Leveraging Your Resume to Tell the Story of Your Career

If you're currently looking for a job, you may occasionally feel as though the job searching process is simply unfair.  The expectation that you can summarize your entire career on one or two pieces of paper seems flawed and incomplete.  Yet that is what is expected of the active job seeker who is looking to get a foot in the door and interview for positions.  While there are lots of ways to develop leads for your search through informational interviews, the bottom line is that a resume is a necessary tool for conducting an effective and comprehensive job search.

Approaching the creation of your resume from the perspective of the reader, while counter-intuitive, can be a helpful way to shed light on the development of an otherwise daunting document.  Here are five helpful hints to think about as you make, re-make and edit the most important document in your job search.

Quantify your accomplishments.  The absence of numbers can really work against you in presenting your candidacy.  Providing the scale and scope of the projects you have worked on, and, as importantly, the outputs your work has enabled can provide the reader with a more crystallized sense of the depth of your experiences.  In addition, scale and scope can help to show what you can do for your potential employer making them want to get to know you better.  After all, the reader just wants to know how you can solve their problems and fulfill their needs.  Providing quantifiable specifics about your accomplishments takes the guess work out of understanding your candidacy.

Anticipate questions that the reader may have about your career.  If you took six months off to do yoga between your last two jobs, perhaps showing years and omitting the months might eliminate upfront questions about your career trajectory.  I am not suggesting that you falsify your history, but rather that you simply present a streamlined summary of relevant aspects of your background and experiences.  Think of your career as a story and provide the most germane aspects of the story-not necessarily every detail of the story - just enough to entice the reader to want to know more.

Think strategically about presentation.  While letting go of your status as a student may be difficult, if you have held a full time job since graduation, I recommend putting your education at the bottom of your resume.  The first thing the reader wants to know is where you are now, if you're in their industry and if you have the requisite skills for the position.  Strategy most likely dictates, therefore, starting your resume with your most recent position at the top, enticing the reader to want to learn more.

Be selective.  If there are certain parts of your job that you dislike and that you'd like to move away from, you can omit the details of those tasks from your resume.  You're not fibbing but you're rather thinking strategically and selectively about how to present your professional accomplishments and about what you want people to know.  Likewise, if you have volunteered with 15 different organizations through the years, pick just a few experiences that you'd most want to talk about in an interview and provide details about those, rather than providing a diluted laundry list.

Spell check, spell check, spell check.  Have you spell checked your document?  Your resume is, among other things, a writing sample and spelling mistakes obviously do not reflect well on your attention to detail.  Did I mention that you should do a spell check?

Polishing your resume can really enable you to stand out among the others in the pile.  Applying creativity and strategy to the development of your resume will enable you to create a document that works as hard as you do on your job search.

Deb Berman coaches candidates looking for positions in the social sector (both for profit and non-profit), by working closely with them throughout their entire job search.  Appointments can be set up for telephone or in-person consultation by e-mailing Deb at:  dberman@justmeans.com