Resume Writing: You’re Doing it Wrong

I have waited to talk about this topic because it is not the first thing you should be thinking of when applying for a job, going to a career fair, or what have you.  While working in career services in college I saw so many students come in for assistance with their resume.  They often didn’t have a draft at all.  We think the first stage to a career is a resume.  It’s not.  Let’s take a look at a few steps to take in writing a good resume.

  1. In a previous post, I discussed  values.  Acknowledging your values is really the first step to writing a good resume.  If you don’t know what you believe in, or what you enjoy doing, how do you expect to use a resume to build your career?  You first have to have an idea of what experiences you want to get involved in.  If you’ve already written a resume and think you are past this step, you’re not.  In every expeience you encounter, you will find that you can learn about your core values.  Those values will drive you to where you want to be.  A key factor in resume writing is to know yourself and to know what you are all about.  If you are going to sell Tupperware to a consumer you’d want to be sure you know the products you sell, right?  Same principle applies here as well.  You’ll be taking on the task of selling yourself during the application process and at any interview, so it is best that you know who you are and what you value in life.  Some of my values are helping people and being able to have a balance between work and personal time.
  2. A good resume talks about all of the great things that you have done in the last several years.  When I wrote my first resume, I sat there with a  blank word document and thought to myself okay, what have I done with my life?  This is the absolute worst way to create a resume, yet it is how so many of us begin our document.  When we have an experience, such as volunteering or a first job, we should be writing down those experiences on a piece of paper or a “resume template” as I will call it.  A resume template can be very simple, as it is just a list of activities or experiences you have actively participated in.  They don’t have to be really intense or necessarily related to your career, but you have to have participated in them.  Put your resume template in the notes section of your cell phone.  The point to doing this is to have a reference of some kind so that you do not sit with a blank stare asking yourself what you have done in your life.  A good example for me is countless amount of volunteering I did freshman year of college.  It was required in the dorm I lived in, but I never thought to write all of those activities down, like working with children at a local preschool.  Since I value working with people, it probably would have been a GREAT item to remember when writing my resume.
  3. This one gets a little trickier as it begins to get to the core of resume writing.  That resume template I mentioned, let’s add onto it.  When you are at these activities, clubs, jobs, etc. also write down some things that you do there.  Again, this is easiest and works best if you jot them down during the time period that you are working on them.  In my most recent job, my boss asked me one day to conduct an exit interview for an employee as he had to take care of an emergency somewhere else.  He trusted me with the task rather than cancelling on the employee.  I only had to read off a list of questions to the employee and write down their answers verbatim.  It doesn’t mean that my boss trusting me with this task wasn’t important.  It was a perfect example of something to add to the resume template.

With those three key factors now in your head, you can have a much better, goal-oriented resume in mind.  If you have to go back and brainstorm some experiences and what you did there that is fine.  But going forward, get yourself aware of how your experiences can assist in building your resume.  If you recognize that you were able to contribute to a team project big or small, at work or not, write it down.  I promise it will help you when you finally sit down and put your resume together.  Which you are probably dying for me to show you how to do next.  Instead, go ahead and just do a google search of resume templates.  Here is a website I found that is pretty decent.   You’ll notice that resumegenius.com advertises to have a resume in minutes.  They do this because they’re assuming you’ve taken the time to think of your experiences already.  That is why steps 1-3 above are crucial in your writing.

You can find websites like these for free, or just browse some google images of resumes.  Try a google search of “resumes for (blank)”.  Fill in the blank with what kind situation you are in like resume for college/graduate student or resume for work experience.  I can go through and tell you what have learned about writing MY  resume.  You can copy it even, but that doesn’t set you apart from me, that makes you more like me.  In a world of trying to set ourselves apart to get a job and build a career, do you really want to look like me?  I really would hate to tell you that there is the ideal way to write a resume, because that’s such an assembly line approach.  I am happy to answer specific questions you have about your resume/experiences though.

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