Résumé Readiness … The Whys and Hows for Updating

Resume Readiness: Be Prepared

“Don’t go to the fish pond without a net.” ~ Japanese Proverb

As a resume writer, I spend many hours digging for content and strategizing its presentation to showcase focus, value proposition, brand and metrics-driven successes for my clients.  Time and again, I see firsthand the stress created for job seekers when they have been thrust into a job search—voluntarily or involuntarily—and are not prepared. Why the stress? Because opportunities frequently have quick turnaround times.

In 2001, Career Directors International designated September the International Update Your Résumé Month as an incentive to professionals in all industries and at all levels (both employed or in an active job search) to be ready for great career opportunities. The event promotes awareness about the importance of having an updated resume ready.

Why is having an updated resume important? Abraham Lincoln said, “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” You never know when the need for an updated resume will surface. Here are five possible scenarios where being prepared with an updated resume could mean the difference between grabbing or missing that chance.

Resume Readiness: The Whys

  1. You’re in an active job search campaign. This one’s obvious. If you are looking for work, you must have a current resume ready that is relevant to your target position(s) and audience. It may be an advertised opening or a lead from someone; you must jump on it. Competition is fierce in this tough economy.
  2. You’re employed but are let go. Unfortunately, this is happening all over and in all industries. We all know someone who didn’t see a layoff or termination coming. Many companies—small and large—are scaling back. Maybe you’ve felt secure in your position, but there are now rumors of job cuts or layoffs. If they occur, will you be a step ahead? Doesn’t it make sense to be proactive?
  3. An opening occurs within your company. Perhaps another employee where you work has been fired, promoted or has voluntarily left. That opening must be filled and you are qualified. Companies often hire from within. It’s cheaper; an existing employee knows the business and the people. Having an updated resume will increase your chances to be a front-runner. It will also eliminate the stress to hurriedly come up with a resume. I’ve known people who had to do so within half a day!
  4. An opportunity outside your company arises that attracts you. It may be that you are not completely satisfied with your current job situation and are scouting to see what else is out there. You might be happy in your current position. Then you find out about a fantastic opportunity from a friend, family member or networking contact. You may well need to act fast.
  5. You want a raise or promotion. It may be time for your annual or six-month review. Or maybe you haven’t had a review in awhile, and believe you deserve that salary increase or next level of responsibility. Providing a resume with updated work successes can only enhance your ability to present your case. At the very least, it shows your employer that you are diligent, proactive and organized. More importantly, it highlights your accountability and accomplishments within your current workplace.

Resume Readiness: Four Key Questions

In revising and updating your resume, keep in mind four key questions that employers want answers to; and that your resume should address:

  • What position(s) are you seeking or what are you qualified to do that would be of value to us?
  • What contributions and results make you a better “buy” for us than the other qualified candidates?
  • What assets, qualifications and skills do you bring to the job that would lead us to believe you can deliver the results you say you can deliver?
  • Can you provide specific metrics-qualified results (successes, achievements, accomplishments with numbers, percentages, dollars etc.) that you had in the past, that would suggest your ability to reproduce them for us in the future?

Resume Readiness: 6 Tips

  1. Brainstorm your current career goals and make sure your resume still reflects and targets these goals. Use a headliner title or a focus statement. If your focus has changed, review your entire resume to make sure everything is still relevant and strategic to your present goals.
  2. Write all your accomplishments down since your last update. Did you work on a special project or initiative? Exceed quotas or goals? Bring in business? Keep business? Make money? Save money? Streamline operations? Be specific and quantify your results as much as possible. Also keep each achievement bullet brief—one to two lines if possible.
  3. Include any continuing education or professional development completed since the last update. Seminars, conferences, employer-sponsored training, certifications. Of course if you’ve completed a degree, include it. And if any of this information is relevant to your goal, put it up front—not at the bottom. An example would be recent attainment of Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification when you’re now seeking a Project Management role.
  4. Don’t overlook your key branding—your name and contact information. Is your name the way you want it? Is it aligned with your online identity? Do you have your current phone, email? How about LinkedIn?
  5. Cover experience since the update. Separate accountability from successes. You can use a brief paragraph to give a snapshot of how you came on board, your main challenge, money managed, people supervised, etc. Use bullets to showcase the above-mentioned successes in #2. Again, think about strategy and relevance to your current goals. What’s most important? For successes, ask “so what” for every statement. How did it matter? What was the impact? You don’t have to reveal everything. Pull out the best morsels to whet their appetite.
  6. Include any honors, recognition or awards you’ve received since the last update.

The bottom line is to be prepared. You may get a call from John, the guy you met at last week’s conference. Opportunities come out of the blue. Having an updated resume (and cover letter) enables you to jump in right away with a positive first impression. When crafting an updated resume, remember that you are selling yourself in a recession economy. There are parallels to selling a home today in a buyer’s market. You want to outshine the competition. Your might find these 6 Résumé Staging Tips helpful. Having an updated resume ready to go leaves you prepared to grasp whatever brass ring comes your way!


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