I continue to get questions about keywords so I thought it may help to provide an example that expands on a column I wrote a few weeks ago.

One of the first things I discuss with my clients is their current career target. Why? Because if I don’t understand their target, there is no way I will be able to speak the language of their target audience. This is never more important than when a client expresses a desire to transition into a new field. To illustrate this point, meet Tricia…

Tricia, an experienced retail manager, wished to secure a position outside of retail, defining her targeted positions as business manager, office manager, HR, or related. Knowing that these fields would require presenting very different skill sets, I asked Tricia to send me a representative sampling of jobs she would see herself applying for.

Tricia submitted a handful of job descriptions to me, representing opportunities of interest. I then began keyword mapping to better understand what needed to be highlighted to effectively position Tricia for a career transition.

To perform keyword mapping, I suggest this exercise:
(1) Print a representative sampling of job postings (10 or so) you are interested in;
(2) read the postings and write desired qualifications, skills, etc. on the left side of a piece of paper;
(3) cross-reference the list with your qualifications, transferring the items you possess to the right side of the piece of paper;
(4) for items that you “sort of “ have, “move” those to the middle of the page.

This “master list” will then illustrate an overview of your qualifiers (right side of the page), disqualifiers (left side of the page), and potential disqualifiers (middle of the page). These keywords and phrases then need to be incorporated into your resume, being very careful how you handle or address items that remain on the left of the paper or fall in the middle. This exercise will provide you with a roadmap for the language you need to speak to develop a targeted resume based on your areas of interest. As a side note, this exercise will also showcase whether your career targets are too diverse. If you find yourself writing furiously by the time you are mapping your sixth or seventh job posting, then perhaps you need to take a closer look at the target of your job search to ensure you are positioning yourself as an expert of something and not everything.

For Tricia, this exercise identified two key areas of interest and isolated the most important aspects of Tricia’s background—the skills, experiences, characteristics, and education that would need to be highlighted. Armed with this “roadmap” for developing Tricia’s new resume, I could tell her story, focusing on the areas identified as most important in my keyword mapping exercise.

I hope this example helps provide insight into identifying the most important keywords based on your background and opportunities of interest.