Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Revising the Resume

I've seen my fair share of "New Year, New You" posts going around Facebook and Twitter the past couple of weeks. In some ways, that's great, because it means that many of you are rocking those resolutions and working towards self-improvement. Along with those resolutions, though, January offers a natural reflection point where you can give your resume a quick face lift. Take an hour or so this January and make a few edits to your resume (and maybe your LinkedIn profile to match).

Adding the Successes

The start of the year is the perfect time to add in the accomplishments of the prior year to the resume. Make sure your major career gains of the last 365 days are captured from a work accomplishment perspective as well as notable training or events that you attended during the past year. Updating on an annual basis keeps your updates close enough to the actual events that you can describe them in detail. Use results-focused words and phrasing to emphasize the outcome of your work rather than just the tasks you accomplished.

Trim the Fat

Once you've added your new accomplishments, you might need to reduce the overall size of the resume a bit to make room for the new additions. Go through prior years' work and previous roles and trim out anything that does not lend itself towards the types of work you want to do. I recommend keeping two records, though: one complete resume that you just keep adding to year after year, and one slimmed down version tailored towards a specific skillset that you want to emphasize. If you decide in the future to emphasize a different set of talents on your slim resume, you can just edit down the full one with a different intent.

Work the Top Fives 

You might keep this one in a separate file, but jot down the top five things you got done for your career in the past year. Then write down the top five things you want to do in the year ahead. These items should focus on your development, rather than typical resume accomplishments that center around value you provided to the company. Save the file in a safe place where you can access it next year and do a comparison.

Check Your Keywords

What keywords stand out in your resume? Technical skills? Management? Experience? Results? Many of the online application software packages that employers use today do extensive keyword matching with job postings to determine whether or not your resume says you fit the position. Make sure to incorporate several of the key words for your target occupation (or your current role if you love it) in the body of the resume. If you don't know what keywords would be used, do a search for job openings for your position (or the position you want). Write down the top fifteen keywords that appear across the different job postings and try to work ten or more into your resume (where they fit appropriately).

Phone a Friend

If you go shopping your resume around for edits, you might get some confused looks from your friends, who will assume you are looking actively for a job. They will likely think the same if you make a ton of edits to your LinkedIn profile (you can turn off LinkedIn notifications before you make the edits, though, if you want to avoid scrutiny). But if you have one or two close friends to whom you can explain that you are just making some updates, bounce your draft off of them to see what they think. A spouse, family member, orfriend from outside the workplace can offer some objective feedback as well. See if you need to work their responses back into the resume. It helps to have multiple points of view and only change things that more than one person comments on or that someone has a major problem with.

Tie a String Around Your Finger

It's great that you got this year's round of edits done, but what about next year's? Once you have saved (and maybe printed) a copy of your resume, set yourself a reliable reminder to go through the same exercise next year. Whether you open your Google Calendar or set something in your phone, don't catch yourself in a few years without keeping the resume up to date and needing to play catch up on over a year's worth of activity.

I'd love to hear what else you think you need to keep current on the resume or tips. Drop me a line and let me know how.