A Resume for All Seasons: Part 2 – Summer

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Updating your resume to reflect more experience and greater responsibility is the first step to taking your career to soaring heights!

Welcome to the second of four posts on how to take your resume through the various stages of your career. Earlier this week, we took a look at Spring, the season for new grads just starting out (you can access the post here). Today, my focus is on what you need to think about once you’ve left the starting gate and are on your way down the racetrack. It’s a time for many folks to start getting serious about where they’re headed and think about how they want to position themselves, whether to get more responsibility or to raise their salary. Competition for these jobs can be fierce and just as you must be ready to take your skills to a new level, your resume’s got to be prepared to show employers that you have what it takes to make the leap.

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Who doesn’t love summer? Everything is in full bloom, the air is warm, and energy is running high. Summer is a time for adventure, for exploring what’s out there.

When it comes to careers, I think of summer as a time of ripening. Just as fruits on a tree gain substance and flavor, professionals with work experience under their belt gain a sense of confidence from having completed big projects or handling tough challenges. This is the time when many careers are in full motion, when moving up the ladder becomes a more regular occurrence. It’s also a good time to reassess your resume and whether it’s still telling your story in the best way possible. So let’s come back and see where changes are needed.

In the Beginning

We start, as always, with that all-important top section. Your focus is likely clearer now, so start off with a title that both suits what you’ve done to date and where you want to go. Even if you haven’t held the exact job, as long as it within a few rungs on the career ladder, you’ll be fine. (For tips on making the transition to management, check out this article from The Guardian.)

The summary is key at this stage. You’ve been building your skills and credibility, it’s time to show off the results. Think about the three or four areas that are key to your target position and focus your summary there. Are budgets a big part of the job? Make you sure you say that you’ve managed them. Same with leading teams, developing plans – whatever is expected at the next level, show that you’ve got it.

Your “Areas of Expertise” section may need shaking up, too. The keywords should get more precise and area-specific. It’s important to know the buzzwords of your industry so that you can include those — they will be important to getting you past those Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that often scan your resume before any human eye does.

You may have done this already, but make sure your Education is moved back towards the end of the resume. While it was a big selling point right out of school, by now you’ve got experience, and that is what hirers want to see.

What Have You Been Up To?

Now that you’ve been working in jobs that are more aligned with your career goals, strong descriptions and bulleted achievements are critical. Go over your functions, covering the main angles of your roles while keeping language precise and crisp. Use numbers to highlight people managed, budget sizes, clients served. Be sure to include if you’re reporting directly with top management or if you sit on any committees or internal groups. That kind of involvement shows authority and supports your interest in a higher-level role.

Your contributions and impact are now essential to demonstrate. Every bullet point that you provide (I recommend 2-3 for every 5 years in a job) should illustrate the value that you bring and the accomplishments that make you stand out. Use metrics whenever possible (“Saved $1.7M” speaks volumes more than “Generated savings”) and note your results, whether it was bringing in new business, boosting productivity, or reducing turnover. If the project you managed was implementing a system that provided new capabilities, say that. Make it clear that what you did was important, and why.

Awards make great bullet points, as does less formal recognition from higher ups. Just be sure to give explanations so that the achievements are clear. Also, keep in mind that while numbers are great, less concrete contributions, like developing relationships and increasing brand awareness, are important, too. A strong mix of “hard” and “soft” highlights show that you’ve got all the bases covered.

How much is TOO much?

Now is a good time to go over your resume real estate. If you need a second page to cover a few jobs, that’s fine—but you can also begin to eliminate those early ones that simply showed you had experience. Your stint as a camp counselor can go, as can the work you did while in school.

Keep in mind how you want to be seen – as an experienced professional in your field. If a job doesn’t support that and was quite a while ago, it can probably be deleted.

We’ve discussed the fact that your Education has slipped back down behind your paid jobs. You can also remove the details of your classes, your internship, and the clubs and activities that were so important to your entry-level resume. In fact, too much emphasis on college activities after a certain point can make you seem like you are a bit stuck in the past.

That said, you should absolutely list (and join, if you haven’t yet) professional associations in your field. You can also include volunteer work, especially if it’s related to your job focus.

With a bit of attention and effort, you can turn that “beginner’s” resume into an effective presentation of the skills, experiences, and professional achievements that companies are seeking from higher-level employees. You’ll secure that next great job and be well on your way to even greater success.

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

A Resume for All Seasons: Part 1 – Spring

Getting your resume prepared is one of the key first steps to a blossoming career
Getting your resume prepared is one of the key first steps to a blossoming career

In a perfect world, at the start of your working life, you’d be handed a crisp, well-written resume to help you get that first “real” job. And, as you toil away, it would absorb and document your experiences and accomplishments so that they’d be there, ready, waiting, and written for your next move.

Then, when you’re ready to move up the ladder a bit, your resume would know just how to communicate the skills gained and results that a professional needs to show they can lead and take on more responsibility. It would document new challenges, accolades, big projects, so that when you’re up for that big step into the corner office, all you’d need to do is run it through spell check.

Alas, life will probably not get that easy—at least until the 2020s. For now, we all have to be prepared to create a resume (or help a professional create one for us) that is tailored to whatever career stage we’re in at the moment. And while some “rules” will remain standard (Make sure it’s accurate! Sell yourself!), there are choices in other areas that can and should change as you progress. Over these next four posts, we’re going to take a look at each season and the strategies you should be using to make the most out of what you’ve got to offer.

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We start with Spring, when everything is new and young professionals are just beginning to bloom. Graduating from college and ready to take on the world, it’s the first time for many that a real resume is needed.

The work world has changed quite a bit since the days when a simple recitation of courses taken and odd jobs held was enough to snag that first position. These days, employers expect even the freshest candidates to be able to communicate not just what they want from a job, but more importantly, what they have to offer. Separating yourself from your peers is as essential now as it will be later, especially when you’re competing for the high-potential opportunities.

So what should you consider as you begin to draft this first resume? There are four main sections to develop:

Sum Yourself up

Despite your status as a career neophyte, the introduction still holds major value. The days of the Objective are gone and a strong, well-written summary is a must.

A title at the top shows your focus. You can include terms to explain that you are starting out (Entry-level Sales Representative, Marketing Assistant, Junior Accountant). Then, move into your value proposition.

“But I don’t have much to offer yet!” you exclaim. My response? Of course you do – you have plenty and in the course of 4 or 5 lines, you’re going to show just that. You’ll mention that you’ve earned a degree, and point out your area of focus. You’ll note the areas of study that qualify you for the target position, as well as your experience working, where you learned skills that apply nearly everywhere like customer service and leadership.

A section for Core Competencies (or Areas of Expertise) comes next. Keywords that align with your target go here – Sports Marketing, Financial Analysis, Team Management—stick to hard skills, and unless you’re an IT pro, you can put your computer skills here, too.

Education – Eventually, your schooling will move behind your experience. But right now it’s a major selling point, so make it count. In addition to your official degree, include your GPA if it was high (generally 3.5 or higher). List your major classes, and perhaps a project from one that show some background in your target.

If you studied abroad, that’s a great way to show your interest in more global pursuits. Mention clubs that you participated in – if you were a leader in any, don’t forget to say so (if you held a prominent position or completed an internship, you may want include those under the next section).

Experience – Many new grads fret about their lack of “real” experience, especially if they’ve held only held jobs at the local Y or in their dad’s office. But it’s the rare person who starts out with a great deal more than that. Having a couple of real work examples, no matter where, let’s hirers see that you have been in a professional environment and understand how they operate. To optimize these roles, think about a time when you assisted with project or event, or were commended for your performance. If parents told your boss what a talented swim instructor you were, say so!

Internships that gave you the opportunity to work in your area of focus can be included here, too. If you spent two summers as a clerk in a law office, or at a top ad agency, hirers will know that you’re familiar with what’s required and may be more ready than most to jump right in. Same goes for serving as president of your sorority or editor of the school newspaper. You may not have been paid but you DID manage budgets, coordinate events, or oversee a team—all strong skills to bring to your first job.

Extras – As you move on, details about extracurricular activities will become less important. At this stage, through, volunteering—whether for a charitable organization or on a political campaign—can be used as more examples of your engagement. Highlight any special roles you held, as well as accomplishments, such as raising money.

The key to a strong entry-level resume is making the most of what you have to offer by communicating all of the knowledge you’ve picked up, whether in class, on the job, or through activities. Show hirers that you’re not just one of many with a diploma. Illustrate that you’re one of a select few with the talent and drive to make the very most of your first opportunity.

To getting the jobs of our dreams – cheers!

Paula

The Resume Girl

Looks DO Matter – Formatting & Styling your Resume

Simple can be good - but don't go too plain or you may be forgotten.
Simple can be good – but don’t go too plain or you may be forgotten.
A highly designed resume can look amazing, but may not be right for every job.
A highly designed resume can look cool, but may not be right for many jobs.

Looks DO Matter – Formatting & Styling your Resume

Resumes are not sexy. Or so you think. But I dare you – Google “unique resume designs” and you will see some amazing examples of human creativity – from graphics that seem to defy 2 dimensions to resumes printed on a t-shirt (yes, really!), there is no shortage of options, particularly if you know how to code and have experience with design software.

For most of us, resumes are a somewhat less dramatic endeavor. We’ll be using MS Word, or perhaps Google docs. Word generally has the most formatting options and you can be pretty sure that it will be readable for any company. But even though your resume may not have the bells and whistles of an artist’s, you still want to be sure it’s appealing and is appropriate for your target industry and jobs. So let’s take a look at a few design elements and how to choose them.

Finding a font that fits

Time was, nearly every resume was created with Times Roman. It was everywhere, and even today, many clients come to me with their resume using this default font. My advice? Consider another. Depending on how classic or modern you’d like to go, there’s one that is sure to work for you. Some keep their form and readability in more text-heavy documents, while others can provide a cleaner look for technical resumes. A few I like and often use: Garamond (takes up less space), Calibri, Palatino, and Tahoma, Stay away from script and “artsy” fonts, which are not the easiest on the eyes. For additional insight, check out one. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/owlprint/705/ for thoughts on different options.

To color, or not to color?

Just as all resumes used to be in Times Roman, they all used to be in black and white, too. Today, of course, there are plenty of options for brightening up the doc with a hue or two. But should you? And will it really make a difference? When I started writing resumes, the most I did was use some shading here or there to highlight–these days, I’m likely to color the lines separating sections, or add some to shaded areas. I’ve also seen it used in headings.

Truthfully, I am a more content-focused resume writer. All the colors in the world won’t hide a sketchy career timeline or lack of detail about your accomplishments. And for the most part, I believe hirers are thinking the same thing. That said, a pop of blue or red can brighten up a resume and certainly enhance its appearance.

Graphically speaking…   

The first example I’ve included in this post is one you can find if you google “unique resumes”. There really are some cool ones out there. And if you’re in a super-creative field, it may be seen as a sample of your work as much as a rendering of your professional life. If your job plans are more apt to take you to a financial firm, or if it’s likely that your resume will go through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), all that prettiness may be to little (or even negative) effect.

For those in fields where metrics rule, a chart or graph can be incorporated if done in a way that doesn’t overwhelm – but do keep in mind that it can still cause problems for automated systems. One option is to have a version sans graphics when you know you’ll be put through an ATS.

Outside borders have generally fallen out of favor. They can be difficult to get right, often falling out of the printable area. If you do have a border, make sure it shows up correctly when printed.

One simple graphic tool you may want to consider is a box for information you want to emphasize or display separately. I’ve put keywords in a small box next to the summary and used them to highlight great results (think “Salesperson of the Year from 2004-2008: or “Highest number of million-dollar clients brought in–total value, $78M”). A tech professional might box their set of skills. The important thing to remember is that whatever you place inside, it should be interesting and help you stand out from the crowd. But don’t make it so big that it overwhelms everything else. And, once again, take it out of the box for a text version to ensure that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

If you’re an artist looking for an artistic job, I say go for broke. Write your resume in a circular pattern or design it as a newspaper front page. As long as you know your audience, take some risk and show off that talent. If you’re applying to Bank of America as an analyst, focus on your content and choose simple, classic formatting and styles that show that while you do indeed care about looks, you are far more than another pretty face.

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

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