The resume. We spend hours, if not days, working on this document. And, since it’s a living document, it’s never a “done deal.” Our resumes are constantly evolving as we change positions, assume new responsibilities, and acquire new degrees. That is, your resume should be changing. Have you updated yours lately? Consider this your gentle push to update your resume this summer!
The format and content of my current resume is the result of many, many conversations with mentors and peers while preparing for my post-grad school search. As I was casting a wide net functionally, I made different versions of my resume highlighting different experiences for every job posting to which I applied. Add on top of that custom cover letters, and you’re talking hours of work each week to make this two-page document resemble perfection.
However, my current resume is also the result of careful thought about the experiences and skills that I strategically sought out to be prepared and competitive for the jobs I desired. And that all happened before I made my resume.
While appearance and formatting of your resume do matter, we should spend 1000% more energy strategically selecting our experiences and pursuing endeavours that stretch us to gain skills we need for future jobs we are seeking. Sure, a visually-appealing layout and excellently written action items help us appeal to potential employers, but at the end of the day, no matter how much time we spend on our resume,it’s experience (relative to the job you are seeking), not resumes, that get us the next dream job.
Did you see the Jezebel article about a recent Craigslist ad featuring a woman marketing herself as a “professional bridesmaid?” I imagine a resume highlighting this experience might resemble the following:
Self-Employed | May 2012-2013 | Minneapolis, MN
- Delivered speeches to groups of 15-240
- Lead efforts to help brides relieve themselves in the restroom
- Represented bridal interests on bridal shower and bachelorette party planning committees
I of course believe in the value of transferable skills (and being a bridesmaid can be a tough job—proof: 27 Dresses). However, if you have to stretch your experiences that much to demonstrate that you’ve accomplished something, you’re doing it wrong.
Here are a few tips to ensure EXPERIENCES are at the forefront of our minds as we plan for our resume:
1) Think about what you want your resume to highlight two years from now. Future-forward thinking allows us to anticipate the skills we will need in the future and begin working today to acquire those experiences. If we don’t think in advance about the skills we will need for our next position, how will we ensure we get them?
2) If you need help crafting this list, meet one-on-one with professionals you admire to learn about their route to their current position. Seek advice on the skills that are necessary to pursue similar goals, and make plans to fill in any gaps you notice.
3) Keep a master list of all the committee work, professional accomplishments, and personal endeavors that you’ve pursued. When you’re seeking a new position years down the road, it will be difficult to remember all that you accomplished in the early years of your position, and you probably accomplished a lot!
Too often, I encounter college seniors, coming to me for advice at the last hour to help format their resume because they are struggling to find a job. Unfortunately, in many of these moments, formatting is only a small piece of the problem. A lack of focused, strategically-selected experiences is the bigger issue, and that can only be solved with time.
Invest time in thinking about your future resume today, because in the end, your resume will only ever be as good as your experiences.