How many people have you met with a newly developed life plan?
However many it is, you’ll know just how much thought and soul-searching these people have gone through just to put that plan on paper. Whether their ultimate goal is related to relationships, health & wellness, financial independence, or personal achievement, at some point for many people their career will play a part in helping them realize their objectives.
Over the years, I have provided resume services to thousands of people in Calgary and throughout Western Canada, many of whom realized that having a professional resume, written by a professional resume writer was central to them achieving the goals set out in their life plan.
Well, after spending all that time and effort analyzing what’s not working in your life, assessing your values, creating detailed plans, establishing routines, spending thousands on additional education, it amazes me how many people fail to give a second though to their RESUME.
It’s almost an afterthought. An inconsequential piece of paper with a list of duties and dates. How important can that piece of paper be, right?
Well, that resume can make or break your career. If your career is a key component of your life plan, it follows that the resume can make or break your life plan.
Eliminate The Roadblocks
An essential element in any well thought-out life plan is concrete steps you can take to eliminate roadblocks. Now, roadblocks as they relate to the world of careers can be varied and out-with your control.
However, one of the major roadblocks I’ve encountered preventing my new clients from professional advancement and/or achieving their life goals is something that’s very much within their control…you guessed it, their resume. Do something about it!
Many people know this, and think they have done something about it, yet still don’t get any traction. How can that happen?
Well, I’ve lost track of the number of resumes I’ve had to completely re-work because the client in question had originally taken the advice of a two-bit hack setting themselves up as a “resume writer”.
You know, people who have zero careers industry experience or think that because they once worked in the mail room of a big company opening resumes makes them a bona fide resume expert!
If you take advice from anyone, at least make sure that person has the qualifications and experience needed to actually give specialized advice. To do otherwise, is to add another roadblock that will eventually have to be overcome.
What’s So Special About My Resume?
If you’ve not put the effort in or don’t know what you’re doing, then probably nothing! And that’s a major problem.
Some Tips for Helping you Prepare a Winning Resume
Design & Structure
Think about your audience. What do they want to see? Do their work for them. Don’t make them have to read every single bullet point on your resume before they start to appreciate what you can do. Here’s why..they probably won’t do that.
You’ve got 10-15 seconds to grab the attention of the reader. Fail to communicate your worth or suitability for the role, and it’s “say hello to my leetle shredder”.
You need to choose a design and structure for the document that clearly communicates the fact that you have the skills and experience they need.
You need to build in enough white space to make high-impact sections pop and ensure excellent readability. Use wide margins, clean type, and clear headings. Don’t use zany fonts. You can also apply bold strategically to draw the readers’ eye and guide them through the document.
Choose a format appropriate to your situation. Whether that’s a hybrid/combination style document, reverse chronological, or functional style resume, depending on your background and experience you should pick the format that accentuates the positives, minimizes the negatives (too many jobs?), and gives you the space you need to pitch.
Selling, not Telling
You should seek to identify accomplishments, not just regurgitate job descriptions.
Yes, we need to see content that’s relevant to the role and this is very important when navigating Applicant Tracking Systems, however you must identify and position your key achievements in each role for maximum impact.
You’ll see many people, including myself, advising you to have a couple of lines to introduce the job, then list accomplishments. Many of the best resumes I’ve written have followed that pattern. And yes, in the strongest of accomplishments listed on a resume, you will take ownership of the activity performed and be able to take credit for the net benefit to the company or client.
However, for many people putting their resumes together by themselves, they struggle with citing numerous accomplishments, especially if they’re performing transactional work. That’s a reality.
So, after much soul-searching, if you genuinely believe that’s you, what do you do?
Well, you can always tie the work you do and the function within the business you serve to the end product or the effective operation of the business itself. If you weren’t there to perform that function or if you didn’t do it well, what would the impact be on the business?
You can use that to say that you “help support” the ongoing effective operation of the business / department. Perhaps you “help facilitate” the acquisition of new clients by ensuring potential customers are re-directed to the sales professional with most expertise in their area?
Listen, don’t get yourself lost here grasping at straws or bending the truth just in the service of trying to get an “accomplishment” on your resume.
As a recruiter, I came across this type of situation often. In those cases it would have been better to focus on core content that made those people qualified for the job. At least then you’re giving me something I can use, as opposed to a half-baked, not-so-impressive “accomplishment” that may be bending the truth anyway.
If you’re coming up short, use the type of detail your target employer uses in their job description. Reflect as much of it as you can to optimize the document.
Remember though, don’t give upon identifying accomplishments just because you find it hard. Put the work in and you’d be surprised at the material you’re capable of producing.
Maximize Impact of Accomplishments
Ok, so you’ve identified your accomplishments. How can you structure them for optimal impact?
Use metrics wherever possible. This greatly increases the impact of the accomplishment and allows the reader to truly understand the benefit and impact of the work you do.
The on-target resumes will be customized to target the role you’re going for. This is essential. A generic resume will yield mediocre results. You need to take the time to fine tune your document to target the role you’re going for.
Use the target job description to help you understanding what the employer is looking for and use content from that spec to help you demonstrate your suitability.
Don’t use any content from that specification you can’t legitimately lay claim to having done.
Take the time to customize your resume and you’re results will improve dramatically.
You need to cater for your target industry as well.
Don’t use flashy looking resumes for a conservative profession. Be mindful of the target audience, always.
Here’s another tip. Lose the “Objective” at the top of the resume. When a resume is being reviewed, your application is being assessed against the requirements of a candidate profile and the specific technical aspects of the role.
The last thing a recruiter wants to see at that stage is what you expect to get out of the this exercise or what you want long-term.
Not only does the Objective communicate the wrong message, it wastes valuable resume real estate that could have been used to sell in your suitability for the role.
Use this space instead for a Branded Statement. A powerful showcase highlighting your unique value proposition.
If you can clearly and quickly communicate your value to your target employer, you’ve cracked the code.
If you can do that, and happen to also present that information in a high-impact and accessible manner on your resume, you’re on to a winner!
“But, I already know that I have to show value, the second bit I didn’t think about as much, but I already had the jist of it.”
Really? Then why does your current resume not do that?
Knowing something should be a certain way, yet not ever getting it done is part of the human condition. “I don’t have the time to think about that!”
“I don’t know how to do that!”
“I don’t know what they want to see!”
“I wasn’t trained to do that!”.
Sometimes admitting to yourself that you can’t do it all is the first step to seeking the help you need to get something done. In my experience that’s how smart people operate.
Whether they’re seeking external assistance with something, or delegating work to a talented employee – knowing what you’re good at, and what you’re not good at, is a level of self-awareness we all should embrace.
I know what I need to do to fix the oil leak I have in my car’s valve gasket, but I don’t. Why? Because I don’t have the skills to do that. I’m going to need help.
I know what should be done to correct the uplift in the bridge on my acoustic guitar, but I don’t have the skills needed to execute that as effectively as someone who has been doing that very thing for decades.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
For some reason, many people beat themselves up about the need to ask for assistance with their resume. There is absolutely no need.
It’s a specialized skill set. It’s selling. It’s marketing. It’s not just a list of stuff you did!
Over the years I’ve written resumes for broadcast journalists, a TV anchor, HR Directors, and people who have worked everywhere from the White House to the Fortune 500, and Parliament Hill in Canada. These are super talented people, some of them actually wrote for a living.
They recognized the value in seeking the assistance of someone who actually did this for a living.
And in doing so, it gave them an edge they didn’t have before.
If you're looking for resume writing services in Calgary and need the assistance of an experienced professional resume writer to help your bring a laser-sharp focus to your next application, get in touch.
Ken Docherty is a multi-certified, multiple award-winning resume writer. Ken is an experienced executive recruiter and has led recruitment consulting and executive search campaigns for leading employers on two continents. Ken has written resumes for thousands of people in Calgary and throughout Western Canada to help them realize their career ambitions.