A Resume for All Seasons, Part 3: Autumn

Just as fall is a time for bold colors and harvests, careers in this stage are often at their most vibrant point.
Just as fall is a time for bold colors and harvests, careers in this stage are often at their most vibrant. It’s time to reap the rewards of your hard work!

Having looked at the requirements of a resume for new jobseekers In the first post of this series, as well as the changes needed to make the leap into more demanding, higher-level positions in the second, we turn our attention to the next chapter. For many, it is the culmination of years of hard work, when the fruit has ripened and the fields that have been lovingly planted are ready for harvesting. We’ve proven our worth and earned our place at the table; with some good fortune we’ve climbed the ladder of our chosen filed, gained experience and along with it, a certain wisdom that only comes from time itself.

But though we may now have a solid reputation and a network of people to vouch for us, our resume is still vital as a calling card and documentation of success. In fact, creating a strong, dynamic resume is often a catalyst – professionals, perhaps comfortable after years of solid work, are reminded of just how much they achieved and how much value they have to offer. Putting it all together is not always easy – how to encapsulate many years into a concise yet complete resume without losing anything vital? What needs to stay? What can probably go? How do we communicate our background without overwhelming the reader?

A senior-level or “executive” resume often doesn’t look all that different on the surface. Formatting and style guidelines are pretty much the same. Depending on industry and exact role, they may be a bit more conservative; but they should still contain elements, whether in color or other graphics, to ensure they stand out. More than ever before they should be polished and reflect the professional “stature” of the candidate.

Let’s take a look at some key areas and how they will play out on “paper”:

Starting Off Strong

A title at this stage is an immediate declaration. If you are saying, “I am a CEO. CFO”, or other top position, the information that follows must live up to it. These are not jobs for shrinking violets and come with specific expectations. And even if you’re not looking to join the executive suite, chances are you’re still seeking an opportunity that is open to the more experienced and tested among us.

Your summary may be a bit longer than most–it needs to focus on the areas that distinguish you as a leader. Often this means strategy over tactics. You are no longer the one implementing plans, you are setting the larger direction for an organization. Make sure that the opening details sell those capabilities. If you’ve orchestrated a financial turnaround, say so. Same with “big-ticket” details like mergers and acquisitions, or overseeing creation of a whole new business.

Some at this level do away with specific sections for keywords, but as long as there is available real estate, clueing hirers and recruiters to particular areas of expertise (like the above-mentioned M&A)  can help distinguish you from the rest.

But What do You DO All Day?

One of the issues I’ve run into with senior-level clients is that they think people “just know” what they do and there’s little description needed. But rather than assume that, I encourage them to really think about their days and how they are moving an organization forward. Strategy is often big here. Explaining the process–who you’re working with and how decisions are being made–helps to illustrate your pivotal role and authority.

Likewise, bullet points will tend to lean toward the “big picture” side. Overall sales or company growth, large-scale transitions, and standing among competition can almost always be linked back to those high-level decisions, and you can take credit for that. Same with overcoming major challenges or roadblocks. While experiences like the financial crisis are not fun, they can be a tremendous opportunity for an executive to show fortitude and the ability to overcoming even the harshest environments. So tell those war stories and don’t leave out the positive ending!

Length often becomes an issue for Autumn professionals. There is a lot of ground to cover and there may be aa tendency to try and get it ALL on the page, which in most cases is an urge to resist. Folks are still most interested in what you’ve done over the last 15-20 years or so, and if you go beyond that, you risk losing their interest. One advantage executives have is that no one is concerned about your starter jobs or needs to see a lot about your mid-level career. So give full attention to the top management roles and scale back on the early information. Feel free to eliminate un-related older work completely, if it doesn’t speak to your value proposition now.

Education Still Matters

Though your degrees no longer define you, don’t lose them altogether.  List them in “backwards” time order (without dates), and include any certifications or licenses that are key in your industry.

Where Do You Belong?

Although memberships and volunteer roles can feel superfluous, professionals at this level may have significant positions with groups that are worth singling out. Playing a key role in a prominent nonprofit or taking on philanthropic endeavors is a great way to show additional leadership as well as a commitment to society and the larger world. Similarly, serving a a trustee or board member shows that your thoughts and ideas are relied upon and valued.

Many top positions don’t get filled through ordinary channels. People are often recommended or scouted, and there may be a trail of experiences and accomplishments to follow. At some point, however, you’ll likely sit face-to-face with someone to discuss your background. No matter how times change, having a sharp resume that puts all that information in one place will always be an asset.

To getting the jobs 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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