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An Introduction to the Art of Resume Writing

Updated on October 5, 2013

Is it time to touch up your resume?

Whether you're just entering the workforce or you're in a position to look for a new job, having a polished resume is an essential component to a successful strategy. In most professional job offerings, your abilities will be judged long before you ever get to the interview process.

It's no secret that we've been living in a recession for several years now. The job market is tough and your resume might be your only shot at even being considered for a position. The stress of writing such an important document can inflict a severe case of writer's block.

One of the most difficult tasks of resume writing is translating what you've done into what you can offer a potential employer. I'll provide some tips for that process later in this article series, but for now let's take a look at the initial process of writing a resume.

Top 10 Resume Mistakes

An Introduction to Resume Writing
An Introduction to Resume Writing

Some questions you should be asking:

  • What is the correct resume format for the position I'm seeking?
  • How long should my resume be?
  • Should I list my experience or my education first?
  • How many different resumes should I have?
  • Should I write my own resume, or pay to have it done?

These are good questions to start with, but you may find they just scratch the surface of what could be one of the most important documents of your professional career.

What if you've never needed a resume before?

As a military veteran, I spent a good portion of my career in a resume-free environment. When a new airman showed up, you got what you got. You could find yourself with the next super-troop or just another Airman Snuffy, clueless as a box of rocks. When it came time for me to make the decision whether to re-enlist or rejoin the private sector, I found myself in a panic. How could I effectively translate my military experience into viable professional skills that I could market with a resume?

One thing that really helped me was the military system of performance reporting. I had years of bullet statements listing things I'd done and how they had impacted the mission. Of course, some of it was complete garbage -- the units I served in had a bit of a problem with "sharing accomplishments" so some of the content on my performance reports wasn't ethically "mine". Other items in my performance reports that had been included to demonstrate the "whole person concept" such as volunteering at a soup kitchen were nice, but had no place in a resume for the type of work I was looking for.

The months leading up to the end of my enlistment produced several different versions of my resume. Each new revision got closer to the final draft as began to get a better understanding of the resume process.

Sometimes you have to get in before you can move up.

To be honest, the resume I came up with probably helped a little, but the biggest part of landing my first job was a whole lot of luck. A temporary position opened up on a defense contract and I was able to send over my resume through a personal contact in the organization. What was supposed to be a three week gig turned into a job I stayed in for the next year and a half. My hard work and a bit more luck helped me to become a permanent part of the team.

After a while, as many people do, I decided it was time to move on. I had added more tools to my professional toolkit and I'd finished my bachelor's degree. Once again I found myself wondering how I should format my resume to best present my knowledge, skills, and abilities.

What were some of my unique accomplishments during the year and a half on the job? This time around I didn't have those bullet statements to sort through. What I did have, however, were my WAR's (weekly activity reports). These summaries of activities that had filled up my Sent Items box in Outlook were great reminders when it came time to express the skills I'd developed over that time.

The key to keeping a fresh resume is keeping track of the things you do and what you accomplish. If you don't have to submit activity reports, you should find some way of tracking your own activities. Something as simple as a weekly or monthly log in a text document could provide you with great material you never would have considered otherwise.

Top Recruiter Resume Tips

Your resume should be a living document.

I've since landed several positions while working my way up the professional ladder towards my goal. Each time I reached a point where I was ready to move on, I had to rewrite my resume. What I've learned is that the best approach is to keep track of your tasks and projects while you're still comfortable with your new position. Build a good foundation of skills and keep adding to your resume even when you're not actively looking for a new job.

The point here is that a resume should be a living document, one that accurately reflects who you are as a professional in reference to the position you're seeking. If you have more than one skill set, you should maintain more than one resume. With a little knowledge, you'll find your work experience in one career can easily translate into another if you accurately capture the essence of the skills required to perform your duties.

So far I've given you a brief introduction to the art of resume writing. I've highlighted some concerns and suggested some questions that may help put you on the right path. In my next article I'll delve deeper into the intricacies of writing an effective resume. Tips From a Resume Writer

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