government-run career centers are terrible

A reader writes:

I need a bit of advice when it comes to writing a resume. I’ve been going to a government career center for advice on resume and interview skills, and recently, my coach told me that I should be writing a job title in the center of my resume, right after my address. At first, she told me to write the position title of the job that I would be applying to. When I met her again, she told me to instead write “Administrative Professional” as my title. Both times that she has suggested this, I have told her that I didn’t like the idea and didn’t want to write it. I also told her that I would be uncomfortable writing Administrative Professional because I had zero administrative skills (which she knew). However, she was adamant that I write this, and told me to just change it to “Customer Service Professional.” She also told me to put Customer Service Professional on business cards and hand it out to recruiters.

To be honest, I haven’t followed any of her advice because I found it too obnoxious to call myself a professional in anything when I’m a recent graduate from university. As of right now, I’ve just been sending her a different version of my resume that has her specifications, and keeping my own resume that I will use to apply to employers.

Is her advice correct and am I wrong to be not listening to it? I am emailing to ask this not only for myself, but for a friend who is in a similar boat as mine: just now, her coach from a different career center told her to write a title for herself, and she too is uncomfortable doing such a thing.

A little background about me: I’m from Canada, and I graduated with a bachelors degree in the sciences. I’m currently working in retail, and am looking for another job to make ends meet. I have very little experience actually working (regrettably, I believed my parents advice that getting a degree would instantly get me a job, and now I’m doing damage control). The coach told me to write Administrative Professional because I was going to apply for a bank teller position.

Thank you for any advice that you can offer! And sorry if this is a really stupid/simple question that was asked. I’ve been really confused about what to write on resumes and what to say during interviews because a lot of career centers have been saying contradicting statements or telling me to do things that I’m uncomfortable doing (such as doing a functional or video resume, making a website with just a resume and putting the url on the printed resume, or not asking employers questions like what qualities they’re looking for in a candidate… just to name a few).

Never listen to any advice from a government career center. They are notoriously terrible.

Really terrible.

I’m sure there must some good ones out there, but the vast majority are horrible. So unless you know yours to be fantastic, you’ve got to default to ignoring them, because the chances are high that they’re awful.

No, you should not make up a title and slap it on the top of your resume. I mean, no one is going to reject you solely for doing that, but it looks a little weird and generally isn’t going to help. It looks little cheesy and a little gimmicky.

And the fact that the person at the career center was so adamant that you do this is ridiculous. I mean, even if it were a mildly helpful thing to do (which it’s not), she should be capable of exercising some independent judgment and recognizing that it’s not going to make or break your resume. But government career centers’ adamancy about stuff that doesn’t matter or is outright wrong is one of their hallmarks.

Once you get a job, I hope you’ll get back in touch with whoever manages that place and tell them how unhelpful their advice was and how out of touch it is with actual hiring norms.

{ 230 comments… read them below }

  1. Stranger than fiction*

    Alison where do they get these ideas? I mean here they’re actually telling people to lie on their resume!! Obviously her work history and type of degree are not going to support this title! Argh I really feel for new grads

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I know that’s the intent, but come on…if someone put “Tyrion Lannister, Senior Vice President” on paper when they’re just a low-level manager (and presumably that’s the height of their career arc to date), that sure sounds like lying to me.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          I worked at one! Back in the UK, the summer between undergrad and grad school. I was responsible for taking calls from employers and entering the info about their job opening into our database, but I did some cross-training with the people who provided advice to job seekers. They were some of the nicest and most patient people I’ve ever worked with. I have no idea how good their advice was, but I’m convinced that they at least thought it was helpful…

          1. Cath in Canada*

            Oh, and I got the job by being the person who happened to be at the front desk talking to a job placement officer at the exact moment his boss walked over to tell him to look out for students looking for a summer job, because a temp position had just opened up. I was interviewed on the spot and started the following day.

        2. Suzanne*

          Yep. I do. I’m also tired of all the government bashing that goes on here. I found the advice helpful, but I will no longer be reading.

          1. esra*

            I’m as left-leaning as they come, but employment support advice for finding a job from the government is legit bad. It’s just not something they’re suited to. Their mandate is to treat everyone equally, and that just doesn’t work out in this case.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I don’t think anyone who works there has time to consider every job seeker’s situation individually. Every time I’ve gone to the state career center, it’s jam-packed with people.

              1. Melissa*

                That’s probably true, but it raises the question of what is the point of having these (taxpayer-funded) centers if they’re not going to give individually helpful assistance to employees? Career centers almost by definition have to do some individual consideration unless they switch their focus to only providing workshops and speaker series or something.

          1. Suzanne*

            You sure you want a job where you’re vilified by strangers and the people you’re trying to help? I love my job and have wonderful interactions with my clients, but the mob mentality of this site is appalling to me (as well as the not-so-gracious headline). If you wonder how many government employees read this site, I’m guessing not many. It’s hard to follow a site that continually insults your field and unfairly groups all government employees together. Unfortunate.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But the reality is that the majority do appear to be terrible. I’m sure there are exceptions, as I said in the original post; I said that quite clearly, in fact. But the majority are awful, and it’s fair and reasonable to call that out — particularly given that they’re often dealing with particularly vulnerable people.

              I don’t think it’s a mob mentality. It’s a group of people who have seen this stuff happening and are frustrated by it.

              1. Suzanne*

                I respectfully disagree. I think many people are confusing Unemployment Insurance for whatever employment division is in a particular state. Also, this is not the first time I’ve seen what I perceive as an insulting/condescending post specifically towards government (seems to be a theme). Of course, some agencies are terrible. Some are fantastic. I think it’s unfair to call it a majority. Are you basing that solely off of reader’s comments? Your title says it all and your caveat is lost in the general tone. I’ve been reading for three years and I think you’re talented and professional. However, this site has become too pejorative towards a group of people. Again, unfortunate.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  We’re talking specifically about the career counseling services provided by state governments, often (but not always) as part of receiving unemployment benefits.

                  I’m basing my opinion off of eight years of reading an enormous amount of reader mail and comments detailing people’s experiences with them, as well as first-hand looks at what types of materials and guidance these centers are putting out. And of course, when the topic comes up here, people are free to weigh in and say “I actually had a great experience with one.” That happens occasionally, but it’s by far the rare exception. There’s a reason for that. It’s worth calling attention to.

                2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

                  I’m a government employee (I work for my state’s department of education). During the recession, I had the misfortune to get laid off 3 times in 3 years. The help I got from my state department of workforce services when I was unemployed was practically worthless. The help I got from my church’s employment services wasn’t much better.

                  The way I finally got the job I have was to follow Alison’s advice (and some networking).

                  I haven’t noticed that this site is particularly pejorative toward a group of people. Toward institutions, yes–not just government institutions, but university career counseling offices, bad recruiting firms, paid career counseling services that give bad advice, bad non-profits, horrible megacorps, small mom-and-pop family-owned business run on favoritism and nepotism, etc. The things these all have in common is that they’re badly run and/or do harm to the people they’re supposedly helping. You generally don’t come to a site like this to talk about the awesome government office, the fabulous university career counselor, the amazing recruiter, etc. So of course discussion here is going to skew to the negative.

                  But nowhere in all of the above have I ever seen personal attacks on the people that work at these places. So no, I don’t think we’re being pejorative toward a group of people. To paraphrase, it’s the school we hate, not the principal of the thing.

                3. Suzanne*

                  I don’t have an issue with people sharing their experience, but I do take issue with comments in the vein of “how did these people get their job, and must be nice to have a job like that…” which I do take personally. I’m referring to this post as well as posts I’ve seen in the past that are peppered with such comments. As someone who works at a government run career center, I find the post title quite alienating. I also wanted to clarify something: Unemployment Insurance mandates visits to career centers. In my state, my office is not compensated in any way for the staff time required for these visits. If “we” appear confused or not invested, it’s because “we” are likely just as much in the dark as claimants are. It’s a flawed system for sure, but I’m not about to say UI is a terrible agency. UI (again, in my state) is working with a skeleton crew, trying to keep up with constantly changing regulations. Yes, there are some ridiculous hoops to jump through, but this is typical for any sort of benefit. The people who staff that office have a challenging job and are not lazy or unprofessional; they’re trying to work with what they have. Some could say it’s the same for government run career centers. Again, the pejorative sentiment I’m referencing is not people’s bad experiences, it’s the more pointed commentary (not so much in this post, but in posts past. This post just put me over the edge).

                4. JB (not in Houston)*

                  If “we” appear confused or not invested, it’s because “we” are likely just as much in the dark as claimants are

                  Well, that sort of makes Alison’s point–that people who don’t know what they’re talking about are giving career advice.

                  For what it’s worth, I work in government, my sister works in government, I have other friends who work in government, and none of us feel like Alison or the commenters have it out for government employees. So your perception is just that—true to you, but not a Universal Truth.

                5. JB (not in Houston)*

                  I wanted to add that I agree that sometimes it seems like the commenters are piling on. But then other times a lot of the commenters will police themselves and say that it’s getting too much. Generally speaking, this is actually one of the gentler commenting forums I’ve seen on the internet.

                  In this case, most of the commenters here have seen lots of really bad advice coming out of government career centers. Alison has seen it for years. And this is advice going to people who really need the help. But if you think that you have a better feel for how helpful such places are, and you think we’re wrong, then the thing to do is explain why we’re wrong about the terrible advice.

                  The people working at these agencies may well be kind-hearted, well-meaning people trying their best, but that doesn’t mean they give out good advice or that we should tell job seekers, “Yes, take their advice. They’re really nice.”

                  And to be fair, it’s not only government career centers, either. LOTS of places give bad career advice, and Alison and others here criticize them, too. Government centers aren’t a special target.

                6. Retail Lifer*

                  As my name suggests, I’ve been a retail manager for many, many years and have been trying to get out for nearly a decade. I’ll take any out that doesn’t require a huge pay cut. No one thinks too highly of me now as a retail manager, so this wouldn’t be any different.

                7. Bunny*

                  It’s worth keeping in mind that a lot of the issue is that, with government-run employment centres, depending circumstances attendance and so on can be mandatory, on pain of losing the meagre money allotted to keep you alive while you look for work. I know it is in my country, and it makes the experience terrifying and demeaning even with the best, most compassionate and well-meaning staff working there.

                  The time I spent having to attend my local employment centre was, frankly, awful. A couple of the people who worked their were lovely and sincerely wanted to help, but that doesn’t change the fact that:

                  1- The “training opportunities” the centre provided – run by third parties farmed in – were not only unhelpful but obvious cons meant to take advantage of an opportunity to suck money from the government for things people had no choice but to attend. I think a record-breaking low for me was when I was mandated to attend my second “employability” course to find the course content was literally just a random assortment of pages compiled from other courses. To the point that we had an entire day of workbook activity based around analysing the content of an instructional video on interview techniques… but no video. So we were just told to imagine what the video might have included and work on that.

                  2- Being able to use the centre’s internet connection and phones was very useful for many of the claimants, who didn’t all have home computers or internet access. Being mandated to come in on a booked schedule and spend several hours jobsearching on those computers was less useful, especially for those of us who had our own computers and internet at home, with all the different versions of our CVs and website log-ins other crucial documents safely stored on them.

                  3- None of the people working at the centre were professionals or trained at all regarding modern or up-to-date employment/interview/jobsearching norms. Almost all of them relied on either lowest-common-denominator obvious advice (we spent a whole week in a group sessions being made to make schoolclass-style “presentations” on things like wearing clean, neat clothes to interviews, washing before interviews, and how smiling and sitting up straight is a good idea) or on “this is how I did things when I applied for *this job* so this must be a universal standard”.

                  4- There were a couple of bad eggs in the staff – people who really believed the line about the unemployed being lazy scroungers, and people who got off on having power over others. The kindness and compassion of the nicer members of staff didn’t do much to mitigate the terror of knowing that at any moment you could get a mandatory scheduled meeting with the guys who *likes* being able to decide whether or not you get the money you need to buy food with that week, and who has an entire government incentive scheme backing every sanction he decides to impose.

                  The simple fact is that when someone runs a service on a shockingly low budget for a group of people that are publicly demonised, and then make attendance and adherence to instructions given by that service mandatory on pain of severe sanctions (a single sanction could mean weeks without money, and some vulnerable people in my home country have literally died from starvation or lack of access to medicine as a result of being sanctioned)… well, that tends to result in a LOT of poor quality and even incorrect service, even abuse. Are there lovely exceptions? Absolutely. But they *are* exceptions.

                  The service you offer might be exemplary. If so, you are exceptional.

                8. Jill*

                  I’m a government employee (public education, urban sized district). I’ve been reading this site for years. I don’t see government employee bashing as a trend here. If anything, most questions seem to be about bad bosses, inappropriate behavior, and “is this legal?” type of questions. In fact, most Original Posts don’t even mention whether they are in government or not.

              2. inigo montoya*

                To be fair, how many people write to you about seeking your input on their good experiences with college and government career centers? Or employers? Or bosses? It is reasonable to assume that you are going to hear more horror stories about any entity than you are positive experiences.

                I can google career advice and find all manner of terrible ideas regarding job searches, that doesn’t make all or even the majority bad.

            2. Anna*

              Now I think you’re being unfair. Every letter and story that’s shown up here has been about really bad advice that has come from university career centers and government career centers. If you’ve done something different, rather than pouting, perhaps you could tell us why so many people seem to have bad experiences with them. What are you doing that’s different?

              There are a lot of government employees on this site, a lot of people who work for government contractors, too. There are people who work for recruiters who have seen the bad stories that Alison has shared, but if your field has a reputation it might be worth figuring out why that is.

              1. HigherEd Admin*

                Agree. I work at a university career center. It can certainly be disheartening to hear how many people have a bias against university career centers based on their own bad experience. But my job as part of this commenting community is to try to show how my office stays up to date with hiring trends and talk about how our work is 99% in line with what AAM suggests, so that readers can understand that there are some really good college career centers out there. To change perception, you have to be a part of the conversation.

                1. steve g*

                  Just wanted to say my career counselor was good when I went back four years after graduation….props to city univ of ny….im guessing the people with positive experiences are less apt to comment “I went to a counselor and it was fine and I got a job soon and forgot about it” which of course doesn’t negate any of the negative stories written here over the years

                2. Mints*

                  Another positive note: my college career counsellors were really helpful and aligned with what’s on this website. (The “I don’t know what kind of job I should try to get” question is another, story though)

                  But one of the best values of this site is directness, and when something sucks (jobs, managers, employees, policies) you’ll get called on it

            3. steve g*

              Please don’t stop reading because of this. Not only is there so many other topics written about here, but not everyone is with the “mob mentality.”. I for one don’t have enough experience with career counselors to comment. I’m guessing many other people are middle of the road on them. It would be better if you commented on the positives of govt career centers….thanks

            4. Melissa*

              There are a lot of government employees who read this website – there was a large thread of them one of the last times we had an open post. And I don’t think Alison says many negative things about the government in general – she’s mentioned a few times that government career assistance centers are not good at what they do, but…it’s a general opinion she has based upon her experiences. I don’t see how that’s bashing – she gives examples to back up her opinion and doesn’t use vitriolic language or anything like that. And perhaps I’ve missed something recent in the comments, but I don’t remember commenters bashing the government, either.

        3. blee*

          I’m the program manager for the career centers in my city. Reading AAM posts about government career centers is always really painful because the criticisms are usually really spot-on. A good part of my job is trying to retrain staff and getting them to unlearn bad habits. We really do try, though. I sing the praises of this site whenever I can and have given the URL to our staff in recent training sessions!

        4. Amy*

          I work closely with Worksource centers and some of the information that is told to customers is outdated. This can be for a combination of reasons such as vetern staff who are not up to date with current practices and managers/board that oversees the Employment Department are mandating these type of practices. I feel that this brings a great disservice to customers because they are the one’s putting their name on resumes and sending it out to potential employers. Luckily, I am at a large metro area so there are alot of available positions, I would hate to think how many additional barriers this creates for someone in a rural or smaller city.

          In my opinion, resumes are opinioned based, there is no one-size fits all.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Yeah, I feel like this is a garbled version of “Put a profile on there.” Like, when I was looking for jobs as a newly-certified teacher, my resume profile described me as an “educator” and described my teaching interests and philosophy in the present tense, the way I would describe them if they were things I was actually doing in a classroom at that moment — I wouldn’t call any of that lying, but… describing myself in a way that was more aspirational than precisely accurate, maybe? I feel like “Administrative Professional” falls into the same category, that it’s a thing you might describe yourself as in a profile/summary section if you’re looking for administrative work even if you don’t actually have much administrative experience.

      3. College Career Counselor*

        I suspect that it’s also intended to prompt the recipient of the resume to view the applicant as a someone working in the field, so that they then read the rest of the resume with something of a “confirmation bias.” Now, if you don’t actually HAVE the requisite experience on the resume, then it’s transparent. It also strikes me as “one size fits all” advice, and I agree that the insistence on it is particularly tone-deaf.

    1. Adam*

      I kinda wonder what the people who work in these centers did to get these jobs. Surely it wasn’t by following their own advice if it’s all of this caliber, right?

      1. some1*

        A friend/acquantance works at one. It’s the only job she’s had since she earned an HR degree – she’s never been a recruiter.

        1. AVP*

          I have one Facebook friend who is a college career counselor. As far as I can tell it was her first job out of college and she has the same technical degree as the students she’s advising. I literally have no idea what she tells these kids or where she gets her ideas from, as her only experience in hiring or getting hired was this one specific job.

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            Well, it could be that she researches hiring and firing in her field, networks with others in her field to place students, and reads blogs like AAM.

            I mean, if I were placed as a career counselor and didn’t have experience or training in the field of counseling, or in hiring and firing, that’s what I’d do.

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

              Yes, this. While it would be ideal to have these positions filled by people who have actually done some hiring (and really, it can’t be that hard to do that), the next best alternative is a reasonably smart person who essentially acts as a wise aggregator of all the (good) job-search advice out there.

      2. Kelly O*

        I will say that in my last job, we had someone who was let go from her position with our company, for reasons I obviously cannot get into here, but suffice to say it was a customer-facing role where being pleasant, tactful, prompt, and following up on your promises was vital.

        The day she came in my office demanding I give her paperwork I was not allowed to access, much less give to someone, she was wearing a badge letting us know she worked for the local government unemployment service, and it was clear from the title she was *ahem* helping others in their job searches. As she stood in the door of my office, refused to leave, and cursed me up one side and down the other because I could not and would not access her HR file for a document she wanted/needed.

        However, when I saw the badge, and heard her tell me “you better hope you never lose your job, b*tch” I just sort of sighed inwardly for all the people who she was going to “help” in their job search. And when I did inevitably lose my job when our office closed, I never once stepped foot in the office in which she worked. Just on principal.

        1. Adam*

          I wouldn’t have either. If she had recognized you that confrontation would have been therapy worthy.

        2. Mimmy*

          “you better hope you never lose your job, b*tch”

          *cue sound of Mimmy’s jaw dropping to the floor*. Wow. She sure had a lot of nerve!

          1. Kelly O*

            My office-mate at the time laughed when it was over, because she said I just sat there, blinked, and said “I certainly hope I don’t, either, thank you.”

            The GM came in on the whole thing and got involved, but it was just a huge mess. (Suffice to say the actual story would be a doozy, but it’s got way too much specific stuff that would make identifying people easy, and although I’m reasonably sure she doesn’t read AAM, it’s a chance I’m not quite willing to take.)

            Although when an overly-aggressive candidate recently told me someone at TWC told her to do what she was doing, I had to literally bite my tongue to not say “Was her name Sansa? Because honey, do the opposite of whatever she says.”

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Maybe one day, perhaps in an open thread, someone under the username of “Anon for This” or some such will tell the whole story . . .

              1. Kelly O*

                Some attempts at Anon are not the greatest. Just try changing the way you write… I mean, not that I’d know.

                1. Ops Analyst*

                  I’ve also seen some people go anon and not change their avatar. Don’t make that mistake.

                2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  Ha. I went “anon for this” and forgot to change my avatar once. Alison fixed it for me, to my eternal gratitude.

                  And yes, it is hard to change the way one writes; it’s hard to shake one’s own voice.

        3. some1*

          Was it Unemployment or a career center? The Unemployment Office doesn’t help people find jobs; it processes UI claims and says yay or nay for people and employers.

          1. Kelly O*

            Basically unemployment in Texas usually just goes through a website, but they have locations with people on hand for those who may need help, but they tend to do more than just help with unemployment claims, and do a lot of career assisting and that kind of thing.

            When we first moved to Texas we lived in a tiny little town, and the office there would let you use their computers and internet access. We waited forever for ours to be set up, so I would go there if the library was full to use the internet. I saw a lot, and talked to some people who worked there. They were actually pretty nice, and considering the environment, as helpful as they could be. I went in the office nearest me now, and let’s just say (LET’S JUST SAY) it was a little different.

            1. some1*

              Okay, in Minnesota the Unemployment Office is part of the State Labor Dept and career/workforce centers are run by the county. They intersect in that you may be required to sign up at the career center, but anyone can go to the career center.

            2. Prismatic Professional*

              I salute you fellow Texan. I work as a career counselor for one of the government programs (well, as a contractor on a grant) and I would like to sincerely apologize for any colleague who was acting less than professional. We are supposed to be modeling appropriate professional behavior and this individual sounds like she didn’t get that memo. :-/

              I’m wondering if I should just print and laminate the AAM header and put it in my office in order to say, “Hey! I’m one of the few unicorn counselors who researches hiring practices and truly cares about my clients!” What do you think Alison?

          2. The Office Admin*

            In Kansas, they’re the same, or more accurately: in the same office location.

            1. Meg Murry*

              Yes, in Ohio, they call them “One Stop” centers, and in order to have your unemployment processed you have to go through a certain amount of training with the career center part. Luckily you can do most of it online, like watch a training video and take a quiz, and upload your resume to the career portal (which I think it just a subset of Monster).

          3. Stranger than fiction*

            Where I live, the unemployment office has separate career centers scattered around where you can go for help. I’ve never gone but my sister and niece say it’s not great

        4. Receptionist Without A Cause*

          I would have been tempted to pop in with some big sunglasses on just to see if she still worked there because with the attitude you described, she probably didn’t!

    2. Joey*

      I’ll tell you where they get it. They saw it work once and their goal is merely to get you employed….by anyone…..for any job. It makes a whole lot of sense that they’re throwing everything up against the wall to see what sticks.

      These folks aren’t looking to get you a good job, they have no incentive to.

      And fwiw most employers I know that “resort” to advertising with the government assistant programs do so because they can’t find folks through the regular channels. This usually means they have super weird qualifications or are otherwise undesireable jobs for some reason.

      1. Fabulously Anonymous*

        I also think they read the same lousy advice that’s plastered all over the Internet that Alison spends her time debunking.

        1. fposte*

          Right–we see it come from people in all walks of life related to employment, both government and private. Nothing quite so catchy as a bad idea.

    3. Missing the Private Sector*

      I work at one of these now. Alison is right. You can get a lot of bad advice. I have 10+ years of HR experience from the private sector, and I am horrified by some of the advice I’ve heard other staff give. Why does this happen? A few observations:

      1. The pay here is ridiculously low, so you’re not likely to attract/retain high quality talent.
      2. Most staff don’t have an HR or management background, so they have no practical experience on which to base their recommendations. It would be like me trying to tell you how to do surgery. It’s not going to end well.
      3. We have many long term staff who haven’t job searched themselves in ages. They simply don’t have recent relevant job searching experience.

      Of course, we do have some staff who can give you good advice. In addition to myself, I have another coworker who was in HR for years, and another who did a lot of hiring at her recent job. Like advice you get from anyone on any topic, you want to evaluate the credibility of the source. Ask the person how long they’ve been in this job, what is the person’s background, etc. If the suggestions don’t jive with other reputable sources, don’t implement them. It’s a shame you have to do this, but it is what it is.

      And yes, I miss the private sector. I hope to be back in it soon.

  2. grasshopper*

    Fake job titles are the worst. If I get an applicant who lists something like that, it just makes them look pretentious.

    As Alison suggests, once you have a job, go back to the manager of the centre and show them the two versions of your CV: the one that got you a job and the one that the gov’t agent suggested. That demonstrates a concrete example of success and failure. Also, I would suggest including a copy of your answer on this site, along with the comments!

    I know that you might be feeling a bit desperate, but unless you are obligated to go the gov’t career centre, don’t go back there (until it is time to demonstrate how well you did by ignoring their advice!).

  3. Allison*

    Sometimes I wonder if this sort of bad advice is given when the person doesn’t actually know what to do, but needs to say something, so they make something up. Best they can do is act like they’re helping.

    1. ZSD*

      I think that does happen, but in those cases, the person saying it usually doesn’t *insist* that the listener must take their advice. (Unless they’re really insecure and overcompensate by trying to sound certain about everything.)

    2. Another Ellie*

      I think a lot of the bad advice comes from the fact that people are looking for how to be extra super good at job searching because it’s just so hard. Unfortunately, the very basic method of having a well put-together resume and a good cover letter and then persistently looking for job opportunities is the best way to get a job. But when the process starts to drag on for months you start looking for the extra-super-special trick because what you’re doing isn’t working. Unfortunately, people in institutions set up to help people find jobs see so much failure that they start looking for extra-super-special tricks, too.

      1. Prismatic Professional*


        One person I worked with thought orange headings would be a great idea for some visual excitement. I had a difficult time convincing that person otherwise.

  4. Liza*

    Oy. I must be lucky–when I was on unemployment benefits a couple of years ago and was required to attend some training at the local (government-run or -backed) career center, I got some good information. (“Good” as measured by the standards I’ve developed reading AAM, of course!) In particular I remember the class on networking was really helpful. I’d always thought networking was this weird unnatural business-y thing to do until that class.

    1. some1*

      I was as well. Mine was average to poor.

      Helpful: there’s a place to go where you can look for jobs online because I had canceled my home internet when I was laid off, and my local library has an hour time limit to use the internet (plus waiting for an available PC) and I didn’t want to impose too much on family and friends.

      Not particularly helpful: being forced to sign up for program where I would work with their employment counselor or lose my UI. I had only been unemployed for a couple of months, and I was getting phone interviews and in-person interviews on the regular — those resources could have gone to someone who was in more need than me. I ended up finding a job and being there a month before this program called me.

      Unhelpful: The woman who led the seminar told us that we must always answer every call because HR people will move on to the next candidate if you don’t answer their first call.

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        “Hello? Oh, the echo – I’m in a tiled hallway.” *toilet flushes* :|

        1. some1*

          Right? That advice may hold for someone looking for day-to-day temp work or substitute teaching or something, but the majority of employers will leave you a voice mail or call you back at least once.

  5. JoJo*

    I’ve had ‘experts’ insist that I list obsolete skills such as Lotus 1-2-3 and Corel Draw on my resume “to show that I progressed”. I thought it would make me look old and out of touch, left it off, and got a job.

    Don’t get me started on wasting resume space for and objective. My objective is to not get evicted/car repoed.

  6. AdAgencyChick*

    One wonders how the people who give such advice got THEIR jobs, if they’re not self-employed!

    1. AVP*

      I actually wonder if the employment centers hire whoever has the most gimmicky resume or is the most aggressive, taking that as a signal for “this person knows what to do! They will give this same great advice to others!” thus perpetuating the cycle.

      1. SO*

        Many Govt. agencies hire off of civil service lists that are generated from a test score. I’ve worked with plenty of state workers that don’t have many skills but apparently test well.

    2. Florida*

      These people might have gotten hired by the government in 1990s when it was appropriate to have an objective on your resume, and using a pink scented resume would catch the recruiter’s attention (in a good way), and it was acceptable to walk into an office in person and ask for a job. It might have been so long since this career center counselor actually looked for a job that they are completely out of touch with today’s norms. And the career counselor might not be the type who would keep up with trends on their own.

      1. some1*

        It’s entirely possible that a good number of the employees there have been working for the government for literally decades. I used to work for the city government and it’s much more likely to have government employees spend their whole career there. They might move to different departments, but stay at the same org.

        Based on my experience, I think it has to do with the fact that you can (or used to be able to) get a decent to good-paying job without a college degree, you are more likely to have better benefits and job security, you get cost of living increases and the retirment fund encourages you to keep your money in to make it worth it.

      2. Decimus*

        I had to visit one to maintain my unemployment benefits – the guy I met with meant well, but he was clearly a long-service armed services veteran (his office was loaded with mementos and such) and I did wonder how much non-armed services employment experience he had. He insisted I apply for a position because it claimed to want legal skills and I had legal skills. The position was a university fund raising position. Not only had I no experience with that, I am mentally unsuited to it and my professional experience is in records.

        I also noticed all the job listings they had available tended to be retail. I think the primary problem with these centers is that they were set up with the idea of helping people who either do retail work or “vocational” work, and seem to have no experience being able to deal with specialized professionals.

        1. Lindrine*

          +100 to that. My experience overall was OK. I had to go to a series of workshops while unemployed, but one of them had a really good speaker on interviews. His main job was to go interview at companies to test their interview processes. His stories were great. The rest of it was very bureaucratic and I was worried I would have to take a job for what I had been making before which was below market rate.

    3. Prismatic Professional*

      I can’t speak for everyone AdAgencyChick, but I am more than willing to start off your sample! :-) I got my job as a career counselor by networking and a (stellar) phone interview. I previously worked in a university setting and one of my co-workers mentioned they had worked at my current employer and knew they were hiring. I really enjoy it! I have a Master’s in Counseling and have always enjoyed research. I get to do some mental health counseling (I’m licensed) around anxiety and hopelessness and research widely varying career paths and skills. :-)

  7. Receptionist Without A Cause*

    Ugh, the one time I went to a government job center it was a horrible and demoralizing experience. The people there mean well with some pretty notable exceptions, but I think they’re under equipped to really help the people that need them most.

  8. Meg Murry*

    I wonder if that bad advice comes from the fact that the person giving the advice is working at a government job – it may be (or have been) a requirement to include the title and job # of the job you were applying for directly on the resume and cover letter at the time she applied.

    For normal jobs, this is wrong and unnecessary. If you are applying for a specific position, yes, state that posotion (and if it has some kind of position number on the application system, you can use that as well) in the cover letter, and in the subject line or body of the email if sending your materials that way. But you don’t need to put it on the resume itself unless it is a weird requirement that is specifically called for in the posting.

    I work in the Rust Belt in an area with a lot of manufacturing. If you weren’t a laid off auto worker (or even if you were) the advice at the local career center was pretty much useless when it came to anything other than how to fill out your unemployment paperwork (and they even got that wrong or muddled sometimes).

  9. JoJo*

    So what’s with the “put the buzzwords in the margins in white font” advice? Is this a good idea or not?

    1. Meg Murry*

      Not a good idea. They might show up if the resume is converted to PDF, uploaded to an internal applicant tracking system, or otherwise cut-and-pasted.

      If the job description uses certain industry words and you have experience with them, use them in your resume and/or cover letter – for instance, if the job calls for experience with “Statistical Design of Experiments” use that phrasing instead of DOE or just saying Six Sigma (which requires you to know and use Statistical Design of Experiments, but won’t trigger the buzzword). Use your industry words – if you have experience with are in pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, local government, etc make sure it says so clearly on your resume – don’t imply and think “well, that means the same thing”.

      But the white-font thing is a risky gimmick. If you have the experience, its resume/cover letter worthy in the main text. If you don’t, its basically lying on your resume.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Bad idea. If your resume is going into an electronic application system, those words are all going to appear, no longer in white.

      Also, it’s assuming that you need a jumble of keywords to be seen. You don’t.

      1. Technical Editor*

        I’ve put this on my resume before, but at the very bottom or in the footer so it has less of chance of being manually copied-and-pasted. However, if it’s clearly an automated system like Taleo, and not just a simple email + attachment form, I take them out.

      2. JoJo*

        I was told that by a government career counselor. I wonder how many people have been following her advice.

      3. Graciosa*

        Unfortunately, I had to battle one of our internal recruiters over this issue – her idea of screening resumes was counting key words.

        I have found a way to add words in white font without risking it looking terrible (I had some column formatting in one small part of my resume, so it wouldn’t look bad if the white font suddenly appeared) but I deplored the necessity and kept it to an absolute minimum related to a specific posting rather than a careless jumble of every key word I could come up with.

        If we can get companies to stop relying on electronic key word searches – or even non-electronic key word searches – and properly screen resumes, we can get rid of this stupidity entirely. Until then, I think there may still be a place for it in rare situations and assuming you’ve already done everything you can with your resume and cover letter. The strongest presentation to a professional in your field may not match the strongest presentation to the computer or HR screener.

        And the incident when I had to fight my own HR to stop the practice (at least for my positions) was only about a year ago.

      4. vpc*

        …Except for government jobs.

        How I solved this one: my federal CV – so length is not an object, like academic ones – has an entire section, immediately following my work history and before my education, titled “requirements specific to this position”. I copy/paste the bullet list of requirements from the job announcement, and then add a sentence or two to each one that reflects where exactly in the rest of the CV that specific requirement is reflected. Such as “…perform complex analyses with large data sets: current position includes working with databases in [these platforms] to do [this type of analysis] and [previous position Y, date-date] used [this other platform].”

    3. Sadsack*

      Is this actually a thing? I don’t get it. If the writing is in white font, then it can’t be seen, so what use is it, even as a subliminal message?

      Maybe I’ll try making the first letter of every sentence of my cover letter spell out Hire Me, Please!

      1. KT*

        It’s for companies that use software or programs to sort through applications via SEO–by including keywords, the hope is these programs will pick up your resume–a live person won’t see the white text, but a program will recognize it.

      2. CAA*

        It’s not for humans to read, even subliminally. The idea is that a computer scanning the resume will “see” all the words, so when a hiring manager goes to their applicant tracking system and searches for someone who has skill “xyz”, if that word happens to be in the whitespace of your resume, you’ll appear in the search results.

        1. Sadsack*

          I understand, and now feel like a moron. Although, I am sure there are those who have used some kind of subliminal messaging.

        2. Anna*

          But then why wouldn’t you list them in your actual resume as skills you have? This makes no sense to me.

          1. Ops Analyst*

            I was wondering exactly this. If they are skills you have then actually list them. If they aren’t you have no business adding them to your resume to begin with. Even if you think that it will get your resume looked at its not like it’ll get through the human screening process. It makes absolutely no sense.

            (All yous general, of course).

          2. Sherm*

            My understanding is that the people who do the white font thing put down A LOT of keywords, so many that it would look silly and wordy to visibly display them all. These people are playing a numbers game, hoping that one of their many keywords is the one that the computer is looking for.

      3. The IT Manager*

        I heard this years ago. By this time, I think most applicants are now required to copy and paste their own resume into a web-based applicant system, and this advise has definately gone by the way-side.

  10. Jaymie*

    Hmm, as a person who works in a government funded career centre in Canada, I hope as hell that we’re better serving our clients than the centre the writer went to. (I mean, I’m reading this blog!) I hope that the OP next times finds a better centre/ employment counsellor.

    In our centre, we aim to serve a diversity of clients, from all ages and different job targets. We do constantly look out for trends in the workplace/hiring market and speak to employers about what they want to see. That worker sounds really out of touch and it would be great if the OP told her (and the centre manager!) that the advice was damaging!

    1. Jader*

      I also scrolled down here to say my Husband works for a government funded career centre and I know this kind of ridiculousness is not encouraged there. He helped me write my resume and it’s been very successful for me (and I read AAM so I feel confident in saying that). I also know his company is pretty successful in actually getting people employed.
      Obviously a lot of career centres are terrible (other wise we wouldn’t be hearing stories like this so frequently) but not all of them suck.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        So the burning question Jaymie and Jader: what kind of qualifications do you need to get hired at your career center? Or do you train people on the career specifics?

        1. Jaymie*

          A certificate/degree in career counselling OR many years experience (for those who are grandfathered). Membership with a career counselling association ( This may be just for province that I live in but almost all job postings I see for employment counsellors etc require some sort of professional training, usually at least two years. Many of us are also former recruiters/ HR etc.

          The quality/modernity of services probably also depend on how much the company holding the contract from the government emphasizes keeping current with the job market needs..

        2. Jader*

          My Husband has a degree in education, he was an employment developer and is now the manager. So his particular job was about networking and creating connections their clients could benefit from. Unfortunately I can’t speak to what qualifications the facilitators and other staff have as it’s not something we’ve ever talked about.
          I can say that in his particular program everything is very individual. Some people come in to use their internet and print for free, some go through their courses, some speak to the employment developer and she has a contact that gets them a job right away. My husband’s company is paid by the placement, then for if they are still at the job at 3 months and 6 months (so helping people obtain long term employment). It is in their best interest to be up-to-date on current hiring practices. Also, in my Husband’s case, he is a hiring manager so he knows what is up.

  11. Stephanie*

    I took my resume to ours (as a requirement for UI) and the counselor’s like “Huh. Wow. Impressive. Did we help you do this?” “No. Did this on my own.” “Oh wow! You don’t need us! You should have no problems!” (Famous last words.)

    Some of the terribleness I’d guess is due to the fact that they have to serve everyone from laid-off construction workers (who might not even need a resume or do and have never written one) to laid-off C-suite folks (who would definitely need a resume and probably have a good idea on basic job search norms).

    1. Anx*


      I think that the biggest obstacle to getting applicable advice from a job center is that they simply haven’t adapted fast enough to the current job market.

      You don’t qualify for skill building or education classes at a certain age or if you already have a degree unless you get laid off at just the right time.

      I had a very similar experience with my resume. I know that it still needs work and wasn’t really okay, but there wasn’t much they could do to help. And it’s especially hard when you have some skills specific to a field and they don’t understand your skills at all.

      I’ve also gotten grief about using the printer to print resources to prepare for an interview, such as company info, articles about new innovations in my field, etc.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I think you’re right. Some require you to attend basic interview/resume training in which you would probably have mad skillz after a certain level of job experience. It’s fine if you haven’t done it in a while and need a refresher, or if you really do need the basics, but it can be deadly dull otherwise. The advice is so general that it’s like making someone who can replace their OS take a basic computer intro class. “Here is the mouse, here is how you work it…”

        I suppose it’s easier for them to just make everybody do it, rather than pick and choose through hundreds of clients, especially if they are short-handed. Which they often are.

  12. Mimmy*

    What I didn’t like about government-run career centers was the strict procedures you had to follow, i.e. everyone had to go through the same sequence of steps in order to be seen. I couldn’t just jump right in and see a career counselor. When I inquired, I think they told me I had to first see the counselor on duty that day, or something like that; I don’t remember exactly, but I remember being annoyed about it, lol. I never did follow through as I didn’t think I fit their typical client profile.

    1. some1*

      I agree. I commented on this above about how rigid the procedures were for me and not very practical.

  13. Bekx*

    What about places like Goodwill? At Christmas someone was telling my mom to go to Goodwill and utilize their resume writing services. I feel like they would probably be on par with government services and college career centers. Anyone have any experience?

    1. Technical Editor*

      Their online resume writing content is surprisingly up-to-date and I’ve not seen anything that makes me go, “What? No. Totally wrong.”

      1. KT*

        Goodwill is actually really good. They are have a lot of very savvy business professionals on their board and who volunteer in trainings, so their advice is more current/real-life oriented

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I have. Boy, have I.

        I got sent there by VR and the Goodwill person looked at my resume, which was all office jobs, and we discussed my dyscalculia and the injuries I had incurred at my previous job (not the reason for the VR, but a concern). I told her I was trying to avoid a job where I had to put strain on my bad shoulder, because I was afraid I’d become injured to the point where I couldn’t work at all. She said, “Hmm…well, have you considered becoming an over-the-road truck driver?”

        My mouth fell open. I looked at my VR counselor and she had nothing to say.

        Perhaps trying a different employee might have helped, but by then I was so put off I told my counselor I was noping the hell right on out of there.

    2. Kelly O*

      I know we often help people with this kind of thing through a few of the projects I’m involved with at my church. They help people at all levels, and resume review and some totally unofficial career counseling are often part of the program. (Now, one has a more formal program that absolutely includes that, but I’m thinking more the casual sort of thing.)

      Also, sometimes churches will have ministries that help people between jobs, and it’s not always as “churchy” as you might expect. It happens to meet in a church but that might be the extent of it. Just something else to consider.

  14. YandO*

    When I started my job search, I hired a “professional resume writer”. I paid the woman $365 to ruin my resume.

    She insisted I needed a title line, profile summary filled with buzz words and no substance, and core-competency section. She did job descriptions in blocks of text and then refused to do bullet points, even after I’ve asked three times for it.

    It was a terrible experience and she has no business calling herself a “resume writer”. At least I learned what *not* to do which helped me figure out what I* should* do.

    1. Technical Editor*

      $365?! Wow, what a rip. I charge $100. I can’t imagine justifying that amount unless they wanted 10 different resumes, which I would decline anyway cause that’s just silly!

      1. YandO*

        Well, it started out with one page being a semi-reasonable amount, but my resume “could not possibly” fit into a one page, so for two pages the amount went up to 365. She completely re-wrote it, which I thought I wanted, but I really did not. And it is perfectly fine on one page.

        It was a learning experience. I wish I learned my lesson for half the price, but that’s not how life works.

      2. YandO*

        what I really need is for someone to help me with my cover letters

        Someone to read one or two and give me general idea if I am doing the right things. That would be useful.

        I started my job search super strong. Lots of responses. It’s all dead now. Rejected by phone from two places at the last stage and nothing else in the works. I feel very depressed at the moment.

        I would draw monkeys on my resume if it got me a call back

        1. Technical Editor*

          I can help you if you’re interested. Clicking on my name should provide my email address.

          1. YandO*

            I would be interested!

            Your name is not clickable. I think it only works with websites. My email has my full (rare) name in it. Would you mind providing your email in a post?

  15. Technical Editor*

    I find this advice interesting because I put Technical Writer | Editor | Content Manager above the profile section near the heading of the resume. It’s not a job title by any means–it’s just a summary of my skills and experience. I’ve always done this and never had a problem or gotten negative feedback. In fact, for all the resumes I design and write, I include some kind of profile summary title because I think it helps with skimmability. If you google modern resume designs, you’ll see this practice is quite popular.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      But those are things you DO and HAVE DONE, at which you are skilled and experienced. The OP said they hadn’t ever done anything involving the “title” they were told to put on their resume.

  16. StPaulGal*

    Oh lordy are those places ever terrible! I was unemployed for about 6 months at the end of last year through the beginning of this year, and during that time I had to attend 3 mandatory “career counseling” sessions at the county workforce center. Some gems I took away from those classes:

    -You absolutely must have a functional resume. Chronological resumes are useless because they highlight dates and titles over skills. Make sure you find a way to pack your resume with all the keywords from the posting, even if you don’t have direct experience in those things.

    -“You have interviewed with 4 companies and not gotten any offers yet? You must be seriously lacking in interview skills.” Or I could just be, you know, a relatively entry-level candidate in a competitive field.

    – [Different counselor that the functional resume guy.] “Your resume looks great. Just make sure you don’t have any gaps.” So your advice to help me get a job is to…get a job? Ok. I’ll get right on that.

    -My favorite of all was the main instructor. She was a self-described “job hopper extraordinaire.” She proudly declared–multiple times during each session–that she had had 10 careers during her 27 years in the workforce. Not JOBS, she emphasized, CAREERS. And each career consisted of at least 3 jobs. She thought that made her an expert in employment, and apparently the state agreed when they hired her for the instructor position. I cannot imagine how anyone could think that someone who had only managed to ever hold on to a job for an average of less than a year was qualified to teach us anything. Oy ve!

    On a certain level it was hilarious to listen to such awful advice, sort of an absurdist experience almost. As a religious reader of this blog and other quality materials, I couldn’t believe my ears and it was always interesting to see what the next outrageous claim would be. On a much more serious note, however, I am incredibly angry that this drivel is being pumped into the heads of some of the most vulnerable members of the workforce. It ceases to be funny when it is advice that can and will actively harm the people who actually take it seriously.

    1. Cath in Canada*

      Sounds like the main instructor might at least have been good at coaching people to get a job (any job!) despite a job-hopping history, which might be useful for some candidates :D

      1. StPaulGal*

        Oh, I just remembered another one! Job-hopper lady was describing the importance of researching salary expectations. (Great idea!) She very proudly told us a story about how she “caught” an employer who tried to “fool” her by offering a wage below the median. (Less great idea! And remember, this is someone who is pretty much always entry-level because of her frequent career changes.) When hiring manager called to discuss a potential offer and quoted an hourly rate about a dollar below the average, she told the person “Don’t you know this job is supposed to pay [median wage]??” She was so proud of herself for “catching” them that it apparently never crossed her mind that she could have potentially negotiated towards her desired salary if she hadn’t been so bizarre and confrontational.

        Oh, and she had a lot of very inappropriate things to say about how women are (catty/maternal/appearance-obsessed) and how men are (hot-headed/in need of guidance/emotionally stable).

  17. Me*

    More than 20 years ago now I was out of work for months after getting dumped from my first FT job out of college. After the 6-month mark a federal (US) unemployment guy showed up to our weekly* meetings and started off by saying that we’d all been classified as ‘unemployable’ (wow, that makes me feel so motivated, thanks!). He was also talking about typing speed (remember, early 90s) and one woman raised her hand and asked what she should put on the form because she didn’t use a typewriter, but used a computer. He said ‘you don’t type.’ I remember thinking what a preposterous splitting of hairs that was–it’s using the same keyboard so why would you eliminate a skill??

    *(I can’t actually remember if they were weekly or what. I just remember that we had to show up a bunch of times)

    I did manage to get a job eventually, in spite of all the useless advice of the govt.

    1. Artemesia*

      The main difference when these functions are ‘privatized’ is that public money pours into the sewer of grifters. How much money has ever been saved by privatizing (unless it is saved by not offering employees health insurance — that is how they reduced costs for garbage collection where I used to live)? How much more efficient is it?

      And most of the terrible resume advise comes from private consultants and organizations.

      Incompetence is widely distributed not just in government. The problem with most career counseling private or public is that the people giving it are out of touch or were never in touch.

  18. What she said...*

    Pre-recession, I was fired & eligible for unemployment. The people on the phone were very kind, but when I went to the mandatory in-person sessions in my small town, it was just awful. They were just… unequipped to advise someone in my field, & did not seem to know what to tell someone with a college degree, period. During the session, some guy was reading over my answers aloud behind a cubicle wall, and loudly complaining about my personally identifiable info. That was special. I found a job on my own shortly after that.

  19. Steve*

    I know this isn’t related to your question, but have you considered getting an internship to get some office experience? Some internships pay a nominal amount.

    1. Anx*

      Do you have any advice for finding internships post-graduation?

      Most of the internships I see require applicants to be in school or to be very recently graduated.

        1. Zillah*

          Have you tried applying anyway? If you write a cover letter explaining your interest in the field and the internship, that may be something they’re willing to budge on. I’ve certainly gotten jobs that listed being a current student as a requirement when I wasn’t a student.

  20. Jubilance*

    Ugh, how do people get the opportunity to stay in jobs like this? They are actively giving candidates bad advice. There should be some type of recourse for this.

          1. Anx*

            That is straight up horrifying.

            I thought at first that maybe they were buying real capes, to function as a coat/blanket for the winters/nights for people who have to shut off their utilities or are homeless to do un(der)employment.

            Then I clicked.

            1. HRish Dude*

              There was the woman that was totally for it, too (and also didn’t know how to thread comments).

              1. fposte*

                Though there was a correction on that–it wasn’t the job center offering that but the tanning center itself, so it’s not a government issue.

                (Who has a tan in Wales? The Welsh go to Seattle for the sunshine.)

              2. JoJo*

                If someone had offered my a cape during my unemployment, I think I would have punched them in the nose!

                1. Melissa*

                  It’s funny because that was the general consensus in the 2011 post, too. Several people said that when they were unemployed if someone had offered them a cape, they would’ve punched them in the face. Lol!

            2. Tinker*

              Heh. I was fondly thinking of capes I have known (the subjects of insulation and of cold weather gear suited for high fantasy roleplay being highly relevant to me at the moment) and their relevance to the unemployment scenario (which, wow, talk about gritty messages). That is a… much weirder thing than what I was thinking.

          2. Melissa*

            It’s bizarre how many people there were on that post coming out to defend the idea and insisting that $2.33 paper capes were totally the best way to cheer up unemployed people who were depressed because they can’t afford to feed themselves.

      1. Florida*

        No one does crazy like Florida. We have a special knack for making ourselves the laughing stock of the country and sometimes, the entire world. When I look around at the people I deal with, I think they are all pretty normal people, but when I watch the news, I am embarrassed to live here.

  21. Ops Analyst*

    I’ve done this before but I didn’t think of it like making up a title. When I was unemployed I did a “title” at the top to indicate my profession. For example, Professional Instructor and Facilitator or Technology and Education Training Professional. My husbands says Technical Support Professional. It was more about a field than a title. Is this viewed poorly? Once I added this to my resume I got a lot more responses. But then, I also made a lot of other changes.

    1. Technical Editor*

      As a commenter corrected me above, I think this is bad because the OP is just starting out and doesn’t have any administrative or customer service “professional” experience to speak of. It would turn of hiring managers once they realize the applicant has no relevant experience. For those beyond the first professional job, I personally see it as a benefit and do it on my resume and my clients’.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I understand the opposition to this advice to the OP, but OTOH, I don’t think it’s The Worst Advice Ever. If I’m hiring for an administrative position, wouldn’t I want the candidate’s resume to connect the dots as to why she is a qualified candidate? Maybe a self-proclaimed title isn’t the way to do it, but I kind of want the story to make sense.

        1. MsM*

          On the other hand, if you’re applying to a large company with lots of openings, labeling yourself could potentially take you out of consideration for other roles you might be qualified for and enjoy that don’t fall under that heading. Personally, I like using a handful of high-level bullet points to highlight what makes you a good candidate. Or just using the cover letter, if you’re in a field where it’s going to get read.

    2. StPaulGal*

      I think the difference here is that you actually ARE those things. A recent graduate with no experience does not spontaneously become a “Customer Service Professional” just by virtue of applying for a job in that field.

      1. OP*

        Just to clarify, I have more than a year of customer service experience through retail and volunteering. So I wouldn’t say that I have zero experience…unless just over a year is zero experience… I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a professional though, and I totally agree that applying to a job doesn’t make me a professional either.

    3. Aussie Teacher*

      Yes, I use a title on my resume too! It says SUBJECT TEACHER and straight underneath says “Experienced academic and co-curricular SUBJECT teacher specialising in A, B and C.”
      Then I have 3 dot points highlighting my biggest achievements, and then I go into my Employment History.

      I think it’s helpful for employers to be able to glance at your resume and know which jobs you are applying for by how you label yourself/your profession. Obviously you need to already have the skills to do that profession well!

  22. Stemmie*

    OP, are you interested in pursuing a research career in line with your degree? I don’t know what’s available in Canada, but in the US, there are at least a couple of temp agencies that specialize in placing STEM workers at tech companies. I got my first lab jobs out of college via one of them (LabSupport). Even though you might do a lot of glasswashing/mouse poop dumping/labeling for a few months, you make a lot of contacts, and a lot of big tech companies are clients. I got a good temp-to-perm placement at a major pharmaceutical company.

      1. Prismatic Professional*

        (Not OP. Just in the market for all of the helpful resources there are!)

  23. Xarcady*

    Unemployment offices and the career centers are the same thing in my state. When I was on unemployment, I was “specially chosen” for a special program to help me get a job. Translation: you’re over 50, you need more help because you are basically unemployable.

    No one seemed to know what to do with the fact that I had a college degree, or a Master’s. The office definitely seemed to be geared towards more blue-collar work, which for the region I live in, makes a lot of sense.

    I had to show up at the office once a month, and spend 30 minutes with a career counselor who had not looked at my file during the intervening 30 days. She’d spend the 30 minutes looking at the same job posting websites I had access to at home, and make suggestions for me. She also misrepresented some of the jobs–I can’t do sales to save my life, and she’d read a job description that sounded great and I’d promise to apply for it as soon as I got home. Then I’d get home and read the description and realize I’d already seen it and rejected it because it was clearly 75% sales.

    The one piece of resume advice she gave was to take all dates off my resume, so no one could tell how old I was.

    I had to show her a list of all the jobs I’d applied for since my last visit, and she freaked out once because I had applied to a great job in my field, but it was a half hour drive from my home. I didn’t want to work that far from home, did I? I didn’t want such a long commute every day, did I? Well, I replied, I *do* want a job, and if I have to commute, I have to commute. Seriously? I would take any job within an hour from home, just to have a job, and she thinks a half hour commute is too long?

    What I got that was useful from the career center–a couple of job posting websites I hadn’t known about.

    1. JoJo*


      She sounds even worse that the ones in my county. My ‘counselor’ ranted about how much she hated situational interview. You know, the ones where you’re described various scenarios and asked how you would handle them. Ironically, the interview for my current job was a situational one.

      I vastly preferred that to the usual “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” “What’s your greatest weakness?” questions. Or my favorite, “Tell me about the systems you designed?” I’m an admin, I didn’t design systems.

    2. JoJo*

      Just wanted to add, I live in a major metropolitan area. A half-hour commute is nothing.

    3. JoJo*

      I’d like to know if taking the dates off is effective. Does it fool anyone? If I were a hiring manager, I’d assume it was an older person trying to hide their age. What happens if you get an interview and they can tell at a glance you’re over 50?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Not only does it not fool anyone, but it’s pretty much an instant rejection. If someone doesn’t think it matters when they did something or for how long, that’s really poor judgment.

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        If you leave off dates, I will not interview you. Period. It is annoying and says “I have something to hide”. When I used to occasionally respond asking for dates, it became instantly clear what they we’re hiding…not normally age, more often job hopping or that the only relevant experience was for one summer 30 years ago.

    4. esra*

      The office definitely seemed to be geared towards more blue-collar work

      This happened to me, and I live in the largest city in Canada. I think it’s just too much for them to dive into the nitty gritty of more specialized jobs, which is fine, but they still try to make square pegs fit in round holes.

    5. OP*

      My coach actually told to remove all the months from my employment and volunteer history in order to keep the dates perfectly aligned. I didn’t want to because there is a difference between, for example, Dec 2014 – Jan 2015 and Jan 2014 – Jan 2015, but my coach was very persistent to remove it. I’m going to keep the months on though because I don’t think date alignment is a good enough reason to remove the months (and also for the same reasons that were listed in reply to your comment). But apparently though it’s okay to leave the months off if you’ve been working at a place for more than a year? Correct me if I’m wrong.

    6. Anonyby*

      30 minutes is a “long commute”? Boggles my mind! I’d consider that closer to average! (Probably under average, if you have to go on the highways in the direction of traffic around here…)

  24. esra*

    My fun EI story: Half of the small company I worked for got laid off, and for the first time in my life, I applied for EI. I found a job pretty quickly (yay!), quickly enough that I hadn’t yet gotten the invite to the resume training session. I finally got the invite and it coincided with the first day of my training, so I gave them a call letting them know I wouldn’t be able to attend.

    “But you have to attend. It’s the resume training session.”

    “Okay… but I have a job. My resume got me a handful of interviews, a couple offers, and now I am employed again. (Yay!)”

    “Well you really should attend anyway.”

    “…I think it’s more important I attend this training for my new job.”

    They’re so stuck on fitting people into a tiny box of what an unemployed person must be like, there’s very little room for common sense. And if you have any job that isn’t retail/factory, they have no idea what to do with you. I had to explain to them that I didn’t have a manager to confirm my employment, because I’m a senior designer. So I could put them in touch with payroll or a coworker, but I was hardly going to give them the # of the company president to confirm I’m an employee.

    1. Michele*

      That is pretty bad. When I was laid off about a year after getting my Ph.D., they pressured me to try to get an education. If you don’t fit their script, they just can’t function.

  25. Amber Rose*

    I remember I was 19 and couldn’t get a job to save my life. My mom offered to review my resume, and when she saw it, she made me trash it.

    See, I’d gone to my career counsellor and followed their advice for a perfect resume. Perfect if you somehow think tables in MS Word make a good resume. Looking back, I realize what a monster the stupid thing was and I shake my head. Might as well write a resume in a spreadsheet, it would be less ugly.

    I ended up copying my mom’s resume. I stole most of the headings and all the formatting and then copied the style for listing my skills. I think seeing examples of good resumes that had actually got people jobs helped way more than any amount of advice.

    1. Michele*

      I wonder if that is something that is field specific. I am reviewing resumes for a research scientist position. In the technical skills section of one resume, someone had a table of equipment, software, and other skills. It was really easy to read and derive information from. It is too bad that he isn’t qualified, because being able to quickly and clearly convey technical information is a valuable skill in this job.

  26. Career Counselorette*

    As someone working in a non-profit that works with a population beset with barriers to employment, it always kills me how much bad work I have to undo on resumes from mandated job centers. Not across the board, but in general there’s no attempt to meet the person where they’re at. When I work with people, I always tell them that I can write a resume, but they’re the expert on their field, so they should really be the one to lead the conversation. Most of the resumes I see that are unsuccessful and have come out of job centers are ones where the client had virtually no input, and the resume was written to satisfy to job developer’s needs. So many of my clients have been so demoralized from being in programs that really should be set up to connect them to viable employment faster. It’s sad.

    1. Artemesia*

      Employment centers ought to have as their first priority identifying actual jobs and then matching unemployed people to them. The idea that people don’t have jobs because there is something wrong with them to be fixed can be individually useful but it ignores the real problem which is too few jobs or too difficult to find jobs. Find jobs. Then fit people to them. And make sure the 3 people you sent to the hiring manager really do match the needs.

      1. anonanonanonanon*

        This is how the career centers in which I work are supposed to operate, but the fact is that we also have to serve the people who walk through our doors. Unfortunately, there is a huge mismatch between available jobs and the skill sets of our community. It’s a huge problem.

      2. Origami Isopod*

        Well, of course, that would require them, and the political administrations they work under, to admit that people can’t just “pull up their bootstraps” and find jobs but that the unemployment crisis is a collective societal problem that should be addressed with worker-friendly policy.

  27. DrPepper Addict*

    Government run ____ are terrible. You can pretty much fill in the blank with anything.

    1. esra*

      Yes, corporations would definitely have our best interests at heart running schools, building roads, and taking care of our health ;)

      1. Artemesia*

        This. Privatizing is another way of saying ‘grift’. Businesses see government pockets and want their hands in public money. Charter schools do not perform better than public schools (the evidence on this mostly gathered by people who actually believed it would be otherwise is very clear); turning over garbage collection to the private sector has saved money in my former home town by not providing health insurance to the workers (that’s private enterprise efficiency for you) and look at how great privatizing the public parking in Chicago did — essentially throwing away the next 50 years worth of revenue for pennies on the dollar.

        Look how many of the bits of bad career advice complained about here come from private career consultants.

  28. Brenda*

    I know college career centers get picked on here too, but if you’re a recent graduate you may still be able to get support from your university’s career center. I’m not sure about the US, but I’m in the UK and we see graduates for three years after they finish their degree, which is pretty standard. Again, I know some people have bad experiences with them, although none of the terrible advice I’ve seen anecdotally here is anything any of the counsellors in my center would say, but it might be better than the government ones.

    1. Cordelia Naismith*

      The Career Center at the university I work for will serve all alumni, no matter when they graduated.

      1. Florida*

        My career center will serve alumni also, but it’s a waste of time. They specialize in helping students get their first job. If you go in there and you have real work experience (not just internships), they don’t really know what to do with you.

  29. Alis*

    The problem with the government-run centres is that they are often based off the advice of those who has no experience as a hiring manager or practical HR experience.

    I am one of the rare ones with experience in both government career programs (specifically, immigrants) and non-government HR.

    Let’s just say, many government career centre employers are too distracted by titles, LinkedIn, fonts, and “personal branding” to even teach people to remember accomplishments or make the most of references.

    A lot of government jobs go to the best internal candidate, not the best candidate.

  30. WorkerBee*

    Is that through Service Canada? Those are notoriously awful. I used to work at one and it was pretty much just recent grads who had no idea what they were doing anymore than you did.

  31. A State Employee*

    I work in a government-run career center. I’d like to try and explain a few things (not defend–there’s no excuse for poor customer service or lack of expertise) based on my experience here.

    Most of us do not have experience hiring. Those that do only have experience for select industries (teaching, healthcare, etc.), yet we are expected to be experts everywhere. And many have been here for years and have no experience with online application systems from an employers end. There is little actual training on giving resume and cover letter advice. We’ve actually been trained to have job seekers do exactly what OP was told by someone from the National Resume Writers’ Association. Who else is to come train us? We buy copies of Resumes for Dummies 2015 and read online articles. People are primarily hired based on their ability to deal with constantly changing rules/regulations and people skills. Our salaries start at $32,000, right about where an HR assistant would start. They cap out at $36,000. Is it any surprise HR managers aren’t flocking to work here?

    Many of the UI or mandated work programs come down from people who have no contact with the unemployed. They look at data that suggests people who visit our offices find new jobs faster, so they implement these programs thinking they will be helpful. The subtext is to knock people off the UI, SNAP and TANF rolls. Trust me, I don’t want any part of this crap either, especially because UI is a separate agency in my state. I couldn’t look up anything about your claim if you held a gun to my head; it’s a separate database. Yet I have to sit here and do their programs for them.

    We are Craigslist with an onerous registration process. In 10 years we probably won’t exist. We all know it. There’s focus from above on sucking up to the business community, but that won’t save us. They don’t need us. We’re already irrelevant.

    Most of us do care about helping you find work. But we are not experts, and you need to evaluate our advice and see if it’s applicable to you. OP, I’m sorry you received bad advice and that the staff member didn’t respect your wishes. Please do make a complaint, but don’t do it to the local office. We put them in a book and its reported to the higher ups quarterly. Go to the governors office.

    (Apologies for errors, I’m on mobile because I didn’t think I should write this at my desk.)

    1. Mimmy*

      Many of the UI or mandated work programs come down from people who have no contact with the unemployed. They look at data that suggests people who visit our offices find new jobs faster, so they implement these programs thinking they will be helpful.

      I’d be willing to bet that this is the case for a lot of government-run programs. I’m all for evidence-based practices, but you also have to understand the qualitative piece – the experiences and stories of the people who your programs actually serve.

    2. anonanonanonanon*

      Thank you for writing all of this out! I’m an employee of the Title I contractor for workforce services in my city, and I think this comment really captures a lot of our challenges.

    3. some1*

      Thank you for this. It was great to have an insider’s look for those of us who were forced to use the resources of our govt career and experienced frustration.

    4. LBK*

      Most of us do not have experience hiring.

      I think this is probably the #1 cause of any bad resume advice, and unfortunately most of the resources out there designed to help people who don’t have hiring experience learn how to review resumes is also written by people who have never hired before, thus perpetuating the cycle (I’m curious about the credentials of whoever wrote Resumes for Dummies if this is the type of advice they put in there).

    5. Prismatic Professional*

      +1 A State Employee captured the conditions extraordinarily well. I didn’t even get official resume training, I just read AAM. :-)

  32. Anonymous for this one*

    As an employee of a nonprofit that does government career center duties we aren’t all bad. Before helping people with their resumes I did a lot of research (including following this site closely). We have many success stories of people we’ve helped In a variety of ways. Just wanted I throw out that we aren’t all bad.

  33. Imma Little Teapot*

    In applying for a teller job, they’re going to be looking at cash handling experience, customer service, and whether you’ll be a good fit for their team. They are not going to care what title you brand yourself with… It’s a job you can get without a college degree, but having one is most definitely a plus. It means you have some critical thinking skills and that you can count. Definitely helpful. If you’ve had retail experience, can pass a background check, and a reasonably pleasant demeanor with clients, you’re likely to be a good candidate. In my experience, college grads don’t stay behind the teller line long unless they really want to. There could be some other opportunities if you’re at all sales or operations inclined. In banking, quite often the right mix of personality and customer service experience is what we’re looking for in an entry-level position.

  34. ISO*

    Blame the government. Whoop-de-do. We’ve been hearing this anti-government stuff quite a bit lately. Yeouch.

  35. Leah*

    Wow. I don’t know if it’s worse to have bad advice like this or the counselor (to whom I was assigned and could not switch) I had for law school. She would pop her feet up on her desk, ask me what I wanted to do after graduation, and shrug and say, “that sounds good” when I told her what I thought sounded good. She never did another thing. She promised to but would never follow up despite repeated reminders. Somehow, she lasted in that job for 2 years.

    When I saw the job posting for her job I understood. The way it was written made a lot of things clearer and might as well have said, “We do not value this position and are pretty sure that a monkey could do it. ” The administration was noted for being pretty awful to faculty and staff but a huge part of law school ratings is job placement (and this was when the legal market was in freefall) so you’d think they’d be throwing resources at the position. Nope.

  36. Carrie in Scotland*

    OP – you mention that you work in retail. So: you have money handling skills by working a cash register. You work with the public. You most likely answer a wide range of queries (e.g. do you have x? no, but we have y. or whatever). All of these skills can be transferred to a bank position. You might sometimes get issues with payments e.g. someone who wants to pay by card and cash, maybe someone’s card gets declined or whatever.

    Also, my CV has ‘retail assistant, workplace name, Jan 2000 – May 2002.’ ‘admin assistant, workplace name, ‘Aug 2004 – Dec 2005’ etc

  37. Carrie in Scotland*

    I’m not sure I’ve ever seen career centres in the UK outside of universities (and maybe college) but our unemployment centres are horrific, with many stories in the papers about how the people in them are forced to make targets. People on benefits can be sanctioned for missing appointments, not turning up to interviews etc but sometimes the letters aren’t even sent! Sanctions can be from varying periods, leaving people on the breadline in dire need. It’s disgusting.
    Also: our jobcentres don’t allow people who might not have enough money to have a mobile/have credit on mobile/who can afford a landline to phone for jobs they are applying to!

    1. Prismatic Professional*

      Ooooh! You hit a sore point with me about phones. My program can pay some utility bills but will not pay for a $20 phone card so clients can call back employers. Working with clients who do not have a cell phone nor a land line, I can tell you, maintaining appropriate reply times to employers is extremely difficult and very frustrating.

        1. Prismatic Professional*

          Unfortunately my program is not one of the recognized ones. We’ve tried to get lifeline phones for clients and have been denied each time. :-/ Thanks for the input though!

  38. GHL*

    As a caveat, if it hasn’t already been said – college career services department are notoriously terrible too. I’m only 5 years out, and gosh whenever I see a ‘objective’ on a resume I just cringe… cringe to A – rememeber that 5 short years ago I had that on mine and b – people still do that. Objective is covered in your COVER letter, people! Also, people putting their education on their resume first irks me. Your experience should carry the most weight – putting your education first is like pointing out HI I AM ENTRY LEVEL. No one does that except people right out of college – and if you have enough internships in college that give you good experience, you’re making them aware that you’re entry level FIRST instead of making them read through your GOOD experience and THEN seeing – ‘oh wow, she got all of this experience while she was still in school? Puts her way ahead of Timmy, the other guy who just graduated who has no real-world working experience.’
    The college career centers mean well and some of them are good I’m sure, but the various I’ve had experiences with with hiring/interviewing people and my own personal one 5 years ago have not been.

    1. Cordelia Naismith*

      Huh. I’ve been out of college for 20 years, and I still have my education section at the top of my resume. I work in education, though, so I guess my field values education more than other fields.

      1. Melissa*

        I’m in academia and everyone’s CV I’ve peered at – from brand-new assistant professors to full professors with 20+ years in the academy – still has their education at the top of the CV. I think that’s just the convention in our field.

    2. Retail Lifer*

      My college career center (for round one of college) kept sending me minimum wage jobs and jobs that weren’t even in the right state. I mean, I might have considered moving but not for minimum wage.

  39. Reader*

    I haven’t read through all the comments yet, but I did want to say that I did have a great experience with my state’s unemployment office on two separate occasions with two separate local offices. The first occasion was when I was just finishing my undergraduate degree and looking for a job. They provided resume advice and a resume writing program that I handed off to several friends who also had success with it. I found a professional job through their job database, and used the resume they helped me tailor. The second occasion was a lay off and I was helped tremendously by the unemployment office, and several of my co-workers who experienced the lay off were as well. For one particular co-worker they went way above and beyond by helping him secure funding to attend an out-of-state training that would improve his skills. The training ended up directly translating into a job. These offices as are located in smaller towns, and several of their employees have only worked at the career center (as was mentioned by several commenters) and they do work on a very skeleton staff on low wages, but their assistance and advice was spot on. They know the employers in their area and in their state, and they work hard to find suitable placements. I’ve never wrote in to Allison about my experiences because I never needed any advice in this area.

    1. Prismatic Professional*

      Thank you for your story! It made me happier while reading this thread. :-)

  40. BananaPants*

    When my husband was on unemployment last year, he was required to go to several seminars at the state’s One Stop career centers in order to apply for career training funding. They very clearly were geared toward helping the unemployed find retail or other low-skill/low-wage jobs. The resume seminar advised using ONLY a functional resume format as it would de-emphasize long periods of unemployment or incarceration (!). In the interviewing skills seminar the job seekers were given what I hope were helpful tips on interviewing with a felony conviction on one’s record.

    When he went to an individual coaching session the coach honestly told him that she wasn’t sure if she could help him at all, since he has a bachelor’s degree and was looking for a white collar job – she recommended he go back to his alma mater’s career services center. He was informed that someone with a degree should have “no problem” finding work!

    It was demoralizing, especially since he was only doing it in hopes of getting some funding for job retraining. In the end he was deemed ineligible for funding because he has a degree and because he has an employed spouse (even though we have two young children, he exhausted his unemployment, and I earn just enough to scrape by). We ended up draining our meager savings to pay for the training course.

  41. Michele*

    Putting a title at the top just seems so limiting, especially if you don’t change it for each resume submission. I have been going through resumes on a site for people specializing in my field. There are some people who could be interesting, but their objectives are so specific that it makes me think they wouldn’t be satisfied with a position in our department. Having a title that might not fit the role seems to be the same thing.

  42. CanadianDot*

    I’m really sad about this post. When I was job searching, I used my local Government-Funded job search centre, and they were really wonderful. They gave really excellent resume advice, and job search advice, and it was very up to date and jives with what I’ve been reading here. The workshops I took were very informative, my job search councilor was incredible, and still keeps in touch, even though I’ve been working for 7 months, and even the staff that helped when I was just in to use the computers were excellent. I went in once to do some job testing, and instead of making me use on of the main computers, they set me up in an office so I could have peace and quiet.

    A good friend of mine is now using another government-funded career centre here in town, though not run by the same people, and she’s also had great experiences with them. They’ve given her access to a lot more resources than she was previously aware of, and she’s able to get some great career prep and training as well.

  43. Mimi*

    They are indeed terrible. One I went to told me to *change the dates of employment* so there was no overlap, because overlapping dates of employment were “too confusing”. (I have worked multiple jobs for years.) So in otherwords, the woman I spoke to (very young, in fact it may have been her first full-time job), who was supposed to be helping me find employment, TOLD ME TO LIE ON MY RESUME. SMH.

  44. moodygirl86*

    UK here. Jobcentre have just referred me to one. I go for the induction appointment on Wednesday. I’ve agreed to it as there’ll be free phones there so I can stay in touch with all the employment agencies I’m registered with (PAYG credit doesn’t go very far). Many of them encourage you to check in weekly for roles, but I have recently been in the position of having to ask myself, “How many employers can I afford to ring this week?” I definitely have more luck finding work when I have access to a phone. Jobcentre used to have them but took them out last year. Their argument is “everything’s done on line now.” Well, THEY might but not everywhere does! If they put it into your Claimant Commitment that you ring x amount of agencies per week, then clearly you CAN’T just rely on the Internet can you. Anyway, I’m going to this provider and will hopefully get to catch up with everyone who I wasn’t able to ring when rationing my credit, and drink as much free coffee as I’m offered. ;)

  45. NJB*

    I’ve worked at one of those state run centers, I’ve seen great advice and some very awful advice from peers.
    I think the knowledge of the person you work with makes all the difference in the experience you have. I had a background in case management, military, academia, food service, skilled trades and public education so I had more broad experience than some coworkers.
    What is important to remember is 90 percent of the people you see are low skill, non degree holding job seekers; a vast majority of which have criminal histories to work around. In fact it’s required in this area that as a part of parole, those just released must work with us, so it’s a big job that in order to be good at, you have to know lots of people to call to get others to work. If you are not part advocate recruiter, that is not a good place for you to work.

    We also spend about half our time issuing gas cards and other supportive services to job seekers who need uniforms or tools to start work. As far as I know, every state has those services, here it’s up to 200 a year I can issue from my desk to help you get started on a new job. So no matter what state you are in, call and find out. It’s all federal money, and federal money helps pay for licenses also, if that is what you need to get back to work.

    I gave feed back on resumes, pointed out glaring errors or provided guidance where to find information for resume customs in specific fields, e.g., IT sometimes have a different format than administrative. There is only one real trick with resumes, it has to be relevant to the employer reading it.

    A good Counselor at any career office will help you learn to use the state job search database effectively. the tricks and the work arounds to find the employers that interest you, help you practice good answers to tough interview questions, find networking resources, trade groups etc. It’s not rocket science.

    I’m not surprised by people not liking the centers, I don’t really care for them either, I think some of it may be the absolute lack of training in all things job search related. Believe it or not there is NO training or supervision. None . Even when I worked in the non profit job search field for Vets there was no training. Again, its not rocket science, no gimmicks needed, be relevant.

    I enjoyed my work, and have had many hugs from customers that came back to the office with happy tears because they found work. In all honesty, if that job is no almost a ministry for you, it’s not a good fit. Nothing, absolutely nothing is worse than not having the dignity of work and the ability to support yourself.

    1. anonanonanonanon*

      You’re lucky you have supportive services available! We don’t in my area, though we can offer transportation assistance for certain training grants.

  46. Lindsey*

    I’m so happy to read this post. I occasionally interview people and have a say in hiring decisions, primarily for interns and entry-level jobs but sometimes for positions requiring more experience. I’ve definitely seen a lot of resumes and know what I like, what my company likes, what is reasonable, etc.

    Recently, a family member got laid off and was on unemployment and going to one of these classes. He asked me to take a look at his resume and offer suggestions. There was so much junk that clearly the counselor person from the class had told him to put on – the resume had half a page of a “career summary” in paragraph form, followed by a section of skills (not technical skills but rather “attention to detail,” “strong communicator,” and about 15 other soft skills), then the actual resume started at the bottom of the page and then was mostly on the second page. Almost the entire first page was useless – all buzz words, no content. Don’t just tell me you’re a good project manager in a paragraph, PROVE it to me with results and examples from your actual work experience… Hopefully you don’t recommend these ridiculous resume summaries. Shouldn’t your resume already BE a summary? If you need to summarize your resume on your resume, maybe it’s too long…. Also had one of those prospective job titles on the top.

    Anyway, he’s in a different industry than me, and the internet is filled with similar advice, so he didn’t believe anything I recommended.

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