that Isabella use black as her main font colour, saving colours for dates and job titles. Her volunteer positions should also have dates added, for context, and can also be condensed to the most relevant.

Ms. Narayan believes that education is a good investment. But given Isabella’s age, she might consider pursuing a part-time program and adding this to her resume. “When someone sees that she is enrolled, her chances of being called back will increase significantly, even if she has not completed the program,” says Ms. Narayan. Isabella should also target her resume to each job she’s applying for by ensuring her resume aligns with the posting’s key skills and required experience. “Sometimes this takes hours, but it’s so worth it,” Ms. Narayan says.

THE RESUME

WHAT THE INDUSTRY EXPERTS SAY

Marnie Goldenberg, VP of programs at Family Services of Greater Vancouver, notes that Isabella has limited paid work experience. “While Isabella is compelled to work directly with seniors, her skill set is clearly in the administrative realm,” says Ms. Goldenberg. So she suggests that Isabella reframe her job search to focus on admin roles. “There are roles that offer diversity of experience and require people who take initiative and apply a variety of abilities,” Ms. Goldenberg explains. “Small not-for-profits may pull on every employee to add value in lots of different ways.” Isabella could also seek out work at a larger organization that she admires. “Prove yourself as indispensable and seek opportunities to support activities that you love,” says Ms. Goldenberg. “Offer to step in when people are on vacation. One day the dream job might be yours, and if not, you are still participating in ways that hopefully feel good.”

Since the nature of work at social service agencies is deemed essential, Carolyn Rhodes, human resources adviser and Family Services of Greater Vancouver says that there are many roles available. “Demand is high and hiring is still full steam ahead,” she says. Ms. Rhodes echoes Ms. Goldenberg’s advice for Isabella to target admin roles. And like Ms. Narayan, Ms. Rhodes suggests that Isabella shorten her summary section while still highlighting her passion for working with seniors, which can set her apart from other candidates. As for formatting, Ms. Rhodes also prefers a black font for professionalism, while suggesting Isabella centre-align her name to make it a focal point.

Aside from admin roles, Ms. Rhodes also suggests Isabella look into client co-ordinator and scheduling roles. “Health Authorities are frequently hiring for these roles and they are unionized positions with good benefits and reasonable pay,” Ms. Rhodes explains. Should Isabella want to pursue further education, she could also consider shorter certificate programs that are focused on her specific passions, such as the not-for-profit certificate program offered at Simon Fraser University.

THE NEW RESUME

Isabella has overhauled her resume with advice from the three experts. She has successfully cut down her resume from two pages to one by condensing her summary and key skills section while also incorporating keywords from job applications. She has added a career tag line to reinforce the position she’s seeking. Her main work description has been condensed and dates have been added to her volunteer experiences.

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INTERESTED IN HAVING YOUR RESUME REVIEWED?

E-mail us with your resume at globecareers@globeandmail.com with ‘Resume Review’ in the subject line and we’ll ask a career coach and an expert in your field to provide their feedback. Emails without the correct subject line may not be answered. Names and some details are changed to protect the privacy of the persons profiled.

We’re especially interested in hearing from those who have had their employment affected by COVID-19. On the flip side, if you’re a hiring manager interested in reaching out to the person profiled, we encourage you to contact us as well. You can find all our resume reviews here.

Stay ahead in your career. We have a weekly Careers newsletter to give you guidance and tips on career management, leadership, business education and more. Sign up today.

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