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The Importance of a Strong Resume

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In our rapidly-changing world, few things are as relevant today as they were a few years ago.  Resumes however have stood the test of time.  While there might be new formats to consider, new (and mostly unwritten) rules about what to include, what to leave out, etc., the bottom line is that you need one of these to move forward in your job search. So let’s figure out some ways to ensure that yours stands out from the crowd.  With a small bit of thoughtful work, you can enter 2021 with a strong profile that represents The Very Best You. 

Your resume is you on paper.  It is sometimes the only thing a hiring manager will see as they decide whether or not to move you forward.  So this part deserves your deepest attention.  Yes, by all means list all those amazing roles and duties you have performed with an eye to showcasing your skills and experience.  But don’t forget all those other myriad accomplishments that make you … well … You! 

And what are some of these, you ask?  For one, it is helpful if a bit of your personality and values shine through.  Hiring managers are looking for people who will fit well into their companies almost as much as they are looking for people who can do the role.  This is not discriminatory.  This is an accurate understanding that some environments (for example – small, nimble, all-hands-on-deck, fast-paced vs. larger, more silo’d, less chaotic) are more desirable to and for some candidates than are others.  And that’s what you want – to find a professional and cultural home that fits well with who you are and which aligns with your best self.  When that match is properly made, the role will last.  And it will be the best environment for learning and growing in your career. 

So let’s look at some practical tips:

  1. To “One Page” or Not?  Somehow it became conventional wisdom that resumes should always fit neatly on one page.  Is that accurate?  The correct answer is sometimes.  But not always.  If you have extensive experience and skills that you want to showcase, I have never, and I mean absolutely never, seen a hiring manager throw out a resume because it was longer than a page.  Perhaps a few applicant tracking systems are trained to discard those (although I can’t imagine why), but humans are not.  So take the space you need.  I promise. 
  2. To Write Your Own Resume or Not?  OK, I was once just like you.  A journalist by degree and training, I was confident of my own writing skills, and I misplaced that confidence when I extended it to resume writing.  I truly felt that all a resume needed to be was well-written.  Pretty.  And of course, complete.  But somewhere along the line, a wise friend advised me to seek professional help.  For the resume, I mean, although during job hunting, we could all probably use a dose of therapy as well.  But I digress. 

I broke down and hired a resume writer, who also helped me match my LinkedIn profile to my resume so that I would present all my professional stories in the same professional way.  And here was the payoff:  I did of course expect that resume writer to help me with form and function.  What I didn’t realize was that the added benefit of her ability to distance herself from my work and from my ego and from my waxing and waning confidence level as I trudged through the job search process would help me develop a much stronger story.  The real benefits of hiring a resume writer are that they have some distance from your experience and that they do this job day in and day out.  They study the current trends, they understand the formatting needed to get through applicant tracking systems, they know how to pick up on key words, and perhaps most importantly, they know how to draw from you all the accomplishments and skills and experiences that will help you move to the front of the line.  They know much more than you or I about what this piece of paper should include, and they will guide you through a process you didn’t even realize existed.  They are typically not expensive (they will cost less than the outfit we used to have to wear – before Zoom – to an interview), and you will be repaid handsomely with callbacks that might never have come otherwise. 

A couple of services I recommend: 

               Aisha Spearman – https://workinggirlsresumeservice.com/

               Blue Sky Resumes – https://www.blueskyresumes.com/

  • To LinkedIn or not to Link?  Definitely link.  Link your resume to LinkedIn, link your signature to LinkedIn, just link.  Which means that once you have your resume in the beautiful new shape and format you want and need, make sure your LinkedIn page gets that same refresh.  Whether you like it or not, LinkedIn is still the preferred candidate search tool for most recruiters, and the editing interface is really very simple to use.  Take a nice professional photo (again I recommend spending a little money here if you can but if you can capture this piece on your own, that’s fine).  A profile with a photo gets more attention than a profile without one, something I don’t really understand but I know it is true.  And start liking other people’s posts, start building your network (500+ is the magic line you should definitely plan to cross), and start actively engaging with the community.  This is a great place to gain exposure and to let people know you are open to work.  The new LinkedIn designation that surrounds your photo is a high alert to recruiters to reach out to you.  It is not visible to your company network but it is visible to recruiters across the country so there is minimal risk in adding that designation. 
  • To be Transparent or Not?  Covid has unexpectedly upended so many lives this past year.  In years prior, a gap in a resume could be a red flag to a recruiter or a hiring manager.  Why that is, again, isn’t totally clear to me as we all know that ending a job and finding a new job doesn’t always enjoy a speedy transition, but nonetheless, we’ve all been trained to view that quiet period of down time with at least a small degree of suspicion.  The good news is that this year and well into next year, the gaps are not presenting any significant challenges or degrees of job hunting difficulty, as there is widespread and well-warranted understanding about the upheaval we’ve all been through.  Tell the truth.  Your story this year is not your fault, and your story is not unique. 
  • To Wait and Wonder or Not?  Choose not.  During the down time, when many of you are so overwhelmed with working from home, helping children with schoolwork, navigating a world on Zoom, try to do just one great thing for the professional you.  Choose one piece of your professional life that you always felt needed some TLC – and brush it up!  If your writing skills need buffing, take a writing class.  If you have industry certifications you always wanted to achieve, try to work on that now.  You’ll be surprised at how good this feels.  And then – in your new transparency you learned to embrace in #4 above – you have an achievement to talk with hiring managers about, you have something to add to your skills, and you have a new piece to polish up your resume.  It’s a win win because whenever you move from inaction to action – in any way – it frees you at least momentarily from anxiety.  That is worth its weight in gold.

There are a million more things I’d love to say about this, o.k. maybe a hundred or possibly ten, but the real goal of this piece is to focus your attention to how you are presenting yourself.  The resume is a strong piece of this story so don’t skimp here. 

And as you write this stronger representation of the work you’ve done and of who you really are in our professional world, I’d be surprised if you didn’t begin to feel a warm glow of accomplishment spread through your weary Covid-year bones.  You’ve worked hard to get this far in your life, and with a little dedication to the process, you will soon be rewarded with a brand new and exciting job.  You know what they say.   Don’t give up before the miracle!

You’ve got this.   


Series Overview:  2020 was quite a year.  We’ll be talking about it forever.  Right now, however, it is time to get everyone back to work.  Job searching is a uniquely reaffirming personal journey to reclaiming one’s rightful place in the workforce, and this is the second installment in a series designed to support and strengthen your efforts.  Feel free to reach out personally ([email protected]) if you have any questions or ideas about the kind of information you would find helpful.