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.
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