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Resume Tips For Today's Careers

Updated on September 10, 2015
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish is successful at employment & training, with regional records of tens of thousands placed and retained in gainful employment.


Do you need a resume?

Whether you need a first job, a new job, or a part-time job to occupy some free time in retirement, you probably need a resume. If you are starting a business, requesting a business loan, or appying for grant funding, you definitely need a resume, because a resume is required for the associated legal processes. Colleges and universities to which you apply likely want to see a resume as well. Resumes can come in handy for many events.

Writing a resume is not always fun and it may be that helping someone else with their writing is easier for you than composing your own resume.

The following tips and advice come from personal experience and the experiences of my clients and may be helpful to you. Unfortunately, much bad and outdated advice about resumes appears on the Internet, so don't be fooled by it.

My advice comes from successfully placing hundreds of adult and youth job candidates in positions every year, over the course of several years. Each job candidate still had to prepare a resume and pass at least on job interview, because placement does not mean that a job is handed to the job seeker.

Some individuals say that a person's resume is like a selfie.
Some individuals say that a person's resume is like a selfie. | Source

A Certain Attitude Helps in Writing

Maintain a positive and determined outlook while preparing your resume and wave off feelings of intimidation at the prospect of putting yourself down on paper.

Some job seekers fear making a mistake in organizing a resume and are unable to begin the process, but the miracle of word processing on computers makes it easy to change wording and to rearrange resume sections, so remember that changes can be easily made. You never need to feel the obligation of allowing anyone to look at the document until you have completed your writing and at that point, you can ask a trusted friend to read it over to see whether it makes sense and looks good.

Your resume is an introduction to a company and the boss. It is also a commercial for what you (a product) can do for that company. When you have successfully sold yourself, then you can negotiate salary, benefits, perks, and a path for advancement. Until then, your resume is the first step, unless you happen to know someone of influence in the company. Even then, a resume and a completed job application will probably be necessary in order to meet the organization's paperwork and database requirements.

Make your resume the right length for you, not for someone else.
Make your resume the right length for you, not for someone else. | Source

How Many Resumes Do You Need?

How many versions of your resume do you have currently?

See results

Misinformation About Resume Length

Your resume can safely cover from one to three pages in length, given enough education and work history, awards, publications, and accomplishments. However, more is not always better. For example, it is best to leave high school out of the Education Section, unless you just graduated from high school. One exception is a government job requirement that includes listing high school name, address, phone number, and your GPA.

If your resume is one page and one sentence long, then you need to find a way to reduce it to one page. However, the standard Executive Resume takes 30+ years of career experience and squeezes it onto one page in an 8 pt font. Although this is standard practice, I personally find it ineffective. At the other extreme, one PhD scientist I know has over 10 pages of publications. Thus, resume length is an individual aspect.

Listing one's job duties usually adds to unnecessary length of a document, because serious employers do not want to see a list of job responsibilities. Just because you had them does not mean you met them consistently, or at all. In fact, employers want to see that you surpassed them. Successful business people want to see hard figures about what you accomplished with each one of those responsibilities. If you were in sales, by what percentage did you increase your own sales figures over the past year? By what percentage did you increase your department's sales? How many new customers did you recruit? (For examples, see Stop Tweaking, below).

Be careful of outdated resume writing advice.
Be careful of outdated resume writing advice. | Source

About Language

Use proper spellings, avoid abbreviations, and use as much proper grammar as you can. In a resume, lines will often read:

"Created seventeen new products for the company, of which the sales of sixteen of them over a period of 12 months increased company revenues by 37%." --

There is no subject in the sentence, but the subject is understood to be "I." It is customary to leave out the distracting "I" so that the document does not read something like: "I did this and I did that and I did other things." It is fine if you did something, but how did it visibly benefit the company and by how much?

About Resume Gaps

Blocks of unemployed years can be a problematic area and the article How to Avoid Resume Gaps gives some precise examples about its handling. In addition, How to Showcase Temporary Employment provides information about how to present temporary positions as fillers of these gaps.

At one time, job seekers wrote "Consultant" for years that were not covered by employment, but that was an error. While sitting on a panel for a Panel Interview, I witnessed a colleague read "Consultant" aloud from the resume of the job candidate sitting on the other side of the table and remark, "That means you were unemployed."

When You Accumulate Experience

After several years of work experience, you will find it effective to create a small set of resumes for use with the different career fields you have eperienced. This set might include two or three versions of your resume, since many Americans work in two or three careers fields over during their working years.

Keep your resume set in a folder on your computer desktop or in your documents file for easy access. Remember not to include personal statistics such as height, weight, race, ethnicity, religion, recreational pursuits (except volunteer work and perhaps college sports teams) or the dreaded unnecessary phrase "References available on request" -- Employers already know that, so do not waste space with it.

Stop Tweaking

Stop constantly tweaking and weakening your resume, for they amount to the same thing: useless activity.

Create a master resume for yourself and save it on your computer and/or a flashdrive, including all the information you feel you will need to produce resumes in the future. Include the dates of education and work on this master list, but remove dates from your actual resume, because a tip-off about your age is a problem, according to EEO regulations. When completed, you can use this larger document to cut and paste the most important information for a resume.

Update the master list when you have additional data to add. Vitally important are hard figures that show how you helped your employers, especially regarding the number or percentages of increase you produced in terms of sales, customer base, successful outcomes, handling customer complaints, reducing waste, saving money, streamlining processes, and in other activities.

Because the US has an average of about half the job openings we need for those looking for work, competition is sharper than ever. Employers want workers who make a visible positive difference to their business's customers and clients as well as to profits. The Continuous Improvement movement in the world of work makes ongoing accomplishments mandatory. One can no longer show up and leave on time, meet the given tasks, but not make a visible and noticeable difference in most companies' expectations. Older people still call that minimal effort concept "just putting in your time."

More About Accomplishments On the Job

What can you add to your resume in the way of numbers and percentages? Here are examples from my first job:

I worked as a file clerk for a large company and noticed that the files were not put into any sort of order before filing. Clerks walked up and down long, tall rows of filing shelves all day to place each file where it belonged. The first thing I did after one week on the job was to place the loose files into numeric order in my department, which used two file clerks. Filing time was reduced to the point that one clerk was transferred to fill a position in another department and not replaced in mine. This was a savings of one total employee and a staff reduction through streamlining of 50%.

Another problem I noticed was the double payment of large property damage claims. This was easier to notice when files were in numeric sequence and the filing was completed in a timely fashion. On one day, I found a claim for $35,000 that had been paid twice, the second check attached to the front of a file for me to mail. Taking it to my supervisor, he and I were able to save the company $35,000 and set up a system to check for duplicate payments. These are the types of accomplishments that future employers want to see on a resume.

The right amount of organization makes work easier.
The right amount of organization makes work easier. | Source

Objective or Headline

The popularity of objective statements at the head of a resumes waxes and wanes every few years. However, some semi-professional resume writers preach either the use of an objective or the elimination of the objective altogether. Neither sentiment is fully correct. Use your own judgment about whether to use an objective and if you decide you meed one, see this article about how to fashion a fresh statement that actually means something: How to Write a Perfect Resume Objective. To help in this activity, see Personal Branding.

Instead of "Objective", some job seekers use a Headline as the first line of the resume - in particular, one that matches the qualifications of the job for which they apply. This can serve as a title for the resume and potential employers, HR representatives, and resume scanning computers are usually quick to pick this out. for instance, a resume might be titled Award Winning Business Analyst or Secondary School Math Instructor.


© 2014 Patty Inglish MS


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