Sunday, October 30, 2011

resume lessons

The job market is cutthroat. Unless you live under a rock (cheers to you!), you are aware of the devastating state of the economy. Delving back into this world is stressful, daunting and overwhelming. The life you've lived and all of your accomplishments must now fit onto one page. And that page, could make or break your early career. 

The infamous resume is constantly under scrutiny. What do you include? What format? How do you prioritize your work experience? Over the past month my resume has undergone many revisions and I've learned a few things along the way. Here is a collection of both my thoughts and observations through the job search process.

Constantly update your resume to reflect current work experiences in real-time, with the most recent position at the top with the dates worked  through present (- present). Even if you work at a job you love, just keep track of everything you are doing, developing or implementing. Everyone should keep an updated resume on hand, just in case, because you never know what could happen. Opportunities may arise and you do so many things in a workday that it is easy to forget that month you doubled leads for the sales team. 

Proofread, proofread and then proofread again. This is my weakness. I get so excited about the content that I disregard the minute details in the end, and I've paid for it. When I first redesigned my resume, it was a complete overhaul. Everything from the font to the objective statement was revamped. I hit the ground running, but forgot to proofread the dates for my work experience because that had obviously not changed. Two weeks, hundreds of inquiries and maybe three responses later, I was modifying my objective statement when I realized a date was off. One number decreased my work experience from 1 year and 4 months to a simple 4 months, rather significant. Don't be in a hurry. Re-read everything, slowly.

Tailor your resume with each application. This can be a simple adjustment or a vast overhaul. Recently I read an article that said "Objective" statements at the top of a resume were outdated. I disagree. An employer told me point-blank that it was my objective that solidified my first interview. They knew that we were on the same page right off the bat. An objective takes 5 minutes to update for a specific position and shows you are truly interested in the position (even if you send out 30 resumes everyday). So, it may be old-fashioned, but it got me an interview, and I have yet to hear of someone being turned off by a clear objective statement. Responses, much less interviews, are few and far between, so any little detail should not be overlooked. Tailor as best you can and as often as you can.

Be specific. When I graduated my resume was a generic summary of all of my internships to hit as many bases as possible. This was a great strategy when I first graduated college and was trying to diversify my English degree. But, 2 years later, I need to identify accomplishments and demonstrate the employed value I had for the company. 

An "Interests" section at the bottom is also imperative. Let people know that you have a life outside the workplace and that you bring unique characteristics. At first my interests included "running" and "cooking Italian food," which is decent, but not as noteworthy as "running with my boxer, George" and "perfecting spaghetti sauce." This extra description allows a more immediate connection with the stranger reading your resume. Multiple people have asked about my spaghetti sauce since adding that detail.

Your resume can be daunting, but if you spend a little extra time on it, the return on your investment is priceless. Hope this helps and good luck!
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