Career Counselors

As a career advisor, I’m always seeking innovative ways to support my clients, and the beginning of a new year is a great time to refresh my approach. I hope the following ideas will help you add a new and exciting resource to jump-start your clients’ year by igniting their fire and fueling their desire for success.


I find that many clients need a boost to their sense of confidence, hope, motivation, and self-esteem. In many ways, I view confidence, hope, and motivation as self-esteem building blocks, so from my point of view I'm "igniting the fire" inside my clients, and by that I mean that I’m helping them see and articulate their strengths and assets – which leads to improved confidence, hope, and motivation and therefore leads to improved self-esteem.

Many clients need to walk away with a new view of themselves that they can apply to their life and career long after their advising sessions come to an end. So, how do you help ignite the fire and keep it lit? I find that a resume-building process is a great place to start. I’ll refer to questioning, listening, and reflecting quite a bit here, so review my post on helping skills for a refresher.


Defining the Resume-Building Process

I define the resume in two ways: 1.) an attention-grabbing tool to use with potential employers; and 2) a method to help clients see all that they are and can be. Whether someone has high school experience or they’re a transitioning professional, the resume can be a powerful tool for self-marketing because it focuses solely on the positive aspects of one’s background and experience.

The issue with traditional resume advising is that it often becomes an editing process focused on grammar, phrasing, and keywords – and while all of these are extremely important, so much more can be accomplished by helping clients articulate their skills and achievements. Instead of simply telling how to go about it, ask questions to help you develop a well-rounded perspective of the client.


Taking Action

Let’s review two cases where the resume-building process is being directly applied. In both of these cases, as an advisor, you’ll need to qualify the ability for clients to share their successes. If they’re struggling, you might need to give them a push (ignite the fire) by encouraging them to share their best selves and rewarding them with accolades when they answer a question effectively. It’s your challenge and opportunity to draw out the best in your clients and to verbally reward them with reflections of their accomplishments when they’re on the right track.

Case 1: High School Student (Senior)

Even after a series of conversations and advising sessions, high school students may have a difficult time processing activities and learning and articulating them into viable skills and achievements in a resume format. Although some are better than others, I’ve found that not only does the resume-building process help high school students build the much-needed lifelong skill of resume development, but it also helps create an “experience bank” of achievements so they can readily see everything they’ve accomplished so far.

Let’s use Jade as an example for this resume-building conversation. Jade is a bright student who averages As and Bs with an occasional C. She tries her best to be successful in her classes even if they’re challenging. Jade isn’t involved in sports but takes part in a charitable club where students provide random acts of kindness for their peers, like washing cars, helping carry heavy books, and finding simple ways to demonstrate kindness throughout the school day. Jade is also involved in a creative writing club and volunteers her time at an animal shelter. In addition, she holds a part-time job as a cashier at a local grocery store.

As a career advisor, I would like to ask some questions and discover perceptions through the following sample engagement:

  • Tell me more about your involvement in clubs. Did you provide leadership, input, and ideas? Were any of your ideas implemented?
  • What were some of your personal functions in each club? What was the creative writing club like? Did you win any awards or present any of your writings?
  • How long have you had your part-time job? What have you learned? What were the easiest things to learn at that job? What were the hardest?
  • What kinds of relationships do you have with leaders, managers, and organizers (at your job and in the clubs)? Have you ever disagreed with others? If so, what did you do to resolve conflicts?
  • How do you react when you’re excited about a new idea? Do you implement it? Are you a supporter? Helper? Do you follow up?
  • How do you learn best? Which is your easiest class? Why? Which one is the most challenging? Tell me how you’ve overcome challenges.

While these questions could certainly be expanded upon, they provide a good framework for identifying skills and achievements. Based on this interactive exchange with Jade, and with the answers provided, it would be pretty straightforward to develop a resume by applying the responses to the skills and achievements section. This might read something like the following:

  • Skills and Achievements
    • Led 10 individuals in a random acts of kindness club.
    • Implemented weekly activities throughout the school year.
    • Worked with teams of peers to complete activities.
    • Served as a peer tutor in school writing lab.
    • Developed effective relationships with managers and colleagues in various situations.
    • Quickly learned point of sale system.
    • Assigned busiest shifts due to my ability to handle high-stress situations.
    • Volunteered for animal shelter; took on any job that was asked of me.

Again, this list could be expanded upon depending on the answers to the questions asked, but this should give a good idea as to how to hear what the client is saying during the resume-building process and how to tie those responses to skills and achievements through reflection.

Case 2: Adult or Professional

It seems that most adults and professionals would have a ready-made resume, but I’ve been surprised at how many haven’t built one or are using an outdated version because they don’t know what to write or don’t feel confident. Since adults possess various lengths of life experience, the resume-building process can lead in a variety of directions. While the high school student was focused on extracurricular activities and part-time work, the adult likely has many more successes to include.

Let’s use Carlos as an example. Carlos is a 32-year-old male who has worked in various industries and in management positions. He has familiarity with hands-on activities and is very good with people. In fact, he’s been promoted to management positions in the two full-time jobs he’s held in his adult life. He’s worked at one job for 10 years and the other for four years. He struggled academically in school and doesn’t feel like he's a good writer, but he’s able to build relationships with people very quickly and isn’t afraid to delegate. In his spare time, he rebuilds cars with his son, and he enjoys the teaching process. He feels like he’s a natural trainer in addition to being very good at doing the job. As with Jade, I would begin with some questions to help Carlos build an understanding of his strengths with his words, and based on his point of view and perception:

  • What types of work have you done? What was your favorite? What was your least favorite?
  • If you could do one thing for the rest of your life, for a job, what would it be? What’s your preference between working in training, management, or hands-on roles?
  • How many people have you managed? How long did they stay under your tenure? If I asked your staff about you, what would they say?
  • What other careers have you considered? What’s made you remain in your jobs for as long as you have?
  • What's important to you about your work? Why?
  • How have you improved your skills in management and training over time?
  • What is it about your relationship-building abilities that you feel confident about?

Again, this basic interactive framework can be used to develop a list of skills and achievements for a resume based upon answers from the client. Notice with this list, the skills and achievements are broken down into the three areas of interest discussed during the session.

  • Skills and Achievements
    • Management
      • Managed staffing, schedules, and development of 12 individuals.
      • Implemented strategies to improve performance by making changes to workflow processes.
    • Training
      • Designed training materials for new employees to onboard them more effectively.
      • Trained new staff for various positions about workflow and performance expectations.
    • Trade Skills
      • Maintained certifications for trade work to ensure that team works up to the highest and latest levels of requirements.
      • Implemented a system that improved productivity by 30%.

Carlos may be able to develop a more extensive list than this, but this process, in which he shared his accomplishments and skills, should help get the ball rolling in the right direction.


In summary, the resume-building process is a give-and-take between the client and advisor for the purpose of encouraging clients to clearly share their strengths, skills, and accomplishments. The key is to strike a balance of questioning, listening, and reflecting to help the client ignite the fire of motivation, hope, and confidence. The payoff is that this work can ultimately improve clients’ self-esteem in the process, as they gain the ability to create and develop a solid resume – a necessary tool for job searching and obtainment.

  1. tips for career advisors

About The Author

Dora Grote, GCDFi

Dora Grote is vice president of professional services for Kuder. She oversees the company’s delivery of real-time career and education planning support for students and adults through the Kuder® Coach™ program and works with client organizations to develop and implement ... read more