How would you describe your resumé?
> A tight summary of your career history?
> An inventory of measurable accomplishments?
> A treasury of action verbs?
> A true and moving story?
If this blog post had sound effects, here is where we would cue the squealing brakes. A true and moving story? What?!
Over the past year, a dozen people have engaged Spencer Grace for resumé reinvention. All of these professionals brought well-written documents that outlined strong experience in their respective fields—teaching, technology, fundraising, research, sales, design, business operations, or some other expertise. Any one of them could have opted for a basic resumé review, to ensure consistency, active language, proper spelling, parallel structure, meaningful order, and tidy format.
But every one of these people wanted more. They wanted to tell a story—a true and moving story about who they are and what they have to offer.
To guide a resumé writer to this end result, I typically recommend the following process, which involves daydreaming, critical thinking, ruthless editing, and concise storytelling. The result is a reinvented resumé that tells a new career story.
Step 1: envision your happy ending
Imagine the best possible outcome of your job search. What will you be doing? Where? With whom? In what circumstances/environment? Describe this best-case scenario in whatever format is comfortable for you, whether bullet points, full paragraphs, or even a mind map.
Step 2: find the positives in your plot
Now, while visions of career happiness dance in your head, look at your existing resumé. Scan for words and phrases and experiences that feel like logical steps toward that next role you’ve envisioned. Highlight or circle everything that fits.
Step 3: assess the rest
Now analyze everything that isn’t highlighted or circled. All you need is this question: Does this element need to be in your new career story? If your answer is no, let it go. If your answer is yes, then explore your options for weaving the element into your story:
> A little more or a little less detail?
> Short explanations of what you learned or how you grew?
> Better evidence of how you contributed?
Question everything, and answer yourself by making notes—even if they’re just messy scribbles in the margins.
Step 4: write yourself a character sketch
Using what you’ve learned so far, describe yourself as a hero in your prospective employer’s setting. Write in the present tense, as if you are already there, solving problems, adding value, and making a difference. Write as if you were proclaiming: “This is who I am! This is what I do! This is my powerful contribution!”
If you’re a LinkedIn member (you should be), this character sketch will become the Summary that appears at the top of your profile. It might also appear on your resumé as an introduction to your professional experience.
Step 5: re-tell your your story
Position your character sketch at the top of your resumé. Read it carefully. Believe it. Now, start revising your story. Refer to the notes you made in Step 3. Prioritize. Emphasize the most compelling points. Put all the points in meaningful order. Edit. Cut unnecessary words. Replace acronyms and jargon with plain language any reader will understand. Do use action verbs and quantifiable results—but only if they tell the right story.
* * * * *
Your career is personal and important, and so is your resumé. So call upon your most trusted resources to create this story:
> Your mental picture of that next ideal job
> Your gut feelings about what belongs on the page and how it should be worded
> Your heart’s desire for a career that matches your skills and ambitions
Work through this process. The end product will accurately portray your strengths and passions (true!) in a way that interests employers and compels them to connect your capabilities with their opportunities (moving!).
If you need help, I am always happy to serve as sounding board, editor, or coach. I would be honored to help you develop your new career story.