Don’t Panic #6 – Sharpen Your Resume

Resumes are a tricky subject, but nonetheless essential in your job search. For anyone unfamiliar with what they are, you have some work to do. Essentially, it’s a summary of your career history. It’s the professional outline of your value in the workforce, and it has to be perfect. Don’t panic. With a little help, you can sharpen your resume enough to cut through the hundreds and thousands of other competing applicants. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Don’t Panic – A Working-Class Guide to Employment

#6 – Sharpen your Resume

Your resume should contain a Background Summary, your Education, your Employment History, Accomplishment Statements, and Core Skills that are relevant to the job(s) you’re applying for. Some optional sections may include an Objective Statement, Honors received, Professional Associations you belong to, and any Publications you’ve contributed to. Each section should aptly support your resume. If it’s not relevant to your job search, don’t include it.

Before you create your resume, you really should assess yours skills. If you haven’t done so already, I urge you to check out my earlier post, “Don’t Panic #3 – Assess Your Skills,” to learn more about doing a self-assessment. This will help you identify the skills, needs, and values you want to focus on the most. It will also help you better address what employers are looking for.

Before you create your resume, you really should assess your skills.

Resumes come in three formats: chronological, functional, and hybrid. Each reflects your traits and skills in a particular way, so figure out what works best for you. Chronological resumes are good in most cases, since employers usually want to see what your most recent job was. It also helps when you’re last job relates to the positions you’re applying for. Functional resumes highlight your skills and areas of expertise; it lists your achievements by category at the top and summarizes your employment history at the bottom. It’s particularly good for those trying to change career paths. A hybrid, in essence, is a combination of the two.

Background summaries set the tone for your resume. It’s a statement about you, your professional areas of expertise, as well as your knowledge, strengths, and attributes. Whatever follows in your resume will simply enhance what you put in the summary. An example would start by saying something like “Project coordinator with seven years experience in fast-paced environments…” What follows should highlight your marketable skills. Sell yourself, enough to get the attention of readers.

Background summaries set the tone for your resume.

Your education and employment history are straight forward statements. Education statements should include your highest degree earned, your major, the school, and location. Employment histories should include your title, the employer, the location, and the dates of employment. Keep it clean and simple. Capitalize the company names and educational institutions to add visual appeal.

Accomplishment statements are critical components of your resume. They indicate your abilities, and give employers an idea of what you can do for them. Describe instances when you made a difference for previous employers. Don’t panic – start by brainstorming. What did you do in your previous jobs? How did you add value? What challenges did you overcome? Address a problem, explain your action, and highlight the result – that’s an accomplishment statement. When possible, quantify your results.

Address a problem, explain your action, and highlight the result – that’s an accomplishment statement.

Core skills, in my opinion, belong just after your Background Summary. While statements work, I found that listing your skills with bullets is easier on the eyes.

Sample skills may include:

  • MS Office Suite
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • Data Processing
  • Customer Service
  • Content Development
  • Search Engine Optimization

Be as specific as possible, and be honest with yourself. Limit your skills to between six and eight to save space. Whatever you end up adding, ensure they belong in your “core” set of competencies. Employers look at these, and may ask you to demonstrate or explain them.

Outstanding resumes are visually appealing. They’re also concise, unless there’s a need to expand on optional sections. Follow up on each job description with a couple accomplishments, and begin them with action verbs. Avoid flare, embrace white space, and keep things in the third person. Also, when it comes to saving it, Word Documents and PDF files are the preferred file formats. When applying to jobs online, you may have to copy/paste your resume into a textbox, so I recommend reviewing it in a textbox before submitting it. What you see, they’ll see.

Review it in a textbox before submitting it. What you see, they’ll see.

One thought on “Don’t Panic #6 – Sharpen Your Resume

  1. There is a great resume writing book out there (an oldie but a goodie) for the classic one-pager. It’s the ‘Knock ‘Em Dead’ series. Great secret for job seakers, because it gives you resume and cover letter examples that have worked for others.

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