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About Jennifer Fonseca, Destiny Activator
Even after graduating from college, Jennifer Fonseca still didn't know what to do with her life, but she had a deep desire to figure out what she had been "put on this planet to do." So her mom gave her a book that changed everything.
After reading, What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles, Jennifer began test-driving careers--as instructed by the book. Not only did this activity lead her to a fulfilling career and finding her passion in life, but it also turned into a tool she uses to help others do the same.
In this interview, Jennifer shares how test-driving careers can help you weed out options that aren't right for you and open doors to opportunities you might not know exist, Once you do identify the type of job you'd like to have, you'll need a resume to help you get an interview and eventually the job.
And that's where most people flounder.
What is an Accomplishments-based Resume?
In Jennifer's words, "When you haven't worked on your resume in a hot minute or more like a year or two, there are so many things you’ve forgotten..." That selective amnesia forces people to reflect back on their careers in a haphazard way--thinking about tasks performed or former checklists of duties. Writing your resume that way will not help you identify who you really are.
Instead, Jennifer uses an approach she calls, "Who before Do," to help her clients think back on their proudest career moments in order to reveal the exceptional work they've done and experience they've gained. Doing so is not only a good career move, but is required of those who have the ability to build up the kingdom of God.
She says, 'If we don't show up with a resume that really details out the strengths that God uniquely created for us to have, then we leave it for someone else who has no problem bragging on themselves. And it's not bragging." Jennifer explains that we bring glory back to our creator when we showcase how we have stewarded well the gifts and the strengths he has given us.
And when we use those strengths for good, we can change culture.
In this interview, Jennifer talks extensively about how to create an accomplishments-based resume by using the four following "miracle questions:"
- How do I do it better or differently than anyone else?
- When did I thrive or flourish or feel most alive in each of my roles?
- What are the things that you did where you lost track of time?
- What are you most proud of?
Listen to this interview to learn more.
Back in the day, you could have one resume and send it to 50 different places. That is not the case anymore.
- Jennifer Fonseca -
Fulfilling Her Destiny Outside of the Office
When Jennifer is not serving alongside her husband on mission trips delivering supplies to people in need, praying over survivors of natural disasters, and helping people achieve their destiny, you can find her hanging with her "gal pal / fur kid" Basha (a rescue dog) or drinking coffee.
Have a listen to this episode if you want to rethink how to write your resume to get the jobs that will help you fulfill that destiny as well.
What You'll Learn in this Episode
- The value of test-driving careers
- Four miracle questions to help you remember your accomplishments
- Why you have a mandate to figure out what your destiny is
- And how to go about activating that destiny once you know what it is
- Most Importantly: How Jennifer has seen the Lord’s hand in her career
Download the Transcript
Is Your Resume Stopping You From Achieving Divinely Appointed Goals?
Guest: Jennifer Fonseca
Shelley Hunter: You're listening to the Faithful Career Moves podcast. I'm your host Shelley Hunter and this is a place where we talk to people who recognize the Lord's hand in their lives and specifically in their careers.
Thank you for joining me on Episode 8 of the Faithful Career Moves podcast. Today, we're talking to Jennifer Fonseca. She currently serves as the Destiny Activator & Assistant Director of Career Development at Palm Beach Atlantic University, while also managing her private coaching practice where she helps individuals find meaningful and engaged careers.
She specifically uses a process that I really love where she helps people figure out the “Who Before Do.” You're going to love it too.
Now, if you're noticing a pattern here, in the last few episodes, we talked about personal branding, finding your calling in life, how to really utilize LinkedIn for job search. Now, we're talking more specifically about accomplishment-based resumes. I'm a big believer in this and Jennifer is as well.
I hope you see this completes the package. Everything you need to make a faithful career move. I asked Jennifer to start off by telling us about how she got started in her career.
Jennifer Fonseca: When I graduated with my bachelor's degree, I had a journalism and public relations degree, and the first six months, I spent working as a coffee barista. One day, a classmate of mine, and I went to middle-sized state school, but a classmate of mine who is in my public relations program came out and I served her coffee. I thought, "This is not a career. I need to find a career."
I was a little embarrassed and my mom had me read the book What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles which is an amazing book.
It has gone through many different editions. A new one has just come out. He passed away, but a more updated version have come out which was edited by the career director at Vanderbilt University. It was really instrumental in helping me really figure out what I wanted in a career and where I wanted to be. I really was experimenting, I guess, with my faith a little bit through college. I'm really trying to figure out how to make it my own. I grew up in the church, but it really wasn't personal to me. I did it as a matter of discipline and force from my parents.
As a result going through What Color Is Your Parachute? I'm really coming into a personal faith with Jesus. I realized I really needed to figure out what I was put on the planet to do.
One of the things that it suggested to do is to do what I call a career test drive which is really just doing informational interviewing. I went and I found people in occupations that sounded like something I would enjoy and then they told me, "Oh, based on all the things you were saying to me, you should meet this other person."
I actually contacted an admissions counselor at another state school to ask, "What do you do and what's a typical day look like?" Everything she said sounded like fun. Through meeting different people at university, I thought, "I really would like to work on a college campus. That sounds like fun." They actually had a graduate assistantship open which meant if I got it, they would pay for me to get a master's degree because I thought if I have to get another degree and pay for that, I'm out. That's not for me, but they said they'd pay for it.
They did and I really found my groove in higher education. I graduated with my master's. I found a job at a Christian university. I started off in residence life. The more I progressed, the further away from student contact I got which I didn't like. I transitioned into a different role. All along the way, I found I really loved working with college students, I love helping people figure out their lives and their career path, and their majors, and pivoting with purpose. Along the way, I ended up starting writing resumes for people.
Shelley: Why do you think it is so hard for people to keep a current resume, to work on their resume, to begin with, and then keep it current?
Jennifer: I think part of it is people do not enjoy the process of writing a resume. Back in the day, you could have one resume and send it to 50 different places and that is not the case anymore. For individuals where writing is not intuitive or working on writing more accomplishment statements is not intuitive. It is really, really hard. I would say, especially for people of faith, we are taught character traits like humility.
On a resume, people have a really hard time trying to write accomplishment statements that really showcase the excellent work that they do because they feel like, "I'm bragging and this is wrong. This goes against everything I've been taught. I'm supposed to be humble. I'm not supposed to share these things."
But the issue is that if individuals don't write accomplishment-based content on a resume, someone else will and that other person is going to get the interview and ultimately, the job, which means the people who control media or the people who are in arts and entertainment, and the movies that are coming out that don't have our shared family values or people who work in government—the people who are getting into the marketplace, the businesses are the ones who will have influence over our culture and we can see what's happening.
We can see how family values has totally gone down and the breakdown in marriages. We can see how taking prayer out of schools has changed what's actually being taught in public school and why parents are taking their kids out and homeschooling instead and part of that, not in full, but part of it is because we don't write accomplishment-based resumes and showcase the work that we do as excellent so we aren't getting the opportunity and it's our own fault.
So unless we are helping individuals to include who they are, not the religious language, but who God uniquely created them to be and to really write a resume that helps them to showcase the excellence with which they do their work, they're not going to get into that place of influence for the kingdom of God.
The approach that I take with the resume is really different than I think other people take.
Shelley: I agree with you. The way I write a resume is similar. We're going to get into that, but I have to pause here for a minute because what you said is really profound that the people who know how to showcase their strengths, who know how to write for their accomplishments are the people who are going to get the jobs. The people who get jobs drive our culture and that's a super shortcut version of it. There are people that are going to be in the position of power at the movie studios, in politics.
I'm trying to think of all the ways this is, but the people who get jobs are the people who are able to sell themselves effectively and that is significant. If I can step back, we are under obligation to learn how to market ourselves to become in a position of influence and then do good with it. That's a big one.
Jennifer: It's like not showing up to the voting poll and then being upset when someone else gets voted into office. If we don't show up with the resume that really detailed about our strength that God uniquely created us to be and we can talk about how to do that, then you leave it for someone else who has no problem bragging on themselves. It's not bragging. To me, the way that I get around that, to approach it with more of our humble mindset is that we bring glory back to our creator when we showcase how we have stewarded well the gifts and the strengths he has given us.
Shelley: To let your light so shine and the parable of the talents.
Jennifer: Yes, exactly. We are accountable.
Shelley: Let's talk about that resume. Give me some highlights of how you would go about making an accomplishment-based resume.
Jennifer: One of the first things that I tend to do with private clients I'm working with or when I'm doing a big resume workshop is I ask them to close their eyes and picture their ideal or dream job, and then I have them share with me what they envisioned. That's the starting point for writing this resume because more often than not, what I find that people do is they start their resume by looking in the rearview mirror back at what they've done. When they haven't taken time to update their resume as they go along, you forget what you done, you forget some of your accomplishments and so you start writing the task list, the job description.
The problem with that is those are job descriptions and job description is a piece of paper, but it's not who you are. By looking into who you are, looking up to your creator, and how he uniquely designed you, that's the starting point because it's a way of doing it more purposely. I'm sure, Shelley, you and I, both done this job and your listeners have done jobs, and they were not a fit for who they were. They had tasks that they had to do that were not their natural strengths or maybe they were what we call livability which is, "I'm good at doing, I don't like to do it."
We don't want to attract that to ourselves, we want to attract to ourselves the things that were good at doing and they bring us joy in doing them. There is a quote I would love to share. There's a TEDx Talk and the woman says, "Job satisfaction doesn't come from what you do, it comes from who you get to be when you're doing it." That I think is really helpful to figure out who am I, build that into the resume so that you can find that opportunity that is an intersection of your God-given gifts, strengths, talents, and what an organization needs.
Shelley: Sometimes you do have a job that it is what you're good at and you actually enjoy the job, but you don't enjoy the environment. The culture is not right for you. I think that envisioning piece that you mentioned at the beginning is really important.
Jennifer: It's that whole concept of who before do. That who you are comes before what you do because, in Ephesians 2:10, it says, "For you are God's workmanship. You are created in Christ Jesus to do the work, which he has prepared in advance for you to do." The problem is that something happens between the time we're two feet high and people ask you, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The time where we're old enough to shake hands at a networking event and then after asking your name, somebody says, "What do you do?" That’s about a job title, not who you are.
When I read Ephesians 2:10, what I see clearly is I'm in Christ Jesus, I'm a unique masterpiece that he created. Who I am comes before, precedes what I do. If I look at who I am first, it will help to define what and where should I be doing it. Oddly enough, I had someone come to me yesterday and she graduated with a biology degree. She's been floundering around for the last couple of years trying to figuring out what to do with it. She thought she wanted to work with animals so she got a job as an animal educator at Disney.
You think that’s a dream job for somebody. It's a dream job for her as a zoology major. She hated it. She quit. She had a little part-time job with a friend at a bridal shop doing bookkeeping. She said, "I love it." She finally realized I need to get a degree in accounting. She took her first class in accounting and she said, "I was surprised how much I loved it."
Shelley: I love that who before do. When we talked on the phone prior to this interview, you mentioned that sometimes you sit down to help people with their resume only to discover they don't really need a resume.
Jennifer: I can give you two examples. The first time, it was a guy named Tyler. He had come to me and Tyler was a physical education major, but he had this knack, this talent for balancing things on his face. He took my eyeglasses and he balanced them on his nose. He showed me pictures of him performing in a high school gymnasium where he would take a 12-foot ladder and balance it on his chin. He could take a wheelbarrow. Literally, he can take anything and he can balance it on his face. He wanted to join the Blue Man Group.
According to their website, he needed a performance-based resume. He had no idea what a performance resume was. Typical theater type resumes will have a picture. They will have personal information like your eye color, your height, your weight, and especially for a performance type group like Blue Man Group, in order to fit within their performing troop, they are going to look at things like what's your height, "Do you match the rest of our team?" Those are important things. On a regular resume, absolutely not, never put that personal things on.
We were working on his resume and in order to write these accomplishment-based bullets, I asked a lot of questions. Like, can you unpack for me? What does it look like when you do a balancing show? He's telling me how much time he spends going to Home Depot and finding new things to balance on his face. He's telling me how he'll drive 100 miles and then perform. In order to quantify more in his resume, I was also saying, "How much do you make?" He said $250. The way he said it, he thought he was making a million.
Shelley: That was good. "I make $250 for balancing things on my face."
Jennifer: I said, "That's it?" He looked at me a little flat and I said, "I would just challenge you. Find some people who perform at half time shows for colleges or universities. Like these D II schools, these D I schools. Find out how much they make. Find out what they're doing." He's like, "It's only a six-minute act." I said, "It's not a six-minute act, Tyler. You told me you go to Home Depot, let say, for two hours, one hour. We'll say one hour. First, you're loading your car with all these stuff, and then you're unloading your car. Then you're performing for your six minutes. Then you're loading your car back up. Then you're driving back."
They're paying you for that entire thing just like a doctor gets paid for doing all those years of medical school and those years of going into residency. They're paying you for that total amount that you're preparing. He left the office. He did his recon and he called the top-performing act at colleges and university, top-performing half-time act. He charges $2,000 or $3,000. This was an informational interview so this is career test-driving like we talked about earlier. What Tyler figured out is this guide gave him information how he started his business, how he charge clients, who he contacted at the school.
He gave him everything because he didn't see him as a competitor or a threat. Rising tide, raises all ships. Tyler runs up to me on campus, "You'll never believe this." In another week, he's talked to somebody else. "You'll never believe this." He now makes a six-figure salary. This is pre-COVID. He never ended up sending a resume to the Blue Man Group.
Shelley: That's so great.
Jennifer: I had another individual who came to me for resume help and he had just finished up his master's of leadership program, but he had his own business. He was a junk removal guy and I said, "Why is it that you want to work on a resume? What are you thinking to do with this? Because I know you have your own business." He said, "A couple of other people in the program are going on to get their PhD. I thought I should do that too and I need a resume for that." I said, "What are you going to do with a PhD? Where do you want to go with that?"
He said, "I don't know. They're just doing it." I stopped and I said, "Have you thought and asked God about what his purpose is for you, and what do you want to do?" He's like, "No." He really hadn’t done that. I said, "I just want you to ask God. God, what do you want me to do next?" Don't manufacture anything, just ask God. Give it a little bit and then report back to me what you see, sense, hear, feel, whatever. Let God communicate with you. He asked God silently and then he opens his eyes, he said, "I saw a business license."
I said, "Okay, well, what do you think that means?" He's like, "I think I suppose to go get my business license." I said, "You have a business, but you haven't got one yet?" He's like, "No, but I think that's what I'm supposed to do." I said, "Okay, then. Then I am going to give you this document right back because it would violate what God's telling you to do. God's not telling you to pursue the dreams that he's put in other's people's hearts. He's telling you to pursue to dream he put in your heart. If it's to build this business, then you need to figure that out."
Shelley: You're actually working yourself out of a job sometimes. How do you help people come up with accomplishments when you are going to go forward with the resume?
Jennifer: The first thing you're going to do is you're going to look up. You are going to partner with God in the process. Ask God to remind you of your strengths of things that you did with excellence, of the things that you're most proud of. When you haven't worked on your resume in a hot minute or more like a year or two, there's so many things he's gotten, but God has not forgotten and God has a Book of Life with your name written in it. God knows all these things and why wouldn't he remind you? He would remind you so that you get it on your resume so that you can go and change culture.
That's the whole thing of why we're activating destiny and people like me want them to get into those places. You look to God first and partner with him in writing this document that may not be fun for someone to work on, and then look in.
I have four miracle questions that I can share that I think help people to write better bullets. The first one's an easy one. It's how do I do it better or differently than anyone else? If you and I Shelley had the same job resume writing or career coaching, your way of approaching it might be slightly different than my way.
God made us uniquely different to be able to do that. If we write the same bullet, write resumes, then people are saying we can do it the same way and that's not true. How do I do it better differently than anyone else?
The second is to ask yourself, "When did I thrive or flourish in each of my roles?" You could ask yourself, "When did I feel the most alive in each of these roles?”
Sometimes the things that cause you to feel most alive or to thrive were actually not part of your job description. It might be helping your coworker who had just gone through a miscarriage and counseling her through it, not part of your job, but it's part of who you are. There's a way to write some of these things without giving away any personal detail or whatever.
The third question, third miracle question is what are the things that you did where you lost track of time? You got into that state of flow because those again are those activities where you're naturally skilled at, those are your strengths. You enjoy them, they're your motivated skills.
Then my most favorite question is asking people, "Tell me what you're most proud of." On each role you’ve had, tell me, "What are you most proud of that you accomplished?"
Because more often than not, it's not a job description. It's nowhere on your job description, and almost every time I look at their resume, I say, "Show me where that's at on your resume." They're like, "It's not there."
Shelley: It's not there.
Jennifer: I met with a client who is considering doing a career pivot, and so we were talking through. This is not uncommon and my guess is Shelley, it's the same with you. When we're working with clients and we ask questions like this to help elicit better content on their resume, they walk away. Melanie said, "Wow, that was like a therapy session." This was so good.
Shelley: I get that all the time. You're right. What I've always noticed is that when people come into that setting, they're generally feeling pretty vulnerable, pretty dejected, pretty-- "I've sent hundreds of resumes out. Nobody will hire me." Then you go through this process of pulling out of them. I don't use those same four questions, but that first one I've used many times. "Why are you better in different than the other person doing it?" When they leave, they feel empowered and confident. "Maybe I can do this." This is so good.
Jennifer: Even for like the stay-at-home moms if we can talk to them for a minute, I would just say, "You're not on sale. Don't put your skillset on a clearance rack and undervalue the work and the multiple roles that you've had." Because there's a way to write a resume for individuals like that, or individuals who have stepped out of the career workforce for a little while. "Don't put yourself on the clearance rack, you aren't on sale."
Shelley: So good. That's a good way of saying that. I can talk to you forever. Jennifer, on your website, you do have a job title, but what is your purpose title and what does that mean?
Jennifer: That is an excellent question. My job title, my daytime job is Assistant Director of Career Development at a private university but my purpose title is Destiny Activator. Because when I got that revelation of “who before do,” who we are comes before what we do, I realized I was putting a lot of value and worth in a job title and not who God created me to be. It was a little serendipitous, but in my day job, there's no room for me to grow or progress. Like unless my director left, there's no way for me to professionally grow within my role, so I knew the only way to do it was I had to move out.
I had a conversation with my Dean and said, "I'm going to start a side hustle and it's going to be doing career coaching." What I realized in working with all these students is that God uniquely designed me to be able to breathe life into people's dreams to activate their destiny because I deeply believe that everyone, whether children are born with some mental or physical challenge, everyone has a destiny that their book has a destiny that God has already written about, and it would be the plan of the enemy to wreck our destiny.
When I was finding no value in my job title, I thought, "Wait a minute, who I am all the time is a destiny activator." Literally, if I get in an Uber, I want to know their career story, I want to know what their dreams are. Every time I go to the grocery store, which is where I met my husband, no lie, God has a sense of humor. I asked the cashier like, "What's your dream?" Even if it's to be a cashier, there's purpose in being the person that greets you when you buy your groceries. I realized I love activating people's destiny.
I want to help them be whoever God has purposed for them to be, and it created its own brand. Then I realized that in Isaiah 55:11, it talks about how God's word goes out and it accomplishes the purpose for which he sets it out for. I thought, "I want to help people to identify in them, the word that God has over their life so that they're walking in alignment with their destiny."
The thing that I would encourage people to get a purpose title is because whether they are working at Walmart or whether they have a CEO job, who you are all the time is not your job title.
Who are you when you lose your job or you're laid off?
If you have a purpose title, that's something that you can lean into.
I saw it really powerfully happen when I was giving a workshop presentation at a conference that I had gone to. There was a woman who-- she was an academic PhD, but she had stayed home because she had a child and she wanted to stay at home for the first formative years of her child's life. All of a sudden, she didn't know who she was anymore.
She shared with me that when we came up with her purpose title in that workshop, it was so empowering because it applied even as she was raising her child, or if she was the professor and researcher in an academic setting. It was who God made her to be. It was so cool to watch this woman really light up and how it really shifted her paradigm because she's like, "I have a PhD and I'm staying home and changing diapers." Once she got her purpose title, wow, did she find some meaning.
Jennifer: It was unbelievable.
Shelley: It's easy for me to see that the Lord has had a hand in your career, but how have you seen the hand of God in your career?
Jennifer: Probably two specific ways. I like to quote a pastor that I've read in California, who said, "Between God's promise on your life and the palace is the process." We would love for that process to be nice, neat, and linear. [laughs] I guess that your process, Shelley, has not been nice, neat, and linear.
Jennifer: Mine, certainly has not, but I can look back and say, "Wow, I understand why my mom had me read that book. What Color Is Your Parachute?" That's what career coaching career development book. It took me 15 years to start working in a career development office and go, "Wait, I really love career coaching. I really love helping people with their resumes. I really like helping people figure out their career paths," so that's one. Another way that I really saw God's hand in my life, and so I hope that this is pertinent for one of your listeners. I don't know who you are.
There was a point where I was really struggling even in my career coaching job. I was ready to jump ship. I actually had interviewed with two different schools. One of them was with a school up in New York City and their whole ethos and philosophy was so aligned with “who before do.” It was so aligned with really exploring who a student is. I was so excited. I'd been looking at this school for a long time and a position had opened up. I applied for it, had a great phone interview. They wanted to fly me up there.
My husband was on board and ready to move, but I called up a mentor of mine and I asked him, "How do you know it's time to leave and go to the next position?" He thought about it and he said, "You know I've always felt called." I remember sitting out by my pool and thinking, "Am I being called to this position at this school that I know that I'd be a great fit for and it would fit me, or am I running away?" The Lord reminded me of the story of Sarah and Hagar.
Hagar left a mistress who was cruel to her, and she ran away. God met her and said, "I see you, but I want you to go back." I felt like that's what God was saying. It was really hard, but I knew that I was running away. I wasn't being called. Of course, I had to put a little fleece out, "God, are you sure?" I decided, "You know what, I'm going to utilize my own tool that I have developed." When I did this little fleece and did my own little exercise that I give to my clients, I realized the best option really is for me to stay. Maybe God was right.
Shelley: Jennifer, thank you for coming on the show today. I feel like I've learned so much from you. If people do want to get a hold of you though, how would they reach out to you?
Jennifer: Absolutely. They can go to my website, which is simply my name, jenniferfonseca.com.
Shelley: After every interview, there's always an aha! moment for me. Well, I have always been a believer in the accomplishments-based resume. I link to my example in the show notes. My thoughts on that have been that you simply need a way to stand out from all of the other people applying for the same job. As the application process is turned into a computer-based system, many pretty much apply for everything online.
Using accomplishments is a way to increase the SEO value of your resume and describe more fully what you do beyond what is expected and I have noticed it dramatically increases your confidence level as you apply for jobs with the fresh recollection of what you've done. It never occurred to me that it's essential in order to take on a position of influence in our culture. Certainly, I have seen time and again where people understate significant things they do, but Jennifer's insight that humility in this area could be affecting divinely appointed goals has given me something to think about. For all of you stay-at-home moms who are considering reentering the workforce, don't put yourself on the clearance rack.
That's so good. I love that. If you need help with your resume, please visit Jennifer on her website, jenniferfonseca.com. If you want my sample resume, you can get it for free when you sign up for a newsletter. If you need help covering the gap on your resume, please check out my guide returning to the workforce, a guide for stay-at-home moms.
Once again, thank you for listening to the Faithful Career Moves podcast. It's my hope that listening to this episode will inspire you think more broadly about how your career and your spiritual journey intersect.
If you like that idea and want others to have a similar epiphany, then please share this podcast on social media, leave a review on Apple podcast or wherever you listen to podcast, or leave a comment on the website. Doing so will help others find this content as well.