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.


Susan Guarneri said...

I congratulate you on your courage! It's tough to admit that your existing resume may need to be totally overhauled. The guidelines you have outlined are great starting points. I would add if you have any community/volunteer leadership experiences and accomplishments, you may want to include those briefly. Let me know if you'd like a second pair of eyes to peruse your resume makeover. I'd be delighted to help!
-- Susan Guarneri, Certified Expert Resume Writer, Master Resume Writer with Lifetime Achievement Award

Lori Cates Hand said...

Hi Susan! Thanks for the tips and the generous offer. I will take you up on it! There will be no excuse for me not having the most awesome resume ever!

Laurence Shatkin said...

You've inspired me! I need to do the same to my own resume.

Lori Cates Hand said...

Good for you!

iNotarize said...

Gulp! Only three lines per job? I'm headed back to the drawing board. I appreciate your tips because I am looking for work right now. I also use Twitter and a Blog to promote my at-home business so I will see if I can squeeze that on to my resume as well. PS: I found out about your blog on the Washington Post online paper.

Alex said...

ok, so i love to read so i am beginning to think a career in editing and publishing is the way to go. Where should i go to college?