Are you skilled at anything? What are your strengths? Quick, tell me what they are!
Ok you can relax now. Breathe.
I was talking with a friend who was looking to change his career path recently when he said, “I don’t have any skills.” Now mind you, this is somebody with a whole PhD and years of experience. And somehow, this person was convinced that they had zero skills. I was thinking, “What are you even talking about?! Is that a joke???”
But this person was being serious.
Here’s the thing: Everyone has skills. Having skills isn’t necessarily special. What is special and sometimes challenging is knowing what they are and how to talk about them. You have them, you just might not know how to talk about them, which may make you think you don’t have them.
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MASTERING THE RESUME
Or should I say…résumés. It’s French, ya know.
They’ve become the go-to tool hiring managers use to initially assess candidates nowadays. They also strike fear in the hearts of applicants (and hiring managers, but that’s another story) all over the world. Still, if you wanna get that next job and move on in your career journey, you gotta write a good resume. There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s dive in.
THE GOOD NEWS
Writing a good resume is not as hard as you might think.
You just have to learn how to do it the right way. And guess what! You can learn that! Include the right sections. Keep your writing concise. Communicate value. Don’t distract your reader. Before you know it you’ll have a strong resume.
THE NEWS THAT KINDA SUCKS
You have to tailor your resume for each job.
Yup. That means you have to retouch your resume every time you apply for a job. Dang. It’s tedious work, but it’s well worth it. The reason is because hiring managers want to see information that’s relevant to their posting. They don’t care about everything you’ve done, just the relevant stuff. So ya see, tailoring your resume will yield you better results on your apps.
Let’s examine the how-to of good resume writing:
TAILORING YOUR RESUME
Why this is important:
Along with hiring managers wanting to see what’s relevant to them, there’s a deeper, more sinister reason why you need to tailor your resume: the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). An ATS is basically a piece of software that scans documents for relevant information. These systems are used to scan resumes and compare them to the job description, and then score your resume based on how relevant it is to said job description. Getting a “bad grade” will see your resume screened out before it’s even read by an actual person.
How to tailor correctly:
Dap up your best friend and thank them for the good times, because the job description is your new best friend. Read it thoroughly and identify the key words in it (i.e. what words or phrases are repeated? What essential skills and experiences can you pull out? What are the first few “asks” in each section?). Once you’ve identified the key words, USE THEM. Use the job description’s language in your resume. This is part of what the ATS is looking for.
Reorder your bullet points so that the more relevant ones come first within each job experience.
Scan that thang like a consultant, not a job seeker. That means read it to identify the problem(s) that needs solving. Address the company’s needs through your bullet points in your experience section(s).
A RESUME SHOULD BE SIMPLE
When you look at your resume, is it distracting? Got a lot of extras like colors and photos and shapes and stuff? Take those things out (unless you’re a designer or artist). They’re distracting.
Use a basic format, but avoid downloaded templates. ATS’s don’t always read those well.
Generally speaking, your resume should be pretty short. Unless you’re an executive-level candidate with loads of experience, try to keep it to 1 full page. No one likes reading long resumes. Or resumes at all.
There’s a lot of sections you could have on your resume. Some of the common ones include:
In general, the most important ones are Experience, Education, and your header, which includes your name and contact information. I’d throw Skills in there too, especially if you work in a more technical field or have a lot of technical skills to highlight.
*Pro-tip*: A Skills section is for hard/technical skills, not soft skills. Things like communication, leadership, patience, teamwork, etc. should show up in your Experience section via your bullet points, NOT the Skills section.
Got a question yet? Submit it and I’ll answer selected ones in the next issue! Otherwise, read on…
Here’s a helpful acronym: CPR
C = Challenge. What was the challenge you took on or needed to overcome?
P = Process. How did you overcome the challenge? What skills did you use?
R = Result. What was the outcome of your actions? If you got a number or percentage to include, please do!
I should be able to pull out each of these elements from your bullet points! Here’s an example of a bullet point that I can’t pull those things out of:
Helped student organization raise funds
I can see the challenge: raising funds for a student organization. I don’t know how you did that or what the result was, though. Here’s one that’s much better:
Outreached via email to 12 potential sponsors for student networking event, resulting in $2,000 raised to cover costs
See what I’m sayin’? I can see the challenge, the process (email outreach), and the result ($2000). The result helps me understand your proficiency with the skills you communicated in the bullet point, so definitely include the result.
Again, it’s not particularly hard once you get the hang of it. Just takes practice.
I went ahead and sourced some questions from the community regarding resumes. Let’s take a look and do some Q & A:
Q: I regularly update my resume (like every few months) so I can stay ready to apply, but I don’t always tailor my resume for each specific job I apply for. Should I change my approach?
A: It’s good that you regularly update your resume because it allows you to update it while your experiences are still fresh. Still, you definitely should be tailoring your resume for each job. I recommend keeping a master copy (one that houses all your experiences) that you update sorta regularly, and then making tailored/shortened versions specifically for each job you apply for.
Q: Do I need a professional summary on my resume?
A: In many-to-most cases, I’d say no, you don’t need one. If you’re a particularly seasoned professional with a really dope specialty or loads of experience you want to tie together, then go for it. But it’s gotta add value. Generally, I’d say save the space.
Next Issue on January 19th: Identifying Your Skills
The next issue of The Gravy will be released on January 19th! We’ll take a look at something I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with: Identifying Your Skills. It’s good gravy.
If y’all have any questions related to identifying your skills, submit them below and I’ll address selected ones next time.
Until then. Stay Brave.
The Gravy is Be Gallant Coaching’s bi-weekly newsletter focusing on career development topics that are relevant to the every-day professional. Subscribe today to get access to future issues.
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