If you’ve been working as a trucker for 25 years and you’re looking for a job as a trucker, a resume is a pretty straightforward document. It lists work experience and training in reverse chronological order (starting with the most recent).

But what if you’re a trucker who wants to move into shipping/receiving? Or you’ve been out of the workplace for years raising your kids? Or you’re fresh out of school?

Lenn Wheatley, who works with Alberta Avenue and Eastwood Community Leagues, recently reviewed scores of resumes to fill over a dozen positions: “We hired people who were excited to share their story, not just their work experience,” he said. “Resumes need to capture what you are good at, not just what you’ve done.”

You can’t expect an employer to be a mind reader, so make it clear why you’d be a good fit for the position.

A good tool for this is a functional resume. It takes a regular resume and flips it on its head. Instead of listing your work experience, followed by your education or training, focus on your skills and traits that make you a valuable addition and then add work experience and education.

Popular job search site Workopolis published a list of traits Canadian employers are looking for: a positive attitude, communication skills, strong work ethic, customer service skills, and teamwork. In addition, specific jobs may be looking for time management, conflict resolution, or good organizational abilities. Your skills can be from work, education, life, or volunteer work.

I teach basic computer skills. One of my students had been out of the workforce for over a decade. Lisa* said: “What can I do? I have no work experience, I have almost no training.” I asked her what she’d been doing for that decade. Raising three kids. One was graduating from high school, one was at NAIT, and one was working full time.

I asked Lisa to identify how she had used those skills in her own life. What kind of experience do you think a mom of three might have with time management, scheduling, and organization? How about conflict resolution?

It’s not enough to just list these. You need to flesh them out. For example, communication skills include being able to: negotiate face-to-face; deal with different groups (parents, teachers, principals); and use email, SMS (Short Message Service), and social media to organize and promote events.

A strong objective sentence or two can help employers understand why you’re a good fit. Lisa’s objective said: “I want to join a team where I can use my strong communication and organizational abilities and my recently upgraded computer skills to be of benefit to my employer.”

Use a cover letter to introduce yourself. List your main skill set, career goals, and showcase your knowledge of the company to which you are applying (Google it!)

Upgrade your computer skills online. For example, GCFLearnFree.org is a free learning platform. There are faculty of extension and community centre courses that are short term and affordable and may be able to give you that edge. GCFLearnFree.org also has a good section on resume writing, as do websites like indeed.ca and Business Insider.

Guess what Lisa’s doing now? She makes more than I do as the personal assistant for a small construction company owner.

*name changed to protect privacy

Featured Image: Lenn Wheatley made his way through a stack of resumes looking for the right people to help create abundant communities. | Alita Rickards