Monday, May 10, 2010

Is It Time for a Resume Makeover?

If you're like me, your current resume has probably been evolving since you applied for your first job (and for me, that's been more than 20 years—ouch). I've added jobs and tweaked the presentation for lo these many decades, but it's all still based on that first document.

For a couple of years, I have been writing resumes professionally in my "spare" time. Along with writing, editing, and marketing skills, I've been able to bring my clients something rare and valuable: Brutal objectivity. "It's great that you used to groom poodles. But that has absolutely nothing to do with manufacturing engineering, so let's cut it!" In the back of my mind, I've always known that my own resume could benefit from some of that, too. But something (lack of time, sentimentality, laziness, whatever) has kept that task on the back burner.

Last week something finally clicked, though. I had just done a couple of elegantly streamlined resumes for friends whose careers have been longer and much more illustrious than my own. If the highlights of their careers can fit on two pages without having to resort to two columns and tiny type, why can't mine?

Another contributing factor was the arrival of a volunteer resume writing mentor. Just hours after I woke up from a dream with the words "I need a guru!" on my mind, I was contacted by a longtime professional resume writer who offered to mentor me toward formal certification. It was truly cosmic. Her edits have shown me that I am still too profligate with words—most especially on my own resume.

So I'm doing it now: I'm starting over from scratch. Here are some things I'm changing:

  • Adding more white space. This means, of course, that I'm cutting words. Lots of words.
  • Letting go of some earlier jobs. Although I might mention my experience as a newspaper reporter to support my writing ambitions, it won't get more than a phrase (and certainly not a date).
  • Not listing a bunch of specific book projects. My current resume lists a half-dozen example projects for each job. I think I will instead mention only a few that are particularly impressive in terms of their sales and scope. Maybe I'll create a separate, more comprehensive list of books I've edited and call that an addendum. But maybe adding the quantifying phrase "edited more than 300 books" in my summary will suffice.
  • Dropping education details. I don't need to mention my 20-year-old activities and internships. I'll just give my degree, my major and minor (because it was PR), and the fact that I graduated summa cum laude. I won't be giving the date. I'm not quite old enough to be discriminated against because of age, but it won't be long until I am.
  • Tightening job descriptions. My guru says they can't be more than three lines long. This is tough.
  • Quantifying all bulleted accomplishments. If I can't attach a number to them, I can't use them.
  • Adding social media contact info to the header. My resume now contains my blog address and Twitter handle because the content I've put out there is devoted to professional topics.

Of course, my work on my all-new resume has ground to a halt in favor of a new freelance editing project. But I vow to complete, polish, and post my new document within a month. What about you? Have you got the objectivity to trash your resume and start over from scratch? I challenge you to start it today! It's something proactive you can do to make yourself feel better in an unsteady economic climate.