For many people, writing (especially a resume) is right up there with a root canal.
Assembling details, knowing what to include, and finding the right words to describe one’s professional achievements is…tedious. It can feel like (uncomfortable) self-promotion. Also, there might be awkward gaps and regrettable choices, and now they’re being put on display.
But being seen is unavoidable when job-seeking. Or when ramping up a side business or making a foray into public speaking, for example. Take comfort in knowing that 99% of the population feels the same way (cringey), and then tell your professional story anyhow.
I recommend the following:
- Meet your reader where they are: to tell a good story, assume your reader knows practically nothing. If you’ve read any of the Harry Potter books, you’ll recall that JK Rowling takes time in each to thoroughly describe the setting and to review what happened in the previous book. She brings her readers up to speed with context.
Do the same with your resume: what kind of business do you work for? How many people are there? What’s the annual revenue? Is it global? National? Local? Paint a word picture. Details are important to give context: what size team were you on/did you manage? What is/was the budget you manage(d), what’s the scale and scope of your work? Include accomplishments, ROI, and measurable impacts like $/time saved or efficiencies /profitability gained.
Your first resume draft should be a brain dump: get it all out. Then, revise (which brings us to step 2):
- Use the best (word) ingredients: Alice Waters is a Northern California chef who’s known for her exquisite, simple food. Her secret: in recipes with just a few ingredients, use only the freshest and best.
How does that translate to a resume? Here’s how: once you’ve written a first draft, read it out loud. Be on the lookout for redundancy (words or phrases repeated). Find different ways to say things. Get rid of stock phrases that have little meaning. If you’re drawing a blank, Google ‘thesaurus’ to help get you thinking. Slow down a little, and be discerning. When you find adjectives that describe you/your work aptly, use those.
Very important side note: avoid using overly dramatic words. Let others use “visionary”, “vast”, “outstanding”, or “authentic” to describe you. When you apply them to yourself, they sound hollow and self-promoting. Meaningful (and true, not trite) words carry your resume.
- When you think you’re dressed, take off one piece: Coco Chanel, an early 20th century fashion disrupter, OWNED simplicity. In an era when fussy fashion was the norm, her minimalistic style stood out. Do the same with your resume.
Cluttered, busy, overly full resumes are overwhelming. OVERWHELMING DOES NOT GET READ.
When you think you’ve finished writing your resume, find things that don’t need to be there. Ask yourself, “Does it add value? Does it contribute to the picture I’m trying to paint?”
If not, be ruthless and TAKE IT OFF. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Use space to your advantage ~ it will emphasize your well-chosen words and phrases. White space invites your reader in.
A resume is an appetizer, intended to whet interest and declare relevancy. It’s a preamble to the meal (the interview, the job offer). It’s not the meal itself (or the entire story of your career).
When you remember to tell your professional story using context, simplicity, and the best ingredients, you’ll stand out.
And isn’t that what you want?
Struggling with crafting your resume and/or LinkedIn profile? I can help!
Check out my Professional Branding Package here.