According to Dictionary.com, the definition for resume is "a summing up; summary;" and, "a brief written account of personal, educational and professional qualifications and experiences, as that prepared by an applicant for a job."
With this somewhat broad definition in mind, job seekers often get consumed by understanding the details of what to do when building a career summary. However, the conundrum is that you're not sure which details to consider, and which to toss so your resume lands on the hiring manager's desk.
In these instances, it may in fact be best to begin with just a few rules of thumb regarding what 'not' to do when building your new resume (versus getting bogged down in a bunch of rules).
To get your resume jumpstarted, consider these three things:
1. Don't marry your resume to a template.
As with anything personalized, when you put your stock in a template—mirroring format, words and content strategies—your results will look like a me-too story. A shiny, pretty, buzzword-polished resume may make your eyes light up and feel good about 'you' initially, but over time, lackluster responses from hiring decision makers will dim that light.
Instead, if you are determined to use another resume as inspiration, leave it at just that, using the other resume (or template) as a launch pad for yours. Other resumes and design strategies may serve as guides but should not be the primary premise for your unique resume story.
2. Don't make your resume all about you.
The bottom line is this is YOUR story, so initially, you want to focus on what your goals and dreams are. Once you have nailed those down, however, you want to identify the types of companies and roles that will leverage your talents in a way that you can reach your destination.
Uncover your target audience's needs. What types of products or services do they provide? What types of clients do they serve? What types of problems might they typically encounter?
Next, weave together career stories that imply your greatness through results that benefited your future company and your future boss within that company. Make sure the results pop not only with metrics but also with your strategic thinking and solutions-building skills. Show your 'how' and your 'why,' and get the reader emotionally engaged to you, feeling that you understand their needs and can resolve their areas of struggle.
In other words, the next boss you are appealing to must feel you are their champion, their hero who can come in and help THEM look good to their bosses and reach the next level of their career.
3. Don't worry about the rules.
Read 10 articles on resumes, and you will get 10 different opinions. Some say never to exceed two pages; others instruct never to use first-person; some say never to go back further than 10 or 15 years; and some indicate that employing a chart or graph in a resume is an absolute no-no.
Scrap those rules for a moment, and just begin writing, with this primary rule in mind: FOCUS. Focus on your goals wedded with your target audience's wishes. At first, you may find that a brain-dump resume unfolds, one that appears leggy and lumbering. Of course, you won't want to stop there. Instead, take a scalpel and begin editing your story down, layer by layer, until you unveil the targeted message – a pithy short story that draws your reader in, hungry to know more.