Finding the Balance

I have a friend who is a licensed falconer. He has an interesting career – not only is he a licensed falconer but he is also a singer. He has managed to combine the two interests into one paying job by managing a birds of prey show for an amusement park where he also performs as a singer. He has found a balance in his career.

Balance is the key to everything. Work-life balance is a key issue these days. People are more aware of the impact that work makes on their lives and they strive to keep a healthy balance between work and home. Telecommuting and home-based businesses offer options today that have never been available to workers before.

Balance in a resume is also a key issue. There are many elements that require balance to make a resume effective. First of all, just the visual appearance should be balanced. The amount of white space versus the amount of text should be balanced somewhere along the lines of 30% white space and 70% text. You can find this balance by printing out the resume, tacking it to a wall, then stepping back until you are far enough away that you can’t read the words. Look at the resume as a whole. Is there approximately a 70/30 balance in white space versus text? If not, you should adjust the format of the document. Perhaps bigger margins are needed and less wordiness or vice versa.

Another element in a resume that needs balance is the balance of text from start to finish of a page. You should never leave a resume with a half page of information hanging. I see many resumes that are a page and a half. Rather than leaving the second page half filled, go ahead and make the second page (or even the third page) a full page of information. It might mean adding some information or it might mean working with the margins some to achieve the balance. Either way, don’t leave a half page of information hanging.

The old-fashioned resume design with a large left margin with dates of employment on the left is a very imbalanced design. Not only does this particular format hog space, but it weights the resume visually to the right. It is awkward to read and many find it difficult to format using modern word-processing programs. It is a design that was “made” for typewriters but has not yet realized typewriters are extinct.

Balance between job description and achievements is also important. Most people, when writing their own resume, write job description. They can get down what their responsibilities and duties were but they have a more difficult time getting down their achievements and the results of their work. Employers need both elements to be able to judge whether a candidate is worth pursuing. Balancing results versus actions is crucial.

It is important to find balance between hard skill descriptions and soft skill sales spiels. Many job seekers who write their own resumes overload the resume with soft skill descriptions – long adjective phrases that describe intangibles like “ethical”, “detail-oriented”, “good communicator”. They ignore the hard skill descriptions that can actually be quantitatively described. Employers pay attention to hard skills and take soft skill descriptions with a grain of salt. Don’t over do it trying to convince a hiring manager to hire your “people skills”; instead show the result of your people skills in your accomplishments.

When a resume has an imbalance, whether it is in content or design, the reader feels uncomfortable and the resume does not give a good impression. The content is left weak and ineffective. Just as in the life-work balance crusade, you should strive to achieve balance in your resume as well.

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