Resources to Compare Universities in Canada

Resources to Compare Universities in Canada

Are you finding it frustrating to find the information you want on university websites? Looking for reputable resources to compare universities in Canada and make sense of your options and offers? I have studied at three universities in Canada, worked at two, interacted with staff at most Ontario universities and many across Canada. Allow me to help you navigate the maze of resources out there to support your exploration and decision making.

This is a work-in-progress list. If you have suggestions or corrections, please do not hesitate to share using the comment feature.

Canadian Resources

Association of Universities & Colleges Canada is a body that brings together all 97 accredited universities and provides comparative information, policy papers and research studies about the value of university education in Canada.

At University Study in Canada, you can search for programs of interest at all universities in Canada using key words and criteria to narrow down your selection.

Ontario Resources

Ontario is the only province in Canada with one-stop shop for all Universities in the province. This unique approach allows visitors to quickly access information in one place on a variety of topics.

Common University Data Ontario (CUDO) is a source of detailed information about each Ontario university and sometimes includes details of previous year’s admission statistics.

The Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) administers all undergraduate applications in the province and some professional program applications such as Teaching, Social Work and Medical School.

E-Info is affiliated with OUAC and is a one-stop shop for eligibility and application realities at all ONTARIO universities. There you can:

As every university in Canada organizes itself in a different way, it can be confusing to find what you need on their website. We suggest you familiarize yourself with how universities are structured, so you can more easily navigate. Also, if you learn some of the lingo, you can enter the right search term from the University’s landing page.

Admissions versus Registrar versus Academic Department

Think of Admissions as the Student Recruitment arm of the university. It therefore supports Future Students, sometimes called Prospective Students. It overviews all programs and gives you minimum critical information for you to decide if you should apply as well as instructions on how to. It then administers the application process. At Admissions, you can compare program eligibility (required grades, courses), application requirements, deadlines and more.

The Registrar on the other hand supports Current Students. It is the operational foundation for the university. It maintains an accurate and up-to-date record of the academic rules and regulations, typically set out in the Academic Calendar discussed below. It administers all program enrolments and changes and tracks students’ progress through their academic program and degree fulfillment. From term to term, it manages timetabling and course registration. 

The Academic Department (or Faculty or School) teaches and conducts research in specific program areas and dictates the minimum standards for admission to their programs. It is where you can learn more about the exciting research they do and the unique team of teaching and research faculty who work there.

For students researching where to study, whether they are eligible and how to compare offers, we recommend they become familiar with the information provided by all three of these important units of university organization. 

Academic Calendar

The Academic Calendar at each university is the official guide for students to do all their academic planning, course selection and overall degree navigation. It is generally maintained by the Registrar. In it you will find:

  • degree requirements – i.e., what students need to get to the end of their degree in terms of number of credits, overall grade attainment, and any breadth requirements
  • program requirements and options such as specialist, major, minor, admission requirements if applying after first year, depth and breadth of study, year-to-year course requirements
  • all course descriptions by discipline, year, number of credits, prerequisites, corequisites and exclusions
  • rules and regulations for grading, academic standing (good standing, on probation, suspended), retaking courses
  • system of grading, such as percentage, letter grades and grade point average
  • annual course planning process, timing and steps

Academic Department

As mentioned, each university has Academic Departments, Faculties and Schools. Engineering for example in some universities is the Department of Engineering, in others it’s the Faculty or School of Engineering. Some disciplines are grouped together under one major Department – for example Life Sciences that include Biology, Neuroscience and Psychology – while others might have specialty departments such as Biological Sciences. Some disciplines like Psychology live in the Sciences at some universities and in Arts at others. Find out what will likely be your student’s home department, faculty or school. Then visit their site and learn as much as you can about:

  • the other disciplines taught within the same organizational unit (as this can sometimes be related to the flexibility of course offerings available to your student)
  • the backgrounds of the teaching and research faculty, including sometimes that of teaching assistants
  • the nature and extent of research they conduct
  • teaching and research awards
  • programs that engage students in research projects either as volunteers, part-time or summer paid researchers

Academic Supports

Academic Advising

Depending on the university, academic advising is offered by the Department to students in related disciplines or by a central service that supports all programs. These services help students make program and course selection decisions and navigate academic challenges such as grade petitions and academic disciplinary charges.

Accessibility Office

All universities make accommodations for students with emotional, mental and physical learning needs. Services and accommodations can include:

  • 1-1 support with an Accessibility Consultant to assess learning need and develop a learning plan
  • Ongoing counselling services
  • Note-taking services, sign language interpreter or alternate format material (ex. Braille)
  • Accommodation for additional time or controlled quiet space to complete exams or no more than one exam per day
  • Access to a computer or spell check on exams

Co-op & Experiential Learning Services

Most universities offer some form of co-op or experiential learning tied to the academic program –  i.e., completion of paid and unpaid experiences count for credit in a student’s degree completion. Learn about these options by searching the main website or the academic calendar using the search terms below:

  • co-op
  • experiential learning
  • field placement
  • independent study
  • internship
  • practicum
  • service learning 

Teaching & Learning Support + the Library System

Teaching & Learning support is an academic unit that works alongside faculty members in teaching and research to ensure students have support for critical in-the-class academic skills. These can include writing, research, analytic reasoning and math skills. They can also support students for whom English (or French in French-speaking universities) is not their first language. Visit their webpage to learn about the range of support services for students.

Universities generally have at least one major library and several smaller ones to support the academic mission. Visit the library website at each university to compare the experience. Also, the Macleans university rankings often ranks university library holdings.

Universities have students complete course evaluations and maintain a record of these evaluations so that students can assess whether they want to take the course. Often these are maintained by the university’s library. Access may require an official university log-in identity. Sometimes as well the student government administers its own evaluation. Students also visit a popular public survey site that rates professors in universities around the world.


International Rankings

Times Higher Education ranks universities and programs around the world.

QS Top Universities also ranks universities and programs around the world. This site also includes Canadian schools in their ranking of 29 subjects. Use this list to see which schools are rated well for a larger number of program areas. Learn not only how the target program ranks but also the strengths of the university’s reputations in subjects of interest that might be elective courses.

Canadian Rankings

The MacLean’s Annual Universities Survey ranks approximately 50 of Canada’s 97 accredited universities in three categories: Medical/Doctoral (14 schools in 2021 offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs as well as a range of medical programs); 2) Comprehensive (15 schools in 2021 offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs) and 3) Primarily Undergraduate (18 schools in 2021).

The Globe & Mail completed a 2019 report on Canadian universities comparing multiple facets of a university experience.

For Business: Canada’s top business programs in 2020 Maclean’s ranking:

For Computer Science: Canada’s top computer science programs in 2021 MacLean’s ranking:

For Neuroscience:

For Psychology:

For Sports Management: North American Society for Sports Management list of sports management programs in Canada:

Alumni & Student Engagement Surveys

Find alumni and student surveys through provincial education ministries and at each university’s Institutional Budgeting & Planning Office. Search the university’s website to see when they last participated in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) which is a North American survey done with students in first and fourth years to evaluate their learning experience.

There is no better way to draw conclusions about the campus and the city environment than a personal visit and tour. While you’re there, walk from campus to downtown and back. COVID has made these visits fewer and far less rewarding, leaving many to draw their conclusions from taking virtual tours and visiting webpages. We suggest some of the webpages below.

Campus Life

For life outside the classroom, search the university’s website for the unit that manages all student support services. Depending on the university, this might be called Student Life, Student Affairs, Student Affairs and Services or Campus Life. The areas of support typically detailed are:

  • Academic Advising
  • Accessibility Services
  • Athletics 
  • Career & Employment Services
  • Health & Wellness
  • International Students (for both incoming International students and students wishing to study internationally)
  • Residence Life
  • Student Clubs
  • Student Government (which sometimes also has its own independent website)

City Life

Your best resource is the city’s official website. Use these search terms to get a feel for what it might be like to live there.

  • Annual events and festivals
  • Best student hangouts
  • Best ”   ” in area (fill in the blank with your favorite activity – walking, cycling, roller blading, skiing)
  • Concerts and live performances
  • Most scenic driving tours in the area
  • Where to find nature nearby
  • Top  ”      ” in this city (fill in the blank with your favorite thing to do, eat, play, visit)
  • What to do in ”   ” (fill in the blank with month or season of the year winter)

Student Tuition, Government Loans and Scholarships

University Funding Sources

Up until a few months ago, it was almost unheard of for a university to go bankrupt in Canada. That is until Laurentian University recently declared their financial problems. University funding is based on a number of inputs, ranging from government funding and tuition to endowments from wealthy donors, alumni fund-raising campaigns and research grants. The two articles below offer some insight to the complexities.

An important source of revenue for universities and indicator of research strength is the amount of funding each university receives by major funding bodies. Here are four of the more significant university research funding bodies:

Student Funding Sources

One of the best ways for students to earn while they learn is through co-operative learning which can range from 4-month work experiences interspersed throughout their studies to a 12- or 18-month internship after their third year and before their culminating year.


Forget or forgive? 6 easy steps to REACH in and out

Forget or forgive? 6 easy steps to REACH in and out


I think we can all agree that relationships are the source of pleasure and pain.

Bring on the pleasure.

What can be more rewarding than the pure unadulterated love from a child, the laughter we share with a close friend or the little mental fist pump that comes when we get to work more with a particular classmate or colleague? But if you’re bogged down with relationship issues, it’s hard to tackle day-to-day education and work challenges.

I don’t consider myself to be a relationship expert. That said, I often emphasize with my clients in career transition the importance of relationships – with yourself and with others – as they are so pivotal to a satisfying working life. Heck to a satisfying life, period.

If you’re in active application mode or at a career crossroad, you need the kind of personal power that fuels positive thinking and creative action.

When relationship conflict crowds our heart and mind, we get caught up in the pain – in rumination, in blaming, in anger and hurt. We want to run for the hills. Or curl up in the fetal position. It becomes difficult, if not impossible sometimes to pull ourselves together. We struggle to get up in the morning, to think positively, to go about our day.

If you feel stuck in a deep, dark relationship hole and need some help climbing out, you might want to take a closer look at mindfulness resources as well as some pretty compelling research into forgiveness that comes with practical strategies.

I came across two especially good websites, loaded with resources, while digging out of my own relationship black hole. I’ll share these with you at the end. In the meantime, let me share my relationship black hole story.

How I climbed out of my relationship black hole

A couple years ago, I tucked myself into bed, troubled by conflict with someone important to me. You don’t need to know the gory details – but know that I had spent the previous day or so on the emotion rainbow from angry bull seeing red to black dog depression and back again.

I thought to myself: If only I were in one of those uncomfortable nightmares. I could magically wake up from it and give thanks it was but a dream.

Instead, I knew it was a reality I would eventually have to face and my magic wand from childhood was unlikely to fix things for me. Walking in the forest the next morning with my dog Monster, near the big log I sometimes use as a step machine, I had a flashback to one of my real dreams that night.

I dreamed I was lieing down on the ground. No matter how hard I tried, I seemed paralyzed. Incapable of getting myself up off the ground. And in my dream, I just couldn’t understand it. I was fit. I had strong legs from regular cycling and hiking. What was keeping me down? I recalled fearing being down forever, never being able to walk, or cycle or be physical. I was filled with a sense of dread.

Smiling to myself as I recalled my thought before nodding off, it struck me: Wait a minute. I may be down a relationship black hole and that sucks. But I have all the power I need to get up and climb out.

To do that, I knew I needed to take a hard look at myself and my circumstances. I consulted the great Google Oracle. And that’s when I discovered these two great resources. I’ve bookmarked them. I hope you will too!

Resource 1: Reach – Principle before Profit

The first site I’d like to recommend is Reach – Principle before Profit. Hosted by a UK group of over 65 practitioners in everything from counselling and psychotherapy to meditation and mind-body medicine, it offers hundreds of free resources to support mental health concerns of anxiety, anger, panic, worry, fear, depression, low self-esteem, relationship difficulties or a loss of direction and meaning in life.

I headed right to the video section. From my dark place, this video title called to me: Asking for nothing. Receiving Everything. Seemed reasonable to me. It was a 30-minute meditation. And It pretty much transformed my black hole thinking.

The music was a tad dramatic, but as I was in a high state of drama, it matched my mood. The voice of the narrator, soft, sweet and soothing, bathed me in acceptance and understanding.

Except for the moments when I was sobbing uncontrollably (good therapists bring that out in me), I found the visuals to be breathtaking in their beauty. The rainstorm of tears, like other storms, washed away my stinky thoughts.

At the end of the meditation, I felt ready – to not just get up off the ground, but also to climb out in search of higher ground. To find a way back into, rather than out of my troubled relationship.

Check it out. The lengthy list of research articles and blog posts are easily searchable by topic, as are the video meditations which you can filter by length of time at your disposal. It’s not for everyone, but if you believe in the power of mind-body healing and want to save some money on therapists, bookmark this one

Resource 2: The REACH approach to forgiveness

The second resource is the one I was looking for in the first place. My colleague who specializes in positive psychology Tayyab Rashid had mentioned to me the REACH approach to forgiveness, by Everett Worthington, a University of Virginia professor of psychology.

Worthington is a research scholar and leading international expert on forgiveness, beginning his investigations in the 1990s. Read his bio and you will be convinced he knows his subject not just from over 25 years’ research, but also from tragic life circumstances, truly deserving of his need to forge a path to forgiveness. His research is part of the growing body of positive psychology research related to character strengths.

Worthington distinguishes between two kinds of forgiveness – decisional and emotional. Decisional forgiveness is what we do when we decide in our mind to forgive:  “ok, I forgive you, let’s get on with life”.

When we decide to forgive, we may or may not be letting go of associated negative emotions. But we are letting the other person off the hook, thereby increasing the likelihood of repairing the relationship damage.

Sound familiar, all you married folk out there?

Emotional forgiveness is a more fulsome experience that involves replacing the negative emotions with positive feelings like compassion, sympathy, and empathy.

Worthington’s research shows that emotional forgiveness delivers health benefits. It reduces stress and can lead us out of broader mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

His site contains free downloadable journal articles that expand on his research and highlights his many books on the topic. He also provides two practical step-by-step exercises to approach both decisional and emotional forgiveness: one for forgiving others and one for forgiving oneself.

The acronym REACH is a 5-step process for forgiving others and is summarized in Table 1. The 6-step process for forgiving oneself is set out in Table 2.

Both of these tables are from the REACH approach to forgiveness, by Everett Worthington. You can do these steps in your head. But I found it helpful to do them on paper, as writing helps me to work things out and wrestle with my inner demons.

Much as I wanted to stay in denial and blame “the other”, I decided my first target of forgiveness was me. Moving through each step, it became pretty clear to me that in our war of words, I had pulled a few nasty punches of my own. With a renewed perspective, I was able to be open and honest with my friend, but in a caring way, in a way that honoured our relationship and restored trust.

What can you do about your own relationship black holes?

It’s 2021, the start of a new year. New year, new you, right? Don’t worry. Be happy. Not an easy task after coming through what was the year from hell for many of us.

As we jump back into our everyday lives, online for many of us, we need to extend forgiveness both inward and outward.

For our own sake, we need to find a way to forgive at least the petty crimes – the words that land on us like an insult, the online check-ins that exclude us, the crazy-making emails that are just not worth the sacrifice of peace of mind.

And we need to gather the courage to confront the greater relationship challenges, like the prof who never returns our email, the family member who keeps letting us down, the romantic partner who is slipping away, or the boss we just can’t seem to please.

Perhaps the hardest part of getting up from relationship pain, the rock that weighs us down, is the blame we place on the other person for what we perceive as their role in causing us pain.

To paraphrase a really corny cliché: we really can’t change others, can we? We can only change ourselves.

By taking responsibility for our part, by replacing negative emotions with positive or constructive ones, we open the way to forging stronger relationships.

And we don’t live our education and work lives under the weight of a big fat rock. We grow and flourish.

Fortunately,  many of our everyday conflicts don’t get to the point where forgiveness is necessary, but they sure can fester to the point of dysfunction.

I aim to tackle in future posts more on strategies for day-to-day and crazy-making conflict, a topic on the minds of many educators and employers as they assess your team skills and emotional intelligence.

How do you deal with conflict? Do you forget, forgive or fume? If you have any suggestions for specific topics, don’t hesitate to make a comment or fill in my contact form.

May the power of mindfulness and forgiveness be with you in 2021. And may all your relationships be rewarding.


Table 1: REACH - An Approach to Forgiving Others

REACH is an acronym for five steps in a forgiveness process. Download and print the Forgiveness Workbook to put your thoughts down on paper.

R is for “recall”— remembering the hurt that was done to you as objectively as you can.

E is for “empathize”— trying to understand the viewpoint of the person who wronged you.

A is for “altruism”— thinking about a time you hurt someone and were forgiven, then offering the gift of forgiveness to the person who hurt you.

C is for “committing”— publicly forgiving the person who wronged you.

H is for “holding on”— not forgetting the hurt, but reminding yourself that you made the choice to forgive.

Table 2: An Approach to REACH Self Forgiveness

This process includes REACH, but focuses your energies first on yourself! Download and print the Forgiveness Workbook to put your thoughts down on paper.

Step 1: Receive God’s Forgiveness. First, make things right with what you consider sacred. For many, that will be with God. But others might feel they have offended humanity or offended nature.

Step 2: Repair Relationships. If you’ve hurt people, try to pick up the pieces.

Step 3: Rethink Ruminations. Sometimes regret and remorse dominate us because we are feeling a bit perfectionist. We can rethink those unrealistic assumptions. Then, to create more personal peace, follow these three steps.

Step 4: REACH Emotional Self-Forgiveness. Apply to yourself the steps to REACH Forgiveness.

Step 5: Rebuild Self-Acceptance. Accept yourself as someone flawed but precious. Often talking with someone is the key.

Step 6: Resolve to Live Virtuously. Make up your mind not to make the same mistakes again.

Write resumes right: A brief guide to what matters most

Write resumes right: A brief guide to what matters most

Why do you need to write resumes right? First, you want the interview or the offer. Second, the competition is intense – you want to stand out. Third, those making screening decisions are short on time and patience.

do you want the interview or offer?

When you write your resume right, you prepare yourself to be successful not just in getting an interview, but also in successfully presenting yourself during the interview. You get clear on your strengths, weaknesses and accomplishments. This focuses you so you spend more time applying to jobs or programs you really want. Instead of being a slave to the process, you become the master.

is the competition intense?

Whether your application is for a job or a competitive education program, you are one of many highly or specially qualified applicants. Only a chosen few make it through the tunnel of a first screening process that allows in only a select few from tens to hundreds to thousands of applicants.

are your decision makers short on time and patience?

From my own and other’s experience, it’s true what they say. On a first pass of a resume, a reader might spend 6 to 20 seconds to determine whether you are worth a second look. From that brief glance, your reader will place your resume into one of three piles:

A = Strong fit – Interview. Five to seven resumes will land here, though a second pass of these can reduce this number.

B = Some aspects of fit – Maybe interview. Six to twenty resumes might make it here for a second, more thorough review. A few of these will move up to the A pile.

C = Not a fit – Definitely do not interview. The remaining resumes end up here and are unlikely to get a second look.

Granted, some readers might have four piles. Maybe five. They might have more resumes in the piles than I suggest. Some readers might not make piles at all, just select the first three resumes they like. But all of them, if they are in a decision-making role, will have a system that helps them narrow down potentially hundreds of options to get quickly to the main event of selection – the interview or the offer.

Now most of you have also heard how import “fit” is. However, you might find it frustrating to put into practice this gem of wisdom as you build your resume case for consideration.

so how do you write resumes right?

If you want decision makers to put you in the A pile, learn to:

1. Strategically focus your resumes

2. Ground your resumes with substance

3. Format your resumes with style.

I’ll tackle each of these in turn, providing samples and examples to help you focus your resume-writing tasks.

Ready? Let’s go.


1. Write resumes that are strategically focused.

A strategically focused resume carefully positions your background in relation to your reader’s needs, building a solid case for a future together.

In other words, a strategically focused resume makes it easy, if not obvious, for the reader to find the goodness of fit between a candidate and a job. Therefore, you improve your chances of success when you write resumes that pay serious attention to your reader’s needs and target your content accordingly to “fit” the spec.

use a t-analysis to strategically focus your resume

To simplify your task of focusing your resume strategically, consider a brainstorming tool commonly called the t-analysis. My own version provides prompts and white space for you to reflect on your fit before you begin the task of writing. It outlines three simple steps:

1) Research the opportunity.

2) Ask yourself: Do I want this job? Yes or No? Why?

3) Get clear on the stated qualifications and your “FIT” with them.

Good writing comes from reflective thinking. Therefore, before you begin to write resumes, spend time researching your reader’s needs and reflecting deeply on the goodness of fit with your own background, skills, interests and goals.

2. Write resumes that are grounded in substance.

A resume of substance is rich with relevant skills and accomplishments, that tell an interesting, detailed story of your career to date.

A resume of substance tells a compelling and credible career story that unfolds on no more than one or two pages. It invites your reader into your story by situating your relevant experiences in the context of time, place and people. Going beyond the obvious and banal, it uses rich, descriptive detail. Packed with accomplishments and loaded with learning, it portrays a strong and credible candidate.

And because it draws upon a thoughtful strategy, it is selective about the skills and accomplishments it highlights. Therefore it is relevant and interesting to your readers.

What does a resume of substance avoid? Obvious exaggeration, empty generalization, vague job descriptions and routine statements that appear on the majority of resumes.

how do you ground your resume in substance?

Consequently, if you want to increase your chances of making it to the A pile, write resumes that:

  • are honest
  • provide helpful context
  • illustrate through rich detail
  • emphasize RELEVANT accomplishments.

honesty matters

I recently heard a youthful Senior Manager share a personal anecdote about the process he went through to be hired. He had to provide 12 references. That’s right – 12!!!! Why? In short, his hiring committee found it hard to believe that someone his age could have accomplished so much in such a short career! It’s a good thing he was telling the truth and can laugh about the ordeal in hindsight!

Your resume is like an official document providing verifiable details of your history. The details you provide in a resume – employer names, titles, dates, skills and accomplishments – are examined carefully in an interview. They then become the focus of formal reference check questions before you receive an offer to confirm.

Despite rumours that the truth is ok to stretch on a resume because everyone does it, I am here to implore you: tell the truth.

Consequences of fibbing can be severe. You can be declined a job, even fired from a job you currently hold, if your prospective or current employer uncovers misrepresentation or fabrication. Above all, you’ll feel better about yourself if you tell the truth!

context matters

Write resumes that incorporate context. Dates, company description, industry sector, size of organization where you gained your experiences and relationships you cultivated are all important context details. They provide insight to your professional development, to the complexity of challenges you might have encountered and to the caliber of people who worked by your side. Context also helps readers understand how recent or distant, how short or long these developmental experiences were in relation to each role and each employer organization.

What are some ways you can write resumes that include “context”?

Make your dates clearly visible

Don’t bury your dates in the middle of a line. Align them right or left of the page so the reader can easily scan them. This speeds the task for your reader to quickly understand your developmental  timeline – or, as one of my bosses in headhunting called it, your “track record.”

Use reverse chronological order

By some surveys, 70 percent of employers prefer the reverse chronological resume. Why? Because your experience is showcased in a context of time and place. Moving from current to past experiences is standard in resumes because your most recent experience is one that holds your freshest, most-up-to-date accomplishments and typically (though not always) your more advanced and relevant skills. The further back you go, your experience becomes “dated”. Although you might still list these experiences on your resume, you can safely provide few if any context or accomplishment details.

Use sub-dates to show progression

If you’ve been in many positions within the same organization, you want to illustrate this clearly. Moving through different positions often signals to your reader or viewer that your contributions were valued and you were rewarded with a promotion. It also means you’ve had a greater variety of experiences.

Briefly provide organization or industry details

You can’t always assume your reader knows anything about the contexts in which you’ve done your earning and learning. So give them a way in. You can do this in two ways: 1) by setting relevant details out consistently for each section – e.g., put relevant details (20-person wholesaler of office supplies) in brackets consistently after each employer organization or at the end of the line or underneath the organization name; 2) by incorporating such details into your descriptive statements – e.g., Reported to President of 20-person wholesaler of office supplies.

Situate your position in the context of relationships

Find opportunities within your statements to introduce key reporting relationships as well as relationships with important internal and external colleagues, customers and suppliers. For example, instead of “senior management”, share specific titles that indicate level and function, such as “Chief Executive Officer, Controller and Vice President Sales.”

detail matters

Many resume writers follow well-meaning advice that suggests they keep their summary statements brief and focus them on soft skills. As a result, I regularly see brief and cliched statements like:

  • Event planning skills
  • Organization skills
  • Communication skills

These statements simply do not differentiate you. They lack the detail (=substance) to make you stand out from others. They fail to ignite the reader’s curiosity enough to bring you in for an interview and get to know you better.

Details help you “show” your reader what you’ve done

“Show don’t tell” is a rule of writing and following it will improve every resume.

What would show don’t tell look like in a summary statement that bragged about the above three skillsets? How about statements that SHOW what you mean by your kind of event planning, organization and communication:

  • Event planning skills from managing logistics of 10 two-day conferences attended by over 1,000 participants per event
  • Organization skills demonstrated by streamlining three manual filing systems, eliminating duplication of records and reducing space requirements from 5 to 3 filing units.
  • Recipient of company’s customer communication award for achieving 5-star rating from customers over a 3-month period

These statements add important details that bring your reader into the experience. Quantifying your experiences helps the reader understand scope and results.

Likewise, when you qualify your descriptions with process (how you got there) or result details (what was the prize), you can be more informative and convincing.

Details educate your reader about your experience

Check your resume for vague statements. Look for opportunities to educate your reader by brainstorming as many rich details as you can, answering questions like:

  • How many people did I manage?
  • How much revenue did I generate?
  • With what frequency did I perform key outcomes?
  • How large were the classes I taught or the events I organized? Who and how many attended?
  • What was the result?
  • What were the steps in a process or cycle of events that got me to an end result?

Then put together one crisp detailed statement that pops like the examples in the next section on accomplishment statements.

putting it all together – accomplishment matters

Write resumes that are accomplishment focused. An accomplishment focus in your resume is the most important feature that makes your resume one of SUBSTANCE. However, writing great accomplishment statements is probably the most challenging and time-consuming aspect of crafting a stellar resume. Fortunately, great accomplishment statements are made of the same substance outlined above – honesty, context and detail. In addition, they tell mini stories, enlivened with action, process and results.

First a note on what NOT to do

Let’s distinguish first between a job duty and an accomplishment.

A job duty is: “Filed documents.”

You can turn this into a related accomplishment by thinking about the bigger picture of your time in the position: “Created a new filing system that saved time, money and frustration”.

Far too many resume writers load their resumes with job duties, often pulling them right out of the job description. Literally! I know because when I ask resume writers if they used their job description to write their resume, they say:

“Yeah, cut and pasted.”

The reader learns that Sally was a Waitress, and in this role, she waited on tables and served customers. As a cashier, John operated a cash register. Mary typed, filed and answered phones. Guess what her title was? Mohammed analysed financial statements. He was a Financial Analyst. The Computer Programmer programmed. And guess what the Manager did? He managed.

The goal of a job description is to describe EVERYTHING THAT ALL INCUMBENTS do in a job. The goal of a resume is to bring attention to the MOST RELEVANT (to your reader) ASPECTS OF YOUR CAREER to date.

Therefore, don’t write resumes that regurgitate job duties from your job description. Instead, make sure you emphasize your best, most challenging and most relevant accomplishments.

What you need to do instead

Ok, so we’ve established that your unique accomplishments matter to the reader much more than the job duties which they can roughly assume from your title and the organization. Instead of filling your resume with the obvious, aim to build a library of accomplishment statements that you can tailor easily depending on your reader and their requirement.

Above all, an accomplishment statement highlights a particular experience that both fully developed your skills and knowledge AND made a difference. From your t-analysis, select your top relevant accomplishments and expand on their context and details. Questions you need to think about before crafting your accomplishment statements include:

  • What were the most complex or challenging problems or projects I worked on that developed relevant skills or insights to relevant problems?
  • In what ways did I build my understanding of relevant industry or organizational challenges or changes (even if I didn’t play a lead role)?
  • What important relationships did I build with peers, managers or clients and how did they value my contributions?

Again, the adage “show don’t tell” is how you make YOU and YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS stand out, rather than merely expanding on the job.

Below are a few examples that are starting points to help you begin your own brainstorming of impactful experiences.


Organized various events in the community.

Improved statement: Organized three 2-day events celebrating cultural diversity attended by over 3,000 community members and supported by 100 volunteers. 

Created marketing flyers and brochures.

Improved statement: Spearheaded the production of 10-page visitor’s guide, negotiating with printing firm a contract that reduced costs by 20 percent.

Interacted with various members of the management team.

Improved statement: Reported to Vice President, Finance and presented weekly to a 4-person Executive team comprised of R&D, Operations, Marketing and Sales Divisions.

3. Write resumes that are formatted with style.

A resume that has style style has an unmistakable air of quality, character and uniqueness. Style is your personal “brand”. It’s the immediate impression you make when someone first lays eyes on your document.

What do we mean by style in a resume? Style in a resume relates to how you have formatted your information to tell a cohesive story, drawing the reader’s attention to the critical details needed to form an impression and make a decision. Style relates to how your documentation leaves an unmistakable impression of quality and attention to detail. When you pay attention to matters of style, you pass the “first impressions” test. What if you fail this test by ignoring style matters? C-pile.

There are many style features that can improve the overall impression your resume makes. I talk about only six below: size, header, white space, formatting, spelling and grammar.

size matters

I still cringe when I think of my 7-page resume at the age of 22. If hiring managers had to review a 7-page treatise on 200 applicants applying for a job, they would never make it to the interview stage. Hmm, that’s 1400 pages. Compare that to one of my favorite books – A Fine Balance. 624 pages. Or War & Peace – that was a brick. 1440 pages.

Hiring managers have maybe an hour or two to review 200 resumes and make a decision on who to interview. Be kind to your hiring manager – keep it to one or two pages. One or two pages provide ample space to highlight your RELEVANT accomplishments and create your brand. Anything longer can be viewed as a waste of the reader’s time. How does size relate to substance? The shorter the resume, the more you need to prioritize your most SUBSTANTIAL and relevant experiences to showcase.

While most environments and hiring managers prefer a one- or two-page resume, there are exceptions, so when in doubt, ask someone who works in the organization for advice on length.

header matters

The very first thing your reader sees on your resume is your header. I highly recommend that you view your header as an element of your visual identity – i.e., you will re-purpose the header for use on your cover letter, reference list, thank you note and other job search correspondence. It therefore sets the stage for all of your formatting. So choose your font styles and layout carefully to make sure they look great on all of your documents.

Most of you are not graphic artists, nor am I. And most resume readers are not looking to be wowed by your graphics, as substance generally trumps style. However, there are some easy changes you can make to your header to make it stand out more, and ensure you have something you would be proud to show at the top all of your documents.

The slide show below starts with an example of the most common header format I have seen in my many years of resume reading. Avoid it.

Four improved examples follow, each one adding additional elements that show you how small but subtle changes can add style to your header while at the same time, making good use of your white space and improving readability.


header example 1 - not recommended

What are the problems with this Header?  

 Name is same size font as rest of header. It does not stand out as a document title.

X  Centred header is common – not distinctive 

6-line header takes up too much real estate 

 Times Roman font is common – not distinctive



Header example 2 - improved


What works better in this header?

Header reduced from 6 to 3 lines of real estate

Name in larger sans serif font stands out

Content below aligns right and left, creating clean look


Header example 3 - improved


What works better in this header?

Header fills width of text, creating a border for resume

Name and address clearly distinguished from contact details – could replace address with a tagline like “Experienced Project Manager” or “Proven Sales Manager”

Line adds attractive detail


Header example 4 improved

What works better in this header?

Header fills width of text, creating a border for resume and uses only two lines of real estate

Header example 5 improved


What works better in this header?

Header adds subtle colour to line and symbols that are not distracting, yet add interest

Name clearly distinguished from all contact details


Consult the Google Oracle for many more possibilities or check out the Resume Sample books at Chapters for ideas. Aim for a look that is attractive and clean. Your goal is to achieve a positive first impression, unique to you and fitting for your audience. If for example you are applying to finance positions, go conservative. On the other hand, for creative environments, add a little colour or consider a more graphic style.

Note regarding graphic-rich resumes: There is extensive advice on the Internet from bloggers to the effect “THIS IS WHAT YOUR RESUME SHOULD LOOK LIKE IN 2020”. Templates abound with headshots, 2-column layouts, fancy bar graphs, and snazzy graphics. I’m currently surveying decision-makers on the extent to which these new resumes have become the norm or end up in the C-pile. More on that later, for now, I’m sticking with traditional, time-honnored practices.

white space matters

Write resumes with white space to enhance the experience of calm, cool, collected and clean.

A 1-inch or 2.5 centimeter margin (top, bottom, right and left) is but one example of providing white space, though there are many more. Increasing the space between each section and decreasing the space between the heading of the section and the start of the text is another. Both facilitate speed reading and create a comfortable reading experience.

What happens when we have too much to say and are not sure what to cut? We cut the white space. Before you know it, your imperial margins move to .8, then .5, then .25, almost obliterating your white space. Headings and text run into each other, making it hard to see where one section ends and the next one begins. Your readers experience a feeling of panic, bloat and overwhelm. They escape by moving on to the next resume.

So if your resume is feeling busy and crowded and lacking white space as a result, first, decide what content you can remove. Second, go back to your strategy and remind yourself of what is relevant. Third, re-read your resume in search of duplication you can remove. Eliminate unnecessary words.

formatting matters

Someone can have substantial and highly related experience, yet present it in a way that makes it frustrating to read, or challenging to navigate to the critical pieces of information.

Too bad, because if this is you, chances are your resume will end up in the C-pile.

What are examples of formatting problems?

How about font styles that change on a whim. I know how it happened – you cut and pasted from three different versions of your resume. Reader thinks: It’s sloppy, ergo so are you. C-pile.

Then there is totally inconsistent placement of key elements – sometimes the title is first, the organization second, sometimes reversed. I know how it happened. You were in a hurry and didn’t care about the details. Reader thinks: This person is not detail oriented. C-pile.

How about burying your dates slap dab in the middle of a long string of text rather than right or left of the page. I get it. You didn’t think it mattered. And you didn’t realize that it makes it challenging for readers to assess your development. Reader thinks: I give up – can’t find what I need quickly enough. C-pile.

Sometimes, the font is so small, my bifocals are not good enough, I need my magnifying glass. And where did I last see my magnifying glass? Reader’s response is automatic: C-pile.

‘Nuf said. Formatting matters. Closely followed by the dreaded . . .

spelling matters

I once talked to an employer who didn’t want to meet one of my students because her resume and cover letter were FILLED with spelling errors.

“Can you be more specific? I asked her. She said: “There were AT LEAST THREE ERRORS!”

If you can’t spell, find some who won their high school spelling bee and ask them to review your documents! Use spell check judiciously as opposed to religiously. Spell check can still get it wrong, so think before you accept from the options!

grammar matters

Do you commonly write run-on sentences, split your infinitives, dangle your participles, and misplace your modifiers and/or have no idea what I’m talking about? Chances are you are grammar challenged.

Claim all you want in your skills section that you have strong written communication skills. Your resume is hard evidence and therefore more convincing than a claim. And in this day and age of email, writing skills are, in so many workplaces, de rigueur. That’s French for REQUIRED!

Your resume is a reflection of your writing skills. With more than three grammar and spelling errors, you’ve just made it to the C pile. Therefore, read your resume out loud from top to bottom to spot awkward wording and catch obvious grammar issues. And if you’re challenged, get some editorial support from a grammar guru.




Resume-writing resources are plentiful. Unfortunately, they are often conflicting and confusing. Here are a few of my favourites taken from a fuller list of writing links on my 30 resources to support the writing process blogpost:

in conclusion

In today’s gig economy, you frequently need to write resumes quickly. If you’ve been in the job market for a while, you’ve likely written and rewritten your resume hundreds of times. But are you getting a comparable number of interview invitations?

Improving your application to interview success ratio is as easy as 1-2-3.  This post offers tips to write resumes that stand-out: they are strategically focused, grounded in substance and formatted with style. The 4-page downloadable worksheet helps you focus your strategy and critique your final result.

If you have a story to share, a concern to raise or a question to ask, please comment or fill in my contact form.


The 6-Second Resume Scan

The 6-Second Resume Scan

I was in my early 20s, a newly minted Honours Bachelor of Arts graduate from Laval University in Quebec City. I didn’t have the first clue how to write a resume. So I paid an expert. I honestly don’t remember the process or how much I paid from my paltry salary. I remember so clearly the result.

My expensive resume was a fail!

With great excitement, I picked up 20 copies of my new “CV” on beautiful ivory paper. The next day, I marched into the regional office of Telebec, the Quebec City subsidiary of Bell Canada.

I entered the office of my boss, the Regional Director, armed with what I thought was ammunition for a promotion. Surely this very professional CV would make a difference. It would demonstrate once and for all that I was worthy of a more responsible position than Receptionist/Mail Room Clerk. After all, I had a university degree, something very few if any of my workmates could claim.

She smiled – no doubt at my naivety that I might move up the ladder of success after only a couple weeks on the job.

Her smile quickly morphed into a look of horror as she scanned page after page of my 7-page treatise.

“My dear, did you write this?” she inquired gently. “Or did you get help?” 

After learning I had paid someone hard cash so I could be taken more seriously, she said:

Go back to this man. Tell him in no uncertain terms that he needs to reduce your document to a 2-page resume or else you expect your money back. Get him to remove all the personal information – a resume should not include your Social Insurance Number, your marital status or your citizenship. And tell him you’re not going to pay him a penny more, or I will take this up personally with him.

I was 22 and traumatized.

Not only was my expensive CV a fail. But I had to brace myself for an awkward conversation. More importantly, I was still a mailroom clerk/receptionist, despite my university degree!

Fast forward a half decade later, when I began working in recruiting and learned how employers evaluate candidates for a job. Over my subsequent years in recruitment, I would callously “toss” the resumes out that didn’t meet my standards:

General statements that gave me zero insight to the strengths of the candidate – toss.

No evidence of relevant training grounds or roles – toss.

Sloppy formatting – toss.

Spelling or grammar errors – toss.

Functional format – toss.

The 6-second resume scan

Could I determine this in 6 seconds? Generally, yes.

That’s not to say I didn’t take another 10 seconds or so to scan for more detail or that I wasn’t respecting all the candidates I was tossing. More so, I needed to give my precious time to those who had carefully prepared an effective cover letter and resume. Their resumes helped me make a positive decision, quickly.

And today’s eye-scanning research on how recruiters screen resumes confirms I was not then, nor am I today alone in this speed-reading practice.

Watch the short video below that suggests 6 seconds is enough, why that is so and what employers look for first.


As a manager for many years, I’ve chaired countless hiring committees. With age I’ve slowed down in my scanning and with experience, have become a little less cavalier. Today, I get my best kicks from helping people who, like my former self, would be fantastic employees, but their resume just isn’t getting them the attention they deserve.

I recognize my former self daily in the hearts and minds of so many people exiting the educational system or navigating their early years in the job market. They may be uncertain about their future or unschooled in employer ways. Or both. Or they may face an uncertain job market after a few  years in stable employment.

In Conclusion

Writing a resume is a little like doing your tax return – a necessary evil once a year (or less often if you delay and default!). The rules of the game are so many and change so often – it’s hard to get it right. And the payoff can be better or worse, depending on how well you know the system.

If you find the process of writing a resume painful, visit 30 Resources to Support the Writing Process for Education & Work Transition and read specific resume tips in my post on substance and style matters in resumes to assess your own resume.

And if you are still looking for resume relief, fill in my contact form or book a half-hour free consult at the bottom of this page. I’m here to help. 

Pinterest: +1000 Curated Pins for Education & Work Matters

Pinterest: +1000 Curated Pins for Education & Work Matters

Pinterest is a great way to catalogue informative resources that support young adults in their education and work transitions. This post overviews my six Pinterest boards. It then shares the CRAAP test that I use to evaluate whether I want to include a given resource on my Pinterest site. You can use the CRAAP approach to create your own Pinterest boards and populate them with quality resources.

Follow my six education & work Pinterest boards

You’ll discover +1000 quality resources on my six Pinterest Boards that guide young adults efforts to:

  1. Navigate higher education program options and learn about timing, eligibility requirements and application hurdles
  2. Explore and apply to part-time, summer, and volunteer work options while in school, compete for that first big professional move after graduation and strategize early career moves once in the full-time job market
  3. Build skills in writing for a range of education and work documents from personal statements and cover letters to resumes, Curriculum Vitae (CV) and LinkedIn profiles
  4. Learn techniques to achieve competence in stressful situations such as the interview or networking meeting and public speaking situations such as the classroom or business presentation
  5. Cultivate resilience and relational skills for the many planning, decision-making and self-disclosure tasks that build your confidence in making competitive education and work applications
  6. Discover resources to fund education goals and enhance earning power in the short and long term

6 Education & Work Building Blocks

Navigate Education

More and more jobs today demand a university degree or college diploma as an entry credential. Technical and professional designations are also in high demand in many fields.

Once in the workplace, life-long learning is the new normal, taking us all back for refresher and interest courses and online skills certificates.

What are your learning goals? What options will help you meet them? How will you choose? Let’s tackle that challenge together.

Find/Create WorK

The world of work today is vast and complex. We may know what we want, but finding it can be tricky.

Let me help you beat a quicker path to relevant industry sectors and occupations, local and international job opportunities. Learn to navigate the world of work and get in front of the right contacts. Or maybe broaden your perspective to consider options you hadn’t thought of yet.  And if the perfect job isn’t out there for you, maybe we can work together to create your own work.

Present in Writing

Hand-writing may be losing ground in the 21st century, but writing – to comment, invite, promote or critique – is pretty much a daily task for many of us, especially in our knowledge-based internet-connected workplaces.

Learn skills to craft resumes, CVs, letters and business proposals that bond with your audiences. Earn the respect of your readers on paper or through social media – be they employers, education program administrators or clients.

Present in Person

Have you ever felt awkward to meet new people at a networking event?  Experienced sweaty palms and rapid heart rate in an interview?

These feelings are more common than you might think.

Learn to develop confidence, poise and presence in face-to-face situations from cocktail parties to interviews and business presentations.

Be noticed. Create opportunities. Get the offers so you’re in the luxurious position to choose your future.

Build Resilience

Resilience is all about rebounding from setbacks common in the pursuit of career and work goals. What setbacks you ask? The non responses we tolerate from job applications. The interviews that make us cringe. The promotion that goes to our seemingly less qualified colleague.

As you establish new career goals, pursue higher learning, search for meaningful work and make it through your work day, know that resilience is a resource you can build.

Earn Your Way

Studies show that after a certain point, money does not make you happy. But lack of money can be a tremendous source of unhappiness. This is especially true if you feel underpaid, undervalued and trapped in the cycle of under- and unemployment.

Or dependent on others to pay your way.

Or in a job you hate, only for the cash.

Discover ways to fund your education,  negotiate your worth, and land business deals with assurance.

Apply the CRAAP test to evaluate resources for quality

When I find a resource I think I’ll want to refer to clients, I use the CRAAP test to guide my decision about whether to save it. I encourage you to start your own boards using this instructive acronym, developed by a librarian in 2004. CRAAP stands for:

  • Currency – is it up to date or or out of date, with the times or behind the times?
  • Relevancy – is it pertinent to my audience – their age, stage, problems and solutions?
  • Authority – is it from a trustworthy source, does it speak to the topic from a place of solid experience or research?
  • Accuracy – is it factually accurate, backed by evidence and well written?
  • Purpose – is the goal of the resource to inform, teach, entertain or research (if so, I’m in) and NOT to sell or self serve (if so, I’m out)

So check out and follow my Pinterest boards. And start your own, putting the ones you save to the CRAAP test!

In Summary

Pinterest is a great way to gather in one place resources and tools to help with education and work transitions. Follow me, as I am continually adding new resources that I believe add value to my readers and clients. Use my pins, but start creating your own boards with high quality resources. And if you have resources you think I should share on my boards, please leave a comment!

30 resources to support the writing process for education and work transitions

30 resources to support the writing process for education and work transitions

Since the advent of the internet and explosion of email in the mid-90s, writing is not just a nicety, but a norm in all education and most work environments. Writing about yourself is typically the first hurdle you need to jump when applying to competitive higher education programs or a new job – be it with a personal essay, a cover letter and resume, or even a brief self-introduction email.

Whether searching for work, cultivating relationships for your business, managing relationships in the workplace, or creating a following through social media, you need to master important writing tasks.


This post encourages you to:

1. Make writing a game – have fun with it.

2. Practice writing in low-risk contexts for high-risk challenges.

3. Draw on internal and external resources to support your writing.

Read on to learn more.

1. Make writing a game – have fun with it.

Writing about yourself is not easy. Yet for important transitions such as applying for a competitive education program or plum job, it’s necessary.

Why is writing about yourself so tough?

Perhaps you are someone who knows so much about yourself, it’s hard to decide what to say, so you feel overwhelmed. On the other hand, maybe you don’t really know yourself well, so struggle to find something interesting to write about. Then there is the uncertainty of not knowing who our readers are or what they want. We can’t read their minds. So we hesitate and procrastinate on our writing goals. 

These challenges are normal, so don’t beat yourself up. Instead, turn your writing tasks into a game – one that has players, rules, sometimes time constraints, often both prizes (the offer) and penalties (the rejection).  While the game makes you sweat here and there, the more you play, the more you build writing strategies and skills and hopefully, enjoy the game of writing. 

The players in this game of writing for competitive work or education applications are you, your readers (who you want on your side) and your competitors (who you want to beat to the finish line.) Sometimes there are gatekeepers, those you must convince of your worthiness in order to be seen by the readers who have the ultimate power to decide your fate.

The rules of the writing game vary, depending on who is your reader and what is the prize. You must study your reader carefully to figure out what’s important to them before you begin to engage with them through writing.

As a skill-based game, writing is a tool that helps you learn about yourself. You have no idea what to say? Great! Write stuff down so that you can start to get a better idea. Keep writing and eventually you’ll find your voice.

During career transitions, you’ll be tested on what you know about who you are, what you value and what you yearn to do. When you take the time to learn about yourself through writing, you experience greater confidence in face-to-face situations, like a networking event or the interview. It’s also a lot more fun if you approach like a game!

Finally, making it a game helps you to put in context “you win some, you lose some.” It’s not personal when you don’t get the offer, but it sure is a terrific reward when you do.

Building skills to write about yourself eventually yields results that you want, such as admission to a top school or an offer to a job you covet. Remind yourself that if you approach it as a fun, creative exercise, it can be deliciously satisfying to get to the end of a well thought-out, well written piece that has your personal stamp on it.

2. Practice writing in low-risk contexts as preparation for writing in high-risk applications. 

There are two kinds of writing you need to make time for if you are embarking on an education or work transition:

  • Low-risk writing for your eyes, entertainment and education only
  • High-risk writing that appeals to your audience and builds a bridge to your future

Engaging in both types of writing will improve the quality of your writing.

Low Risk Writing – for your eyes, entertainment and education only

Low risk writing is the pre-work, the primer for your final audience-focused documents. Writing in a journal, for example, is a terrific low-risk way to learn about yourself. It can help you clarify your working identity, sort through options and mentally try on possible futures.

Brainstorming on a piece of paper or using an electronic app is another great low-risk way to write your way to better understanding. Just try to brainstorm in phrases or sentences rather than single words only!

If you want to expand the audience circle beyond yourself, another low-risk writing context is social media. To maintain anonymity, create a secret identity to practice your writing (and get feedback) in a relatively low-risk context.

Your journalling, brainstorming and social media musings can include wildly ambitious goals and totally random, unrelated and unfinished thoughts. Doodles. Art work. Flights of fancy. Or they can follow thoughtful writing drills and exercises that deepen your craft. You be the judge.

High Risk Writing – appealing to decision makers in a way that builds a bridge to your future

On the other hand, writing resumes, cover letters and business proposals fall into the category of higher risk, higher stakes writing, as you have an audience at the other end. And your audience typically is a decision maker who has power to accept you or reject you.

Unlike writing about yourself in a private journal, writing high stakes self-introduction documents serves to develop relationships between you and others. In these documents, you are the subject of your writing, but are only one half of the writing/reading equation. Your documents become the bridge between you and your reader.

Therefore, in addition to writing about yourself, your writing needs first to understand your reader. It then must meet those needs by being focused, relevant, and informative.

Oh, and pretty much error free.

Both low-risk writing and high-risk writing are important during your education and work transitions. Like yin and yang, they complement each other. Your audience-focused documents can become more interesting and real, if you’ve done the pre-work of journalling and other forms of self reflection in preparation.

3. Use internal and external resources to improve your writing process

Whether low-risk or high risk, writing is a creative task. Therefore it’s helpful to think of it as a process of continuous improvement. It’s a ride, with right turns and wrong turns. With lows and highs.

To make the writing ride enjoyable and get to the other end, you need both inner and outer resources. So to wrap up, I offer two categories of resources to support your writing process: internal resources and external resources.


Internal resources, like clear thinking and noble character


If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul.

Goethe was a German writer born in 1749. He translated the bible into German. So he knows a thing or two about writing. His words of wisdom remind us of two important inner resources for strong writing: clear thoughts and a noble spirit.

Each of these resources are worthy of an entire blog post – later! For now, keep these tips in mind:

  • For clear thoughts. When you sit down to write, remember the importance of getting clear. Meditate for five minutes. Then remind yourself of your reader. Visualize him, her or them. Before you begin serious writing, create an outline to organize your thoughts and key messages. As you write, you don’t need to follow the outline. Just be mindful of it as a useful tool to organize your thoughts.
  • For a noble spirit. If we define “noble” as “having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals,” there are many ways to apply this resource to the writing process. For example, aim for the personal quality of authenticity (= be real), the moral principle of honesty and the ideal of reciprocity in your relationship with your reader. Take your writing from all about “me” to more about “we.” 

External resources like chocolate and web resources!

There are many external resources we need to keep us moving forward on our writing ride.

Like our mobile phone to recall our voice memos and notepad musings from earlier in the week. A pad of paper to transfer from our brain through our arm and hand our fleeting thoughts. And pencils to visualize our ideas in living colour. What would we do without our computer to organize and draft our scathingly brilliant ideas? How about some motivational quotes and soothing music to keep us marching towards our goal?

Finally, of course, chocolate. Who doesn’t need chocolate to fuel the writing journey?

The Internet also offers wonderful resources to support our writing tasks. In the table below are some of my favorites organized by:

  • Education: tailor your resume or CV and personal statements for your education goals
  • Job search:  write cover letters, resumes and LinkedIn profiles to attract employer interest
  • Small business: learn how to craft standard documents to build your small business such as proposal, business plans and reports
  • Process, style & technique: access resources to improve your thinking, grammar, structure and accessibility

Curriculum Vitae (CVs)

Personal Statements & Letters of Admission





Business Plans

Business Reports


Style, Format, Grammar & Spelling

In Summary

Writing, like any creative undertaking, is a skill that requires ongoing practice to master for important education and work transitions. To improve your writing skills, turn your writing tasks into a game that makes it fun. Practice in low-risk and high-risk contexts. Play with writing for your eyes only to develop fluency and confidence. Get serious when writing high stakes applications so that you can produce quality materials worthy of a 2-thumbs up decision by your reader. Take advantage of the many resources out there to support your writing – both internal resources to fuel your motivation and focus, as well as external resources to tailor your writing to its intended audience need.

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