DEPENDING on whose studies you believe, the average American white-collar worker will change jobs between five and eight times over the course of his career.
Each job change requires a job search, and that starts with the excruciating task of preparing a resume.
Resume writing can be an exercise in personal agony. In a single typewritten page or two, you're supposed to summarize your entire working life, make yourself look good and sell yourself to some guy who just got 30 other resumes in the mail today.
Not surprisingly, there are consulting firms that specialize in resume preparation, and virtually every office supply store or copying firm can put you in touch with someone to give a homemade resume a professional touch.
Or, you can try a program such as Resume Maker, from Individual Software. This well-executed, $49.95 program will help you organize your resume, print a professional-looking document, and aid you in organizing your job search.
The program requires an IBM-compatible computer with at least 512K of memory. While it's quite possible to run the program from a floppy disk, a hard disk will make it run smoother and faster.
Resume Maker has bells and whistles galore, but the heart of the program is a personal information database and document designer that lets you customize your resume in dozens of different ways.
The program also allows different users to create separate sets of resumes if your computer is shared.
With logical menus, on-line help and a special "tips" key, Resume Maker is a snap to use right out of the box. Ironically, this may be unfortunate, because users may be tempted to pass up the clearly written, illustrated manual. It contains some excellent advice on resume preparation and job searching in general, plus a helpful bibliography.
Once you've entered the basic information -- your name, address and phone number -- Resume Maker presents you with a choice of three different resume types, and up to eight different formats.
The chronological resume, the most common, lists your job experiences in chronological order. The functional resume, frequently used by first-time job seekers or those returning to the job market, highlights accomplishments and skills first.
The performance resume is a combination of the chronological and functional approach. The manual discusses the pros and cons of each type -- another good reason to read it.
Once you've chosen the type of resume, you can choose from a variety of formats designed for standard business contacts, students, professionals, managers, computer professionals and academics.
Then it's a matter of filling in on-screen "cards" containing paragraphs of information about your job experience, accomplishments, skills, hobbies, awards, professional associations and the like.
One thing you won't find is a form asking for your age, sex, marital status and health. It's against the law to ask for that kind of information, and the manual advises against providing it on your own. It can be used to screen you out of a job as well as into one.
When you've entered the information, it's time to print the resume. The program's printer control is superb, allowing you to select from a variety of page formats, indentation levels, fonts and type styles. There's even a page preview, which switches to a graphic screen to display your document exactly as it will appear in print.
Not surprisingly, Resume Maker did a thoroughly professional job with a Hewlett Packard LaserJet printer. But it also did a creditable job with my beat-up old IBM Proprinter. It took a while, since the program uses multiple passes of the print head to produce its variations of Times and Helvetica typefaces, but the results were an order of magnitude better than I expected.
There's more to Resume Maker than resumes. The program includes an elementary word processor that will produce cover letters, and a database that lets you maintain a list of target companies for your mailings. Using the program's mail-merge features, you can combine the two to generate as many "personalized" cover letters as you want.
Unfortunately, the word processor doesn't give you access to the program's collection of printer fonts. Unless you're sending a couple of hundred letters out, you're better off with a regular word processor.
All things considered, Resume Maker is an excellent, single-purpose program. It's easy to use, well documented, and with a little thought on your part, produces beautiful resumes. For information, contact Individual Software, 125 Shoreway Road, Suite 3000, San Carlos, Calif., 94070.