Tips for Writing a Killer Resume

As a Career Coach, I read and review resumes with clients on a weekly basis. I want to share some tips that I tend to use with my clients in hopes it can help you as you review and revise your own resume.

Don’t Put Everything on There

Your resume should not have every work experience you’ve ever had listed on it along with every single thing you’ve ever done or responsibility you’ve ever had. For each resume you send out, you’ll want to highlight only the accomplishments and skills that are most relevant to the job you are applying for.

1-Page!

Resumes are not meant to be anthologies, they are meant to be summaries. As such, keep it to a page (max 2) with exceptions for academia and if you are a seasoned senior executive.

Keep it Recent and Relevant

You should focus your resume to show the last 10-15 years of your career history. Also, keep it to experience relevant to the positions to which you are applying. And remember to allocate space based on importance and impact. If you have to decide between two bullets, choose the one that had a greater end result or impact

Select your bullets carefully

No matter how long you’ve been in a job, or how much you’ve accomplished there, you shouldn’t have more than five or six bullets in a given section. I usually try to stick with 3-4.

Focus on Impact and Output

It’s not so much what you did, but rather, the impact, significance or output of what you did. It’s great that you created marketing assets, or managed a social media campaign, but what was the impact or the result of that?

It’s best when you can quantify it (ex: a 25% increase, 30 new customers, $100,000 in additional revenue) but not everything can be quantified nicely in those numbers. As such, qualitative can do if you can’t pin down a number (ex: designed marketing materials that were used in business development proposals) *As a note, when I read and edit resumes, this is the one thing I will drill hard on for my clients, as it’s the one that often is the most challenging.

Show Some Personality

Feel free to include an “Interests” section on your resume – it’s a great way to show off your personality and help you stand out amongst the crowd. I usually put this at the bottom of my resume

Finally, I truly believe there is not one right way to write a resume, but rather, many right ways to write a resume. At some point, (usually after the 20th or 21st revision) you are probably going to run into the law of diminishing returns with your edits. Additionally, if you ask 5 different people for feedback there’s a high likelihood you’re going to get five different potential results. At some point, you need to decide what makes sense for you and what is most consistent with what you want to put forward and show off to a recruiter.

 

 

Why you Need to Learn how to Learn

About this time last year, I wrote about how companies like AT&T  are emphasizing the importance of learning on, during and outside the job for their employees as a means to compete in the digital age. They have recognized that the skills needed by the company and its employees to thrive in the future are not there yet today, and in order to compete they must adapt.

In a recent talk to college students at the University of Missouri St. Louis, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson yet again touted the importance of learning, even urging students to retool and pivot after joining the workforce. He said, “I believe your skill set is two years in duration, max. Mine is two years in duration, max. I’m constantly retooling myself.”

 

Learning is a topic that is on the rise in the corporate world. According to research published by leading HR Analyst Josh Bersin, learning and development is one of the most important trends facing HR Executives this year. And while many companies are rolling out initiatives, whether it’s through courses like Udemy or in AT&T’s case, partnering with a college, I’m convinced the best results will come when each individual professional takes it upon themselves to identify and develop a learning plan to make sure they maintain and even stay ahead of the curve.

As a consultant, learning is a key driver to my success on the job. We are constantly being placed in new situations, new industries, new functions and new types of business problems that the only way we can adequately advise our clients is by forcing ourselves to learn and evolve our skillset.

Furthermore, as a result of the impact of technology and innovation, our clients are coming to us with problems that are more and more complex, interdisciplinary, and frankly, new and we have to learn in order to stay ahead of the curve to guide them through the process.

As someone who has made a conscious effort to continually learn throughout their career, I want to offer some actionable tips for how you can “learn how to learn” and develop in your career:

Become an Expert – In today’s knowledge economy, knowledge is power. The more knowledge and insight you can provide, the more valuable you can be to your team and organization.

One way to accumulate knowledge in a focused manner is to become an expert. That way, you can be the go-to person on a particular skill, issue, or idea on your team. First, you might already be on the path to becoming an expert based on your existing work experiences, so think about if there is anything you already are an expert in.

Next, a simple “Major/Minor” Framework can help you find other areas to be an expert in. For example, let’s say you work in Marketing, and specifically, within SEO and Blogging. In this example, your Major would be Marketing, and your Minor would be things like SEO, Social Media, blogging, and Google Analytics. From there, you can start building your knowledge in both your major and minor to eventually be seen as the Marketing/SEO/Social Media guru.

Look for the intersection points – Knowing your function or industry is important, but what’s also important is how your function or industry intersects with the broader organization and world. I call this, “playing at the edge.” If you can play at the edge, it forces you to not only understand your specific area of expertise at a deep level, but a few other adjacent areas. By applying your knowledge to other adjacent areas, you can expand your knowledge base but also, understand the bigger picture of how your area of expertise can either be applied to other areas, or how it impacts other areas.

For example, let’s say you work again in Marketing, but begin to study how what you do impacts the Sales team.  If you can understand how your SEO and content empower and drive sales, you can A) play a bigger role in working with the Sales team and B) produce better content for the sales team that helps win customers. This increases your own knowledge of marketing, helps you understand the broader impact of your work, and gives you more opportunities to engage with other areas of the organization, all of which are positive steps for your own career development.

Use Technology – The great thing about the internet is that everything, literally everything is on there. It’s literally never been easier to learn about something by using different digital tools and technologies that are made available. Platforms like Lynda.com, Udemy and Coursera are great resources. As are things like Twitter, blogs, websites and forums like Quora.  If you want to know how about the tools and apps I use to learn on a daily basis check out my post on how I learn to keep up with my job.

Read – The best writers and thinkers are often the best readers. It’s where they generate their ideas and insights. This tactic can work for you, in your quest to learn and develop subject matter knowledge. One way to do this is to configure your information diet. This consists of books, and/or articles on relevant topics and information, and should be consumed on a regular basis.

Talk to Others – Reading and learning on your own is great, but sharing ideas and putting your mind together with other intelligent but diverse groups of people is what will spur ideas and innovation in your head. Take the time to identify other people in your network who share your love of learning and find ways to talk and communicate with them. In some cases, you’ll want to talk about topics that are of importance to you, but in other cases, you may have to talk about topics that are not relevant to you. That’s okay! In fact, that sometimes can be really helpful as it can help you make connections that you would have never come up with if you spoke with someone who was as familiar with the topic as you. The key here is finding people who are as eager to learn and engage as you are.

Earlier this year, LinkedIn studied the career paths of executives in an attempt to identify common characteristics of those who made it to the C-Suite. One of their conclusions was that the people who made it to the C-suite demonstrated a broad and diverse range of skills and experiences as opposed to a narrow and focused view, or, said another way, those who focused on continuous learning, growth and development were the ones who made it to the top.

It’s been well documented that learning is good for your health. It also might be the thing that saves your career.

Further Reading

Objection Handling your way to success

If you work in sales, you’re probably familiar with the concept of objection handling. Objection handling is a way to prepare and anticipate the concerns or objections of a potential customer, and then to come up with solutions and responses that would address those anticipated concerns.

Its an excellent exercise that salespeople go through to ensure that even if they run into roadblocks with a potential customer (very common) they have the right messaging to help the customer overcome the concerns and buy the product.

In addition to helping salespeople sell, the concept of objection handling can be very useful to all of us non-salespeople in various aspects of our life. If we can anticipate potential concerns of say, our partner or spouse, perhaps we can pick a restaurant to go to that will meet both of our food tastes. Or, if we think about how our boss might be concerned about our decision to shift our priorities to some other projects before we meet with her, we can strengthen our business case to pursue those projects and win her support.

 

Here are a few use cases where doing an objection handling exercise can help you:

Presenting or Persuading your colleagues – Objection handling is perfect if you  have to make a presentation, sell an idea, or get buy in on a specific approach to a project. By identifying the other key players, thinking about their potential concerns to what you are proposing, and practicing how you’d respond to them you can increase your chances of getting support.

Convincing a recruiter to hire you – Anytime you are applying for a job, you are essentially marketing and selling yourself to a company, so similar to how a sales rep would want to have a customer overcome their concerns about your product, you want the recruiter to overcome their concerns about your product (yourself.) By identifying weakspots on your resume or work experience and highlighting how you would overcome those, you can be sure that you’re prepared for whatever they want to ask you in the interview.

Here’s my approach to practicing objection handling:

Find the holes – Every argument, no matter how strong it is, has some potential holes or concerns. Be objective, and identify what the holes or weak spots in your argument are, and write them down.

Come up with responses and alternatives – Take the list of weaknesses or holes, and develop responses or solutions to how you would either address those holes, or how the weaknesses are actually not as big of a deal as they are made out to be.

Practice – Take the time to say your responses out loud and practice how you would respond if someone were to drill you on those specific questions. If you do this enough, when it comes time to present, you’ll free comfortable with how to respond most of their questions or concerns.

Objection handling is a great way to prepare for potential challenges and pushback in various aspects of our life. You won’t win every time, but using this tactic can help you ensure you make a compelling case for whatever you’re supporting.