At some time or another, nearly everyone is going to need a resume—whether you’ve been in your job for years and years, have recently started a new position, or are out of work, having a strong resume is a must. As you consider the one you’ve got, ask yourself a few key questions:
Is it up to date?
Does the formatting feel fresh, or does it look eerily similar to the ones you remember from a decade ago?
Does it still reflect the path you’re pursuing, or is it a bit outdated?
Do you have the keywords needed to optimize it for the all-seeing applicant tracking system?
There’s a lot to think about, especially if you have never taken the time to pull together your work history on paper. But even if you ultimately decide that you need a professional, it’s important that you can provide them with the details needed to make the most of your experience.
So let’s take a look at what you need, where to find it, and what to do with it.
First things first – create a timeline
The most straightforward part of your resume is likely your employment history. So to start, list your jobs and their dates (no months needed for most, unless, perhaps, you work on a strict project basis with multiple clients or jobs per year). When you’ve got them all, take notice of short-term or random jobs that really don’t add much to your credentials. If they were long ago or short enough, leaving them out might be an option. Or, if they’d present a gap but there isn’t much to say, you might consider just mentioning them without detail.
Put together a paper-based “highlight reel”
Actors use the highlight reel to show off their best work—you’ll do the same, but instead of film roles, you’ll present accomplishments from each job. So for each position, try to think of 3-4 examples that show you at your best. If you have trouble, old reviews (make sure you keep those!) can help remind you of accomplishments that stood out. Awards are great, so are promotions—the things that will give a prospective employer an idea of what you might do for them.
For recent college grads, or folks with a new degree that represents a change in direction, get out your transcripts; list classes from your major, particularly advanced ones. If you wrote a paper that got attention, mention that—it can illustrate knowledge that you may not have gotten on the job yet, but will need for your target role. And don’t forget your internship! They can be a great way to show that you know the environment into which you’ll be heading.
Whether you’ve got 20 years of experience in the field or are just starting out, the opening summary sets the tone for the resume. Even if you have just earned your degree, stay away from stating your objective and determine your 3-5 best qualifications for the job. What makes you a strong fit? Consider adjectives that describe your approach and enthusiasm, and look over job postings so that you can be sure to incorporate the qualities employers want. Start putting together the keywords that are important to your industry and target job—creating a word cloud from job descriptions is one way to make sure you’ve got the best ones.
Once you’ve got your job outline, examples of accomplishments, education and skills, and keywords, you’re ready to start building. Or, if you’re hiring someone to write your resume, you’ve got the ingredients they’ll need to create one that is clear, strategic, and impactful. There are plenty of formats and styles to choose from, I suggest going online and checking out samples. See what others in your field are using, and find one that is both visually appealing and easy to follow.
Don’t forget to proofread! Few things turn of an employer faster than typos, errors, or missing information. Have someone else read your resume before you send it to any employers.
Wrapping up …
Chances are that wherever you decide to apply, you’ll be competing against some talented professionals. By taking the time to plan your resume, you’re likely to be one step ahead of them in capturing the attention of employers. It’s energy well spent, and the work you put in will be helpful when it’s interview time and you need to talk about yourself—that’s much easier with everything fresh in your mind. When it comes to your resume, a little preparation goes a long way!
To getting the job of your dreams – Cheers!
The Resume Girl