Getting Resume-Ready for a New Year

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Happy 2015! We’re a week in now, and many folks are back to work after an extended holiday break. The question is, when you got back to your desk, were you excited to get started or did you think, “Am I really still here?”

Or maybe, you’ve been out of work and feel like employers are not seeing your great experience and potential. What’s missing? Why aren’t they calling?

Whether your resume needs to be updated with your latest job or completely overhauled to reflect a new focus, the start of a new year is a great time to reassess how you’re presenting yourself. The job market is still pretty tough out there and in order to compete, you’ve got to stand out from the crowd. So, let’s go over a few basic areas that need to be addressed:

Is it up to date?

For many people, years of steady work means that their resume is lagging. Did you last make changes when you were job hunting 6 years ago? If someone asked you tomorrow to submit your resume for your dream job, would you confidently hand it over or go into a panic?

If you’re thinking, “I’d panic!”, don’t—instead, take an hour to look at what’s missing. If your last two jobs haven’t been added, write them in, along with details of your activities and accomplishments. Double-check all of the dates, and consider removing older positions if they are no longer relevant.

For those without a resume at all, now is the time to build it. A longer process, for sure, but well worth your time—along with, potentially, investment in a professional—to help you put it all together. And even if you’ve been unemployed for a while (especially then, actually), detailing what you’ve been up to can help get you over the hump with employers who are reluctant to hire the unemployed. Volunteer and part-time or temporary jobs, along with educational pursuits, will let them know you’re still engaged.

Does it reflect your current goals?

Perhaps you’ve been contemplating a career shift, but your resume is still stuck firmly in your current profession. Assuming you’ve taken the necessary steps to make the transition, it’s important that your resume shows them and makes the link between the old and the new. Highlighting transferrable skills and experiences is critical, as is an opening summary that clearly shows your new focus in a way that ensures you are as competitive as possible.

 Is it contemporary in style and content?

Although I cringe a little when I hear clients talk about “buzzwords” and “the wow factor”, I understand their point. It’s a fact that many resumes go through Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), and you want to be sure that yours meets certain requirements (for specific details on this, check out theladders.com/career-advice/resume-technology). You also need to stand out. So do include industry terms—just don’t stuff them in, and try not to overuse any one word or phrase. Choose an easy-to-read font at a reasonable size, make sure there’s plenty of white space, and double-check your formatting for consistency throughout. Feel free to get creative, but don’t overwhelm the page with graphics unless you’re going for a position in design.

Bill Gates’ 1996 declaration that “content is king” certainly holds true for the resume, which has limited space to tell an important story. Employers want to know two main things: what have you done and how well have you done it? To that end, keep your job descriptions clear and crisp—cover the bases but don’t feel the need to list every activity. Then, spend time crafting achievement statements that highlight your contributions and illustrate your results. Try to keep job descriptions to 4 or so lines, and achievement bullets to 2 or 3 lines. Keep your target in mind and skip details that are no longer relevant.

Does it need tweaking?

As I tell all of my clients, your resume will never be perfectly aligned with every job that interests you. That’s why it’s so important that every time you send it out, you look for opportunities to add information that will improve your chances of getting noticed. If a particular job ad calls for expert use of Excel, make sure to note that you are, in fact, an expert. If they need someone who is skilled in business development, that should be front and center on your resume. The point is, every company and every position—even if they have the same title—will have unique requirements. It’s your job to explain just how you’ll meet each one. Sure, that means a little extra time from you, but the effort may make the difference in getting a positive response.

New opportunities can pop up unexpectedly, whether you’re currently working or not. Make sure you’re ready for the next one by having a current resume that’s filled with the experiences and accomplishments that will help you stand out.

To having the career of our dreams – cheers!

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas A. Edison

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