Finding a job that you enjoy can be difficult if you live with a mental health condition like complex post-traumatic disorder. This is especially true when you need to drop out of the workforce to do good self-care.

I understand because I have been on disability since 1995 and have only recently thought about returning to work. The problem is there are huge holes in my work history and I wasn’t sure what I considered meaningful work.

In this article, we are going to explore together, how you can form a career portfolio of your own and write a resume.

The Formation of a Career Portfolio

A career portfolio is an organized set of documents you can utilize to pull information for a prospective employer. A career portfolio is also a way of deciding what kind of work you would enjoy doing and find success.

While there are templates available, a career portfolio is a very personal set of documents describing your skills, experiences, and talents to aid you in finding the job you want. For this reason, in the following paragraphs, we will explore together what you may want to include in your portfolio and how those items will help you write your resume.

Detailing Your Career and Personal Goals

Life has a way of warping our paths and causing us to choose alternative routes. To be sure, few of us grew into adulthood to become what we thought we would be when we were children or high school students. However, there are still within us our dreams and passions and these can become invaluable when looking for fulfilling work.

You can write anything you want in this section of your portfolio. Here are a few things to get you started.

  • A brief description of what you believe about work ethics
  • Answer that age-old interview question, “where do you see yourself in five years?”
  • Where is your line drawn on integrity in the workplace?
  • The classic, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

By asking yourself these questions, you may find yourself looking at yourself in a different light. If you thought you were doing what you had planned as an adult, then there is no need to go looking for other work. However, you may find you have not met your dreams, and want to explore other options.

Writing Your Personal Mission Statement

After identifying your goals and comparing them to where you are, it is time to write a short description of what makes you tick and what gives you purpose is in life. To explain this concept further, I shall give you an example of my own mission statement.

“To live my life well by using my writing abilities to share my knowledge of healing from severe mental illness. To spread the message to anyone who will listen that life was never meant to be a horrible and tragic endeavor. Life was meant to be a marvelous adventure to share with others.”

Understanding what motivates you gives you a much better chance of finding the path in life you wish to follow from where you are today and where you wish to be in the future.

Discover Your Skills and Abilities

No matter who you are, all human beings have marketable skills and abilities.

The best way to discover where your talents lie is to sit down with a piece of paper and a pen, then being honest with yourself, list the different talents and abilities you have. I know, sitting down and acknowledging that one has skills is daunting to some, but we all have marketable talents that employers are looking for.

There are two types of skills you can list, hard skills and soft skills.

A hard-skills are important for professions such as medicine, engineering, information technology, or medical jobs and learned attending higher education. They include skills you may easily demonstrate to prospective employers such as the following:

  • Foreign languages
  • Data analysis
  • Accounting
  • Computer languages
  • Mathematics

Soft-skills are abilities tied to the ability to do well in social situations and are harder to demonstrate until after you are hired. They may include:

  • The ability to work under pressure
  • Good at managing your time
  • Leadership skills
  • Adaptability
  • Communication skills
  • Creativity

Identifying your hard and soft skills allows you to practice them and then match those skills to the different types of work.

Make a List of Accomplishments with Samples or Examples of Your Work

Write a list of what you have accomplished in life using details and examples for each. For instance, if you are a stay-at-home parent, make sure to list it because you have accomplished organizing and creating a home for your children. Describe your daily chores at home that are relevant to the position you are looking for.

As an example, I once again offer something from my own portfolio.

“I have been writing since the third grade and have just now found my voice. I run an internationally known website that I use to spread truthful information about my mental health disorder.”

Don’t forget to list any awards you have earned from school or from a former employer.

Certifications, Licenses and College Transcripts

This part is self-explanatory. However, don’t forget certifications and include any awards you have won in the past such as honors from college or scholarships.

Military Service Records

If you are a Veteran, you should keep a list of your military service with any awards or badges you have earned. Although it is not necessary, you will want to keep a copy of your discharge papers as well.

Volunteering or Community Service

Have you been involved with your children’s school doing volunteer work? How about volunteering at a food bank or in a local library. Never underestimate how volunteer positions help fill in the voids in your work history. It shows you have a strong connection to your community.

 List of References  

Nothing is worse than going to fill out an application for a job and realizing you can’t remember the phone number of the person you wish to use as a reference. That’s why making a list of references beforehand is so helpful. Make sure to have at least three to five people with their full names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. Remember to list people to whom you have spoken who are willing to speak to prospective employers about your strengths, abilities, and experiences.

A career portfolio is a tool that will set you apart when you look for unemployment giving you an edge over others competing for the same position. The process of developing your career portfolio also allows you to examine who you are and what type of work you are both qualified and find enjoyable.

The Skills-Based Resume

A skills-based resume is a document that focuses on specific skills and experiences you’ve had while employed, listed in chronological order. This type of resume allows you to avoid listing in detail places of former employment while highlighting experiences from other facets of your life.

This form of a resume is a great option if you have worked at several short-term jobs or have gaps in your work history due to illness or life obligations. A skills-based resume is also important if you are changing jobs and your past work history isn’t relevant to the position you are applying for, or you wish to utilize your hobby/passion when hired by your new employer.

Formatting a Skills-Based Resume

When you are ready to write the actual resume, you already have a handy tool to use that makes it much easier, your career portfolio. From your portfolio you can draw all the items you’ll want to include on your resume.

List your skills. Determine for which job you wish to apply. Once you have identified the position you want, write on your resume the skills you have listed in your portfolio that match those needed for that employer.

Under a bolded header marked, “Summary of Skills,” choose three or four of the skills you’ve listed that you can prove with relevant examples or have letters of recommendation from your chosen references.

Create Bullet Points. Format using bullets, describing each of the skills you’ve listed with a short paragraph describing your expertise for each one. Make sure not to include descriptions that are too focused on where you last used your skills. Focus instead, on your specific accomplishments using that skill.

Include a Short Work History. The next section of your resume includes any work history you may have. Do not use bullet points here, instead list the company name, your job title, employment dates and the city plus state of each past employer.

You should list up to three former employers and remember, you didn’t have to earn a paycheck to list your experiences as employment, volunteering counts too.

Education and References. To round out your resume, add your educational background including each school you attended, and any certificates or degrees you have earned.

Then you will want to include a list of three references from your portfolio giving the information you have listed there.

The Rules for Formatting a Resume

While writing your resume, there are a few formatting rules you need to remember.

The first I would mention is to use a font style and size that helps your resume be the most readable. Also, put bolded headers at the top of each section using a few words such as “Work Experience” or “Skills.”

Make sure to restrict your resume to one page. Busy managers and business owners do not have time to read a multipage resume and yours will end up in the garbage bin.

Make sure your resume is clear of any grammatical or spelling errors. Having misspelled words or grammatical errors does not look good, and potential employers will decide you aren’t truly interested because you did not take the time to edit them.

Do not use first-person pronouns like “I,” “me” and so forth. Doing so is crude and will leave a bad first impression on a prospective employer if they finish reading your resume at all.

Keep your resume reader-friendly. Don’t use fancy phrases, slang, or arrange your resume in a format that isn’t professional and practical. Again, prospective employers do not have time to read a resume written in an unusual font with curly or funky letters.

Lastly, be sure to save your resume as both a document and a PDF. Doing so ensures you can both hand over a copy of your resume and email it to a prospective employer.

You Can Find Help to Write Your Resume

Many government and not-for-profit organizations offer free or inexpensive resume writing classes. Some will even sit down with you and write your resume with you. To find a resource, check your city, state, and country’s governmental websites.

For example, here in the United States, state unemployment offices offer services to aid you in forming your resume. If you are on disability, your local department of rehabilitation office also may offer help. Don’t forget to check out local social security offices, colleges, or universities too.

Once you have written your resume, make sure to edit it to find any errors then place it into your career portfolio.

Writing a career portfolio and resume will not only help you gain meaningful employment but also recognize the talents and skills you did not know existed inside yourself.

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