Before I dive into this topic, let me just give a shout out to the Raytheon employees and Non-Profit Leaders who attended my workshops in the last week or so. Met a number of fascinating people like Linh, Depak, Zoom, Chris, Vu, and many others who are doing extraordinary things. Keep it up!
Now for the dreaded and often neglected resume. This document, which describes our professional life, upon which we heap great expectations to open doors and lead us to a new and better job, never seems to get the attention it deserves. And when you are networking and networking well, the resume is your calling card. We know that the resume is the most important self-marketing piece. It can make the difference of connecting with opportunities or not. We mail and e-mail these two or so flimsy pages to perfect strangers, like some sort of reverse magical lottery ticket we hope gets picked!!!! In the last 2 weeks I have reviewed about 300 resumes for jobs and for friends and for others. It is so exasperating to see what people are sending out. Yikes! Generic resumes that are sent to any employer, show little care for the reader and are ineffective. So I wanted to give you my top 10 tips:
1. More than 1 page okay–Unless you are 21 years old a new graduate or incredibly inexperienced :), your resume can be 2-3 pages if you have a lot to say. (see below)
2. Chronological only!–Other formats, especially functional, appear to be more deceptive and less persuasive. Use months on all dates of employment. Only using years gives the appearance of more deception. You know, 2006-2007, reads Dec 2006 to Jan 2007! 2 months not 2 years.
3. Explain gaps and fill gaps–Don’t send out a resume with massive time gaps. The reader assumes you were in solitary confinement. 🙂 If you were being a Mom, caring for a relative, or managing personal matters, tell the story in your cover note. Don’t send out a resume that has no current activity. Why make it look like you have been idle for a long period of time? Have you been volunteering, consulting (even without pay), or attending to your professional development? That looks better than a long period of time where no one else wanted to employ you.
4. Who were your employers and what was your job?–Provide a brief description of every employer–who are they? What makes them unique? Don’t assume people know who or what they do. Then describe the duties of your job. You managed people, resources, a budget, projects. You were responsible for certain deliverables.
5. What did you do with these employment opportunities?–Try to list a few bulleted achievements under each job. Milestones, goals met/exceeded, awards, increases in efficiency, efforts led, etc etc
6. No career objective–This is for the cover letter where you customize for the employer
7. Education at the bottom–What you offer are experiences, skills, knowledge and abilities. Education is critical but when you are young you lead with it, because it is all you got.
8. Customize for the industry or for the line of work–Use key words, align to targeted jobs, highlight related work. For example, if you are applying for a job that requires writing, then list writing and written reports under applicable jobs. Remember this is a marketing piece and there nothing less effective than a generic that depends on a one size fits all approach.
9. Your story, the one you want remembered: The Cover Letter--A lost art form and may be as important as your resume. Tie everything together in the cover letter. What happened or is happening at your current work to move you to apply. Link your experiences into a coherent flow that demonstrates your qualifications for THIS job. Address gaps if need be. Do some homework about the employer and the job and link your interest and skill set to that position.
10. Be referred to the employer–This is where the power of networking reveals itself. Get a referral to the employer. The higher up the food chain the better. “So and so encouraged me to apply for this position.” This immediately distinguishes you from the pack. The reader has to separate this from the pile and it will require more attention. That’s a big advantage! Of course you have to have the right stuff if they call, but increasing your chance to be interviewed is the name of the game.
Whether you think these tips are valuable or not, take at your resume and update it!
Thanks for reading. John