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Improve Your Résumé Before Writing It
Over the last decade I have had the privilege of working with a wide variety of clients. For many who are not in numbers-driven careers such as sales or marketing, capturing their performance in terms of quantified accomplishments can be a challenge. A common theme – whether they are career professionals or students – is “I have my nose to the grindstone and I work hard.” These clients are making every effort just to do a good job and succeed (or survive) that they feel overwhelmed when it is time to prepare a résumé.
However, the time to think about your résumé is before you even need to write or update it. In fact, don’t even think about your résumé – think about your career.
First, be your own critic from the employer’s perspective. If you were the boss – and even if you are – what skills and traits does your team need in each individual member? Identify those skills and traits in yourself and if you see those as strengths, write them down along with examples from your work history that prove your skill in that area. Don’t skimp in telling your story; use as much detail as you remember because those details will pay off at résumé writing time.
What about skills and traits that are weak for you? If they are relevant to your career path, write those down along with your plan to improve those weaknesses. Make a plan and work your plan.
Next, find ways to address needs, weaknesses, or inefficiencies within your team. Determine what is causing the weakness and develop ideas to overcome those challenges. Prepare a recommendation for your boss that describes the problem, your suggested action plan, and the potential outcome in terms that are relevant for your boss. For example, your plan might decrease costs or improve customer service. Even if your suggestion is not implemented, you have taken the initiative to help improve your organization.
Taking the initiative at work also has the potential to positively impact your performance review. Keep notes about your work and the results you have helped produce and be prepared to talk about these with your supervisor. If your organization has a “check-the-block” performance evaluation document, these notes and the resulting conversation you have with your supervisor will help improve the entire process.
Another recommendation is to be more involved. As a student, look for on-campus or community organizations that align with your career goals. As a career professional, you might look internally for committees or volunteer teams as well as for community organizations. However, it is not enough to simply join so that you can add a line item on your résumé; it is important that you actively participate.
Finally, volunteer doing something that you love. Volunteer opportunities are a great way to gain, utilize, or improve skills that could have a positive impact on both your self-esteem and your effectiveness in the workplace. Focusing your passion through volunteer service will help you improve your capabilities and marketability while you are helping others improve their lives.
Take the time each month, quarter, or year to reflect on your work, your projects, your training, or your education. Evaluate where you are and what steps you need to take next. Advocate for yourself – you are your own best career counselor. Regularly reflecting on your career will help you improve your résumé before you write it.
In 2016 I was honored to be selected as one of 60 writers to have work featured in the latest resource from Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark.
This book demonstrates key principles for writing, designing, and formatting a diversity of job search letters for job postings, cold calls, networking and referral outreach, recruiters, job proposals, and challenging situations.
You can purchase Modernize Your Job Search Cover Letters: Get Noticed ... Get Hired through Emerald Career Publishing!
I am also an expert contributor for Foothills Friends & Neighbors Magazine and Monument Living Magazine.