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Curing Underemployment (or) Josh’s Six Step Plan to a Great Resume (part 1 of 6)

I’m helping a colleague of mine put together her resume for the first time in many years and I thought I’d share the process with you . I’m not convinced that there is a totally right way or wrong way to do this but I DO know that there is a right (read: beneficial) outcome and a wrong (read: detrimental) one.

What a job! by roarpett on flickr
What a job! by roarpett on flickr

What Should a Good Resume Do for You?

I think a lot of people approach the resume process like they would approach, say, their biography. All stories should be told, all skills described, all experience disclosed. While it’s definitely good to be honest and thorough with a company you want to work for, by putting everything in your resume, you’re taking away a lot from the other big part of getting a job: the interview.

Your resume should be a complete summary of what you have to offer but it doesn’t need to describe every position in detail. In fact, it shouldn’t, it should lead your potential employers to questions about the positions.

Your resume should, essentially, qualify you exactly for the position you’re applying for and create a bit of interest in what you have to offer. Pertinent education should be there, relevant experience should be there, specific skills should be there and they should all be tuned towards the position you’re trying to get.

Your resume should also be FLAWLESS. There are enough jokes floating around out there about misspellings, bad grammar, incorrect references, and embarrassing mistakes, don’t become one of them. Reserve at least a quarter of your resume-writing time to correcting mistakes, checking for errors, and formatting as best as you can.

bday 132 resume writing/b by bhoneyrider/b at flickr
day 132 'resume writing' by honeyrider at flickr

Step 1: Write down the job positions you want

Your first step is having a clear picture of what you want. If you don’t know where you want to apply or what you want to do then you’re going to be at a specific disadvantage compared to the other people applying for the position. I’m not saying you need to come to brass tacks about your career and your life and your direction (well, you probably should at some point) but you need to at least know what jobs you want, what you’re qualified for, and why you’re applying for them. Think about it: you might be saving yourself a lot of pain down the road if you decide against a job you would have mindlessly applied to in the first place.

So, get a list going and write it all down. Make sure that your list contains positions you want and positions you’re qualified to do. Just do a brain dump of everything first, get it all down on paper, then take a look at what you’ve created. In the end, you’re looking for groups of positions that are similar in one way or another. What you want at the end of this is an idea of how many resumes you’re going to need on file in order to be prepared.

Now, you have your list of industries and positions, now, take a look at them in terms of their hierarchy and where you want to be in 2, 5, or 10 years. Do you just need a job for right now or are looking to find a place to stay for a while? Think about your career path with respect to the jobs you’re applying for and what the next step will require. Do you want to be a bartender but could see yourself as a restaurant manager? Then you’ll write the resume like an aspiring restaurant manager with the skills to be a bartender. Do you have marketing experience but really see yourself as a marketing director? You should write your resume like a director who knows how to do basic marketing tasks. By writing with the next level in mind, you’re going to connect better with the person you’re interviewing with and make yourself a much more attractive candidate.

If you haven’t already, group all of this information together. Put the positions you want into groups based on the industry and in order based on rank and file. Cap each one of these ranking lists with the position you’d like to attain by getting better at the jobs before it. Where do these jobs lead for you? What do you want to be doing later? How will these jobs help? How can you orient yourself towards your goals? Big stuff, I know, but critical in general and important for your job search.

Next step coming tomorrow so stay tuned!

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