When the kids go back to school, it can be fun to reminisce about the days of getting your Trapper Keeper, highlighters, and pencils ready for a new school year. Your school days might be behind you, but you can take this opportunity to organize your career. September is International Update Your Resume Month, and the perfect time to revive your career materials starting with your resume. Check out my interview below with Bossed Up for my tips on how to refresh your resume.
Tell Your Story
Instead of approaching your resume as a document that needs to be updated, think of it as the highlight reel of your career story. If you’re like many professional women, you may have had some starts and stops while starting a family, or a career pivot where you changed industries or went back to school. Think about the overall story you want to convey and the unique skills and experiences that set you apart from other candidates. How can you create a resume that gets your value proposition across?
Don’t fall into the trap of copying someone else’s resume or trying to get an online template – take the time to consider what makes you unique. If you had a tagline, what would it be? If you had ten seconds to impress someone with your abilities, what would you say? Start the process of updating your resume with this step and then make sure your skills and experience bullets support those underlying points.
Studies have shown that the average recruiter scans a resume for six seconds before deciding if the applicant is a good fit for the role. Recruiters make split-second decisions on which resumes move forward and which get tossed. After decades of helping mid-career women and industry changers, I know what works and can help you update your resume so it gets to the next step.
Keep Your Resume Updated As You Go
I recommend keeping your resume updated as you go – even if you’re not looking for a new job, you never know when something is going to change, or the perfect opportunity will arise. It’s a great way to assess your skills or any gaps you might need to work on. Your resume also serves as a record of your accomplishments and helps you vie for raises, promotions, and awards. If you need a place to start, my FREE Resume Tip Sheet can help you make a few adjustments. This is especially helpful if you need a quick turnaround.
If it’s been a decade or more since you took a serious look at your resume, you may find that your skills need a refresh. Your proficiency in Microsoft Office is pretty much a given and unless you’re pursuing a specialized role, nobody needs to know about your words per minute. Social media, spreadsheets, project management software, and team leadership are some of the things you’ll likely see on today’s resumes. Look through recent job postings in your career field to get an idea of some of the things you may want to learn more about.
To overcome ageism in the job search remove your graduation dates from your degree. It matters that you have the degree, but nobody needs to know when you received it. You’ll want to remove jobs that are older than 10-15 years unless the experience is directly relevant to what you’re applying for. In those cases, you can remove the dates and add them to your skillset or as part of your overarching background experience. Look at the email address you are using on your resume. An AOL or Hotmail domain address is a sure-fire way to show that you’re not up with the latest technology. Make sure your birth year isn’t part of the email either.
Updating your resume regularly can also help you remember details of major projects you’ve worked on. It can be easy to forget your big accomplishments if you only update your resume when you’re job searching. Get descriptive with your bullets. How many people were on the project team you managed? By what percentage did you exceed your goals? This can be great information to have on hand during your annual review as well.
Use specific bullets to show actions taken and results delivered. Give them enough information to make them want to learn more. The first thing you can do to update your resume is to reduce wordiness. Use two words instead of four. Remove most of the “a, an, the, of, to” words. My Modern Resume Writing Workbook has more practical tips like this and is available for only $14.97 and you can download it immediately.
Establish Yourself as an Expert
Are you planning to speak at conferences, publish articles, or talk to students? Most of these opportunities require a resume to establish yourself as an expert. Having your resume up to date can make it easier to submit yourself for award opportunities and create a biography for yourself. If you’re planning to volunteer or serve on a professional organization or association or a nonprofit board, they will probably ask you for this. Increasing your visibility in your industry can help move your career forward, even if you have no plans to job search.
If you’re in an industry where you might pick up a side hustle or freelance work having your resume available can help you take advantage of these opportunities when they present themselves. Fiverr and Upworx are becoming increasingly popular for all sorts of tasks if you’re looking to earn some extra income. Filling out those lengthy online forms will go a lot faster if you have an updated resume to copy and paste from. Promotions and new job opportunities can sometimes come out of nowhere. Just the other day we heard from someone who was referred for a newly created position, interviewed for it and was hired all in less than a week. Being able to provide your resume on short notice can give you the upper hand.
Identify Areas that Need Work
Updating your resume regularly can help you identify areas that need work. Think about your career goals. Are there skills or experiences missing that you need to take the next step? Start looking at LinkedIn profiles of people who have the types of jobs/careers that you want. What common experiences and skills do they have that you don’t?
Once you’ve dusted off the cobwebs of your resume, recruit a friend to help you proofread it. I recommend reading from right to left, bottom to top – you will catch more mistakes that way. If you work with a colleague, they may have suggestions on key wins you can add. Make sure to use a professional file name and save your resume as a PDF so it doesn’t change format when people open the file.
Create a calendar reminder to update your resume and LinkedIn profile every month. Adding new credentials, skills, and metric-focused accomplishments as you go will make it easier when you do need a resume. Even if you’re just making a small change each month, this can create a new habit that forces you to think about your career trajectory regularly.
Consult an Expert
If you get stuck, I have several resources to help you get started, including my FREE Resume Tip Sheet. This offers five quick tips to refresh your resume. I’ve also created the Modern Resume Workbook, a fillable workbook that teaches you what a résumé should look like and how to write one. It includes updated information about the ATS (applicant tracking system), how to use keywords, the latest formatting trends, how to write bullets that sell your accomplishments, examples, and more for only $14.97.
I additionally offer a variety of writing packages that include a resume, cover letter, and/or LinkedIn profile. My writing packages include research and writing time, one-on-one calls to gather information, and multiple drafts to allow for your feedback. I’ve seen it all and know how to write a resume that sticks! I don’t do cookie-cutter – you will get dedicated time and someone to listen to your work history and experience. I create a document that is tailored to your experience.
Updating your resume can feel overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done it in a long time. Like anything else in life, it pays to work with someone who knows what they’re doing. You hire an electrician to fix things around the house, and you should hire a professional to write your resume. You are an expert in all things you, and in your chosen career path, but why not hire an expert to update your resume and make it work for you? Don’t waste your precious time with a document that doesn’t get results.