Honestly, sometimes the most crippling aspect of the job search or changing a career field is the resume. Here are eight small tips that I’ve learned in my journey that can hopefully benefit you, and relieve a little stress.
1. Start with a compelling lead sentence/objective.
This opening depends on your industry (so be sure to search the latest trends for your specific occupation!) but you always want to sell yourself right from the start. Think of it this way: if you were to summarize your entire self—skills, passion, etc.—in a single sentence, what would you say? What would you highlight? What makes you different, special, the best person for the job?
Focus on the skill set and attributes that set you apart. Consider a ‘brand motto’ or personal statement that can speak to both who you are as a person, and how you work.
2. Organize by relevancy.
Again, there may be some career discrepancies here, but in general, it’s important to remember that what you put first is what the recruiting manager/HR person will see first. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But as a previous admissions office employee I logged hundreds of resumes and you’d be surprised how many people put unnecessary information at the top of their one-sheets.
Think about what this specific employer is hiring for. Think about the information (ex: education, work experience) they want to see right away. You can (and should always!) include all the important information you need, but you don’t necessarily have to put certain things first just because that’s what you’ve seen or what you’ve always done.
(*Tip: If you’re having trouble getting started, you can try this free resume-builder app or other online service.)
3. Include only the experience that is relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Realizing this was the single most important change I made to my resumes/resume-building. Early in my college years, I had one resume that I would send out—to writing positions, part-time caregiver positions, teaching jobs, etc.—which was incredibly foolish because I either a) had way too many jobs listed on the resume making it way too cumbersome to read, or b) skimped out on some job-specific info under the desire (read: laziness) of only having one resume.
When you’re applying for a job, it’s important to think about what experience you’ve had with the opportunities, skills, or duties similar to the job you’re applying for, and highlight those. If you haven’t been in the workforce that long, or are switching career fields, think about the work you’ve done that could potentially benefit you at this new position. (Ex: When I switched from education to internet writing, I used my experience in creating websites for my university and the website I developed for my teaching to show that I had the writing skills and understanding of WordPress, SEO, HTML etc. to help sell myself).
Even if you haven’t had any relevant work, or hardly any work at all, can you discuss volunteer experience? Passion projects? Can you describe small part-time gigs to show that you’re responsible and consistent, if nothing else? There’s always something you can highlight, so don’t be discouraged. Just find a way to sell yourself the best you can.
For me, that meant going back through and removing some of the smaller, part-time work experience I highlighted during my college years. Sure, that experience was very beneficial, but as I got my feet wet with the writing world, it became more important to show internet/blogging-specific experience, rather than any administrative work I did.
If this means creating more than one resume, or tweaking the copy every time you apply—so be it. This will only benefit you in the long run by showing the companies you are truly interested and see yourself as a good fit.
4. Consider your ‘limiting’ factors in a positive light.
Spin the way you present yourself. Are you older? Then mention years of experience and flexibility in working with tons of products. Fresh out of school? Highlight your go-getter attitude and willingness to try. New to the market? Point out your willingness to learn.
5. Keep the format and font legible.
There are a variety of resume templates to choose from, and while it might seem exciting or eye-catching to grab one with a funky design or cool details, always consider your audience. Above all else, the resume needs to be clear, engaging, and easy to navigate. There should be no confusion on where your information is located or what it physically says.
6. Use chronology.
When talking about work/volunteer experience, start with the most recent first. This will show the potential employer what you’ve most recently been up to/working on so that they can easily assess if you’re the right person for the job. That being said, if your most recent work is less glamorous, find ways to highlight any special projects you may have worked on, any skill you might have gained/brought, and other factor that could push the hiring person keep reading.
7. Walk the line between creative and professional.
Be professional. Absolutely. But don’t feel that you need to sacrifice fun for bland.
In creating a resume, stay true to you. (Ex: I am positive person and partial to bright colors. I compromised by adding a splash of dark yellow that matched one of the design colors from my website—that way it’s creative and fun, bringing in my personality, but not too overdone so that it loses the professionalism. You can check it out here.) Find a way to make your document unique, but not silly.
8. Hire a copy editor, use an editing service, or solicit the efforts of someone you trust.
It is imperative that your resume be spotless—free of errors in grammar, sentence structure, spelling, etc. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to put in the effort to have a resume that proves you’re serious. It’s as simple as that.
(PS: Shamless plug – this is one of the paid services I offer through ‘Be A Light’ – interested? Send me an email and we can talk rates.)
Featured Image Credit: Andrew Neel