By Peter Newfield
President of Career-Resumes.com®
Let’s get right to the point — Yes, you really do need a resume and it better be a good one. A resume is the career version of the “Get Out of Jail” card in a Monopoly game. If you don’t have one, you may be doomed to sit in that same go nowhere job while your friends and co-workers merrily skip past you to new opportunities and brighter futures.
Too simplistic? Not really. Without a resume, companies have no idea that you exist. You may be a whiz on the computer, the best salesman who ever lived, or a dynamite CEO, but without a professional resume highlighting your accomplishments and achievements, you may as well be invisible!
Let’s take it step by step: You’ve graduated from college, you’ve entered the workforce, you’ve built up some expertise in one or more fields, and have climbed the ladder of middle management with increased responsibility and a broad range of titles along the way. If you have worked for only one employer since graduation, then the internal HR brass already know you through memos and personnel files. But for the majority of Americans who change jobs an average of six or more times over twenty years, your game card required to enter the next level or phase of your career is the resume — it’s the one document designed to present your professional career experience in a strong format to get you called in for an interview.
Hopefully, we’re all in agreement now about the need for a resume, but what makes a really good resume vs. a bunch of information typed up on a piece of paper? A really good resume should be designed to highlight your individual career experience, skills, achievements, accomplishments, and education. You can use the lingo appropriate for your specific industry and you can present this information in a tight one or two page document. The object of the game is to get called in for an interview based on the contents and presentation of the resume.
A professional resume most often starts out with a brief Summary of Qualifications, a 3-8 sentence overview of your work experience. The Summary of Qualifications should contain action words such as “results-driven”, “keen analytical abilities” or “strong negotiation skills.”
In this day and age of electronically scanned resumes, it is a smart idea to include a section of key words, entitled Areas of Strength, which can show at a glance the areas in which you have the most experience. Key words might include “Operations Management”, “Staff Training”, or “Financial Reporting”.
The heart and soul of the resume, however, is the Professional Experience section. Here is the part where you not only list the names of your present and previous employers, your titles, and dates of employment, but also your job responsibilities and achievements. Instead of a laundry list of tasks or responsibilities under each title, present a brief description of your responsibilities and then a separate listing of accomplishments under each position. What separates you from the other Sales Managers submitting their resumes for the same job opening?
By highlighting your accomplishments or achievements on each job, you can demonstrate how you made the company money, cut expenses, reduced employee turnover, expanded market share, or used your knowledge of Cantonese to open new offices in China.
Try to keep your resume to no more than two full pages. As a general rule of thumb, most prospective employers want to know what you have done in the past 10-15 years and only need a brief summary or synopsis of previous jobs. After the Professional Experience section, a resume should contain a section on Education. Only if you are a recent college grad (within the past two to three years), should your Education be at the top of the resume. Other categories that may be appropriate to include on a resume include Professional Memberships, Industry Training, and/or Computer Skills.
There you have it – of course, don’t forget that neatness counts – proofread carefully to eliminate any spelling or grammatical errors before you mail or e-mail your resume. If you take the time to prepare a strong, achievement driven resume, you will be rewarded with new career opportunities. Good luck to all!
For a free critique/price quote, email Career Resumes® at Peter@career-resumes.com.
Peter Newfield is President of Career-Resumes.com®, one of the premier resume writing services in the United States. He is The Resume Expert for BlueSteps.com, ExecutiveRegistry.com, NETSHARE.com, DirectEmployer.com and the former Resume Expert for Monster.com, Spencer Stuart Talent Network and the Career Center on AOL. View samples at: www.career-resumes.com