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Work Smarter: Make Your Resume Work Harder

Chickie Maxwell

With more than 13 million Americans unemployed in April 2011 and an unemployment rate hovering between 8 and 9 percent, the employment market is competitive, to say the least. It's important that job hunters take positive, pro-active steps to compete in the job market and ultimately land a new position.

The employment resume that you have been faithfully updating for the past twenty years may no longer be relevant in its current form. Today, you need a scannable resume -- it is very likely that a computer will read your resume before human eyes ever see it. And human eyes may never see it if you haven't highlighted important keywords.

Don't panic -- this doesn't mean that your skills are outdated, and it doesn't mean you have to throw out your old resume and start all over. You can adapt the one you have with new formatting and keywords.

List keywords that are relevant to your employment field in a section under your name and address, near the top of the resume, advises Purdue University's Writing Lab. The words you choose are critically important. If you are an executive, you can use words like leadership, Six Sigma, team management and other words that an employer might use to describe a job. The same is true for every field.

If you're a coder, you would use names of the latest technology, such as CSS, MySQL, Java and Flash. Someone seeking employment in a retail establishment might list cash register, sales, team leader, customer centered, and other relevant words and phrases that a database might pick up. The key is to use the words and phrases that are important in your field.

White space on your scannable resume also helps. If you're worried about including white space because it will make your resume a page and half long instead of one page long, stop worrying. Any resume under two pages is acceptable. When your resume makes it past the computer scan, the white space helps a human resources person to quickly scan your resume for keywords.

Once you've updated your resume, carefully proofread it on hard copy and aloud. Errors that you would miss on the screen will jump out at you. Next, get that resume out there. Post it on online employment services such as, Career Finder and LnkedIn. Also look for specialized employment sites that cater to your trade or profession and that will allow you to post.

Additionally, work with bricks and mortar employment agencies, including temp agencies. Many employers now hire people first as temps, and then later move good performers into permanent positions.

If you work in a field in which it is acceptable to walk in the door and hand someone a resume, by all means do. But don't be surprised if you don't get an interview on the spot. Chances are, your resume will be entered into a database or file unless the establishment is looking to hire people immediately.

No matter what your employment field is, take advantage of social media. Set up a Twitter account, a LinkedIn account and perhaps an employment page on Facebook and use them to network with prospective employers, prospective employers' acquaintances, and even other people looking for employment. Not being qualified for every job on the market, some of them may be more than happy to pass on an employment lead, and you should do the same for them.

Taking a positive, proactive approach and exercising tenacity will, sooner or later, land you a job. In your hunt for employment, you never fail until you give up.

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