Career Bites #8: Build Your Resume

It takes a really impressive resume to stand out from the pile. So you’ve probably already made one or two choices in life with the express plan to build your resume. But building an outstanding one isn’t as hard as you might think.

Most people get resumes all wrong. They’re not meant to tell the whole story of everything you’ve ever done. They’re not meant to list out all the skills or qualities you think you have. A resume is meant to be an accomplishment brag sheet, a concisely phrased and well-formatted factual record of the tangible outcomes you have produced in the world. It’s about measurable impact not colorful adjectives or overreaching verbs.

So whether you’ve had one job or five, joined one club or ten, you can create a compelling resume if you focus on what you have achieved. Scrutinize your experiences and see if you can discern your specific impact. For example, as part of a team planning a benefit for a club, exactly what role did you play? Exactly how did that contribute to a successful outcome? What was the outcome? And how (if at all) did it surpass expectations? Put all that together and you get something like this:

  • Led team of five in coordinating silent auction donations for Habitat for Humanity annual benefit, leading to record contributions and ~$4,000 raised, 20% more than prior year

More to chew on

Since resumes are about impact and measurable results, it stands to reason that build your resume, the best thing to do is seek to have a bigger impact and then measure your results. Here are some more ways to do that:

  • Step up to a stretch assignment that is technically above your pay grade
  • Get involved beyond the scope of your role in improving organizational efficiency (think excel macros, process improvements, streamlining chaotic operations) and be sure to measure the change (dollars or time saved, accuracy improved, errors reduced)
  • Volunteer to lead a training in something you are good at/would like to be better at
  • Talk with your managers after a project or initiative is complete to understand the impact it had
  • Where direct impact isn’t measurable or known, honest estimates or forecasts can work (leading to expected revenue increase of $20K, e.g.)
  • Make sure you don’t breach confidentiality, for client work, name the company’s industry or product instead of its name, use percentages instead of absolute dollars
  • Be sure to benchmark changes against expectation or the past (achieved 90% customer satisfaction vs 70% historical average)