A new year brings with it so much promise. We look forward to getting in shape, reading more books, or perhaps carving out more time for family or hobbies to make our lives more fulfilling. Just about every one of us is looking to improve something.
For some of us, work is at the top of our resolution list. It might be completing a training program to move up in a current role, or earning a new degree so that we can make a bigger transition. Others of us may like what we do, but would be happy making a bit more money doing it. Perhaps we feel ready for more responsibility, but don’t think it will come in the job we have now.
A resume is often the first step of the job search process, so I’d like to take time at the start of the new year to go over what comes before you ever type a word. That is, the steps you should take to ensure that when you do sit down – whether with a professional writer or to do it yourself – you’re armed with the information needed to create a document you’ll be proud to send out.
First Things First
Before you know what to put down, you need to know what you’re looking for. When a client says to me that they really don’t know what they want to do next, I urge them to figure it out before we get started. Otherwise, it’s a bit like preparing ingredients with no finished dish in mind. If you’re lucky, you may come up with something – but is it something an employer wants? Every job category and level comes with specific qualifications and expectations. You must know what they are in order to show that you can meet them.
It’s possible to create a generic resume that has your experience and even some accomplishments. But how you communicate them can change drastically depending on your target job. Job ads that look interesting can help you to hone in on key skills and experiences that prospective employers will want to see most.
Gather Your Employment Data
Put together a list of the positions you want to show on the resume – the general rule is to cover the past 15 years or so (assuming you’ve worked that long). Pull together performance reviews, metrics, or other information that will help you create job descriptions and highlights. Keep an eye out for recurring themes, such as saving money or bringing in new business – if these strengths apply to you, you’ll want to emphasize them in your resume. (Great quotes from managers can sometimes be incorporated as well; they’re especially effective when they cover those same areas).
Make notes about extended gaps in your recent career so that if needed, you can explain the time away from work.
Pull out the “Extras”
If you’re a recent graduate, or schooling/training is key to your candidacy, have transcripts and course information at hand. When professional experience is limited, or you’re shifting to a new field, you may want to accentuate the education.
The same for volunteering – you don’t need to list every charitable organization that you’ve helped, but if you’re looking to work as a veterinary technician and volunteered with the ASPCA, that’s certainly a plus.
Once you’ve got everything in front of you, it becomes easier to start the process of building your resume, which, when complete, should present a clear, cohesive picture of you that will catch the attention of employers. Taking the time upfront to plan it out will help you to ensure that nothing is missing and that companies are seeing you for the smart, successful candidate that you are.
To getting the jobs of our dreams – Cheers!
The Resume Girl