Resume Problems: I Keep Trying But My Resume Doesn’t Get Me Any Jobs!

Who doesn’t want a resume that will get them a job? I’d also like my resume to make me a sandwich and clean my apartment, but odds are that ain’t gonna happen. 😉

So why do I bring this up? While a good resume is important, I worry that job seekers are putting way too many of their job search eggs in their resume basket – and as a result may be missing out on key things they could be doing to actually get them to that job they want so badly.

I recently got this  from a reader asking for resume and cover letter advice:

I definitely need help writing resumes and cover letters that will stand out (i.e. get past the human and automated screeners) and land me a job. I haven’t worked in now 4 years due to quitting my job in 06 so I can concentrate on school because I was working on a difficult degree and my school was giving me way too many run arounds.

I get resume/cover letter help only to see it still doesn’t get me anywhere. My ex college didn’t even help because some of the stuff they told me to do with resumes was wrong because I asked other professionals.

I did have someone on LinkedIn write me a good resume, but it didn’t impress any employers. I don’t have much work experience so it is hard for me to find anything unique about myself or what I’d actually accomplish. Does anyone have any advice?

~ Miss X

A resume can only do so much

OK. A resume simply can’t get you the job – as much as we wish it could. Often, on its own it can’t even get you the interview. Of course, no guarantee the LinkedIn “pro” delivered anything all that great to Miss X, but for this post let’s assume they did at least a decent job. Clearly there’s more going on here and the real answer probably does NOT lie in a new resume – at least not yet.  So here’s my answer:

I’m so sorry, Miss X. I can only imagine how frustrated you must feel after all this time. One of the hardest things is figuring out how to get good resume help – especially with little work experience. But since you ask…my first advice is that a resume doesn’t get you the job – you do.

Some of your best bets for getting to that job may be by networking, making strong contacts (that can last for the rest of your career if possible), and adding things that would be interesting to employers and that help create the career path you want. Volunteer work. Offering to take on a small project for a company or not-for-profit that interests you. Or, if you can stand going back to school, you can add a targeted class that will help get you somewhere you really want to go and this time make strong contacts with the teacher and fellow students in that class. You can even take on a special project of your own choosing (in line with jobs you want) as part of the class. Good for you AND your resume!

Again, these connections can last a lifetime. I have friend who is just about to get an offer that she got to by way of a professor who knew somebody who knew somebody. But of course, in the end, she made it happen for herself. And you can too.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and, if at all possible, try to get a champion on your side. It’s also worth approaching a former teacher to see if a project can be arranged that would help enhance your skills AND your resume. Gives you something interesting to mention in a cover letter too.

I know you say there were “run arounds” but it’s worth trying to set your mind on getting over the obstacles so you can get where you really want to go. To borrow a Darwin quote I found in my good pal Paul Diamond’s book Explore Your Career:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” ~ Charles Darwin

There will always be obstacles and “run arounds” your whole career. Show them you can not only survive but learn from what’s going on – and move on past them to get what you deserve!

Back to that resume question…

Your resume needs to represent your brand and point to where you want to go – but in the end, you are the one who must take charge and make that happen. A resume can’t do any of that without you.

When you say there’s nothing interesting…it’s all how you tell the story! (And what you add to your story from now on.)  Although there’s a four-year gap, there are also four years of experience with your classes and anything else you might have taken on during that time. Sometimes we minimize things in our own lives that if painted with the right brush, can be pretty interesting to others – or at least more interesting. Remember…your job search story is a reflection of you, who you are as a person, and what you feel about yourself. If it’s not interesting…I challenge you to make it interesting by adding new things to talk about and by practicing with a new set of internal brushes to help paint YOU with more color!

Also, not sure this applies but…sometimes we’re afraid to ask for help from folks we know, and yet those are the very people who might know someone who knows someone…well, you get the idea. Don’t think of it as begging or taking advantage of them. If you believe you can do a good job for someone, then you are giving your friends, family and network contacts a chance to do that person a favor.

If you don’t believe that…then no resume or cover letter can counter the messages you yourself may be sending. First and foremost…believe in yourself. Then add some of that volunteer work and or special projects, classes – whatever you can – and show you have something special to offer.

Your resume in one glance should make it easy to see these things that answer “Why should I hire you?” If you don’t have experience…well now is the time to start building some (including volunteer, special projects and relevant classes) that points you in the right direction.  Even a project you just started or a few weeks of volunteering can add interesting notes – and help make you feel more excited about your own story.  (Your resume should highlight any of these special experiences since they will help sell you.)

Without your help, no resume writer can make that happen. But I have a feeling, Miss X, that YOU can make it happen!

If you have access to a good career coach or career coaching service, PLEASE take advantage of it. There may be things they know that can help strengthen your pitch and the way you present yourself.  Set your mind to “determined” mode and go get yourself a great job!

~ Ronnie Ann

I’m sure there are more ideas out there that might be helpful to Miss X. If you have some thoughts to add, please do. I’ll make sure to pass them on.

Some coaching services that may be of help:

Career Coach & Resume Writing Services Resource List

And if you can’t afford to pay, look for local services offered by non-profits or governmental entities. Best of luck!

Resume & cover letter articles:

10 Things I Look for When I Screen Resumes & Cover Letters

7 Resume Landmines That Can Blow Up AFTER an Interview

How to Handle Annoying Red Flags in Your Resume

How a New Resume Got Her the Job Interview!

My Number 1 Cover Letter Tip

Are You Getting Screwed By Your Professional Resume Writer?

Who the Heck is Screening Your Resume?


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Love this post! You really covered the bases for her, and that’s important. Equally important is that after she follows all your great tips and advice, that she doesn’t quit trying! It’s just harder with the way the economy is going and the increase in competition (thanks to the influx of new graduates this year), but there is hope in every effort…just keep at it and you will get the job you want!

    Karen, The Resume Chick (on Google or Twitter)

  2. Hi Karen!

    Thanks for your kind words and thanks for adding so nicely. Great points.

    Personal story: I graduated with a B.A. in theater during another deep recession and, although I had to shift my thinking for a while to find a job, I did find something – albeit not the dream job my fresh-out-of-school mind had expected. There are almost always jobs available. (Just not always the ones we want or qualify for. 😉 )

    But I took a job in a department store to pay the rent and then looked around for other opportunities. Nothing better than I had – yet. So I went back for an MBA and within two months – while attending classes – I found myself a well-paid consulting job in an area I basically knew nothing about and…drum roll…a career was born. And that was little old me with a mere theater degree – with the only difference being I started another degree and I was in a place where I could connect with connected people who told me about the consulting job.

    Sometimes you have to be open to looking where you never expected – and asking everyone you can for help. Even people you just meet. It’s ok…really. [In fact it’s a great way to make things happen for yourself! BUT the trick (especially for folks you don’t know well) is not exactly asking for a job but engaging others in your story and excitement to find something. People like to invest in positive energy. And they like to help. But then that’s another post…]

    And so I echo your words with one addition: “…there is hope in every effort…just keep at it and you will get the job you want” – or one you didn’t realize you want!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  3. Dear Ronnie Ann,

    Great article!

    Gave voice to the challenges job seekers and career management professionals all face.

    How often is it really about the resume?

    I especially appreciate (and look forward to investigating) the extensive resources you provided.

    Looking forward to learning more from you!


    Bryan Lubic

  4. Nice post Ronnie! I echo your belief that a resume can only do so much. It’s what you put into the resume – and how you word it – that matters. After all, can a baseball player hit a home run using just a bat?

    Know your value, believe in your value, and communicate your value – on your resume and in a conversation.

  5. Thanks Bryan and Rick! Good advice Rick. And – borrowing from Rick’s words – may you hit a home run Bryan! 😉

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  6. Catherine says:

    I have a sample resume that I have been updating and working on for a while, after I read “what color is your parachute.” I can send the resume to whoever wants to take a look at it, for a sample. I could always use critique information too.

  7. Thanks Catherine.

    If anyone is interested, some of my favorite resume samples (by type) can be found on Susan Ireland’s website.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

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