We get it: writing a resume is daunting, no matter what stage in your career you’re at. Whether you have too much work experience and don’t know where to put everything, or if you are looking for your first professional job and don’t have much work experience to showcase, filling out an entire page can be a difficult task.
If you’re working on your resume right now, keep reading. We spoke with Michelle Aikman, NCRW, Co-founder and Director of Adventure Learning of Cerno, to discuss the best actionable and realistic ways to transform your resume.
1. Transform job duties into quantified accomplishments
According to Aikman, the number one mistake job seekers make on their resume is only including what they do, but not how well they do it.
For example, if you are a social media strategist, don’t just say you ran the company’s social media accounts. Instead, let the numbers do the talking and say, “When I started, we had X number of followers and X engagement, and I grew that to X.”
“It’s really important that you communicate the benefits of your experience and achievements,” explains Aikman. “I always want to know how well someone has done the job. That’s what helps an employer connect the dots so they can see how, if you do that for them, what will they get out of it.”
2. Ask someone else to read your resume
If you’re trying to transform your resume, one of the best steps to do right now is bring in a third party to look it over. While it’s probably best to have a resume expert or professional read your resume, you could show it to a co-worker or boss to get their input on how well it translates your achievements and will stand out against others.
“People often don’t get out of their own mind and think about what makes them a unique candidate and what makes them someone of value,” says Aikman. “People tend to under represent themselves, so having a conversation with a third party might help someone understand what they have to offer or what their competitive advantage is.”
3. Go above the standard template
If just getting the content onto your resume is tough, you might prefer to use a standard resume template because you don’t have time to even think about formatting it differently. However, taking the time to do so could be what helps set you a part, especially if you’re trying to move up a level in your career.
“People too often use standardized resume templates and don’t think from a creative perspective,” says Aikman. “Instead, you should consider, “What does this employer really think about? What are they looking for? What can I communicate visually?” You are trying to communicate to someone else, so think about what they want to see. What works for the engineering industry does not work for the marketing industry; therefore, you have to style it toward the person who is going to be reading it.”
4. Focus on the “forward” in your professional summary
At the top of your resume, you should have a “Professional Summary” section detailing what your aspirations are. Instead of focusing on the accomplishments you’ve made in the past, Aikman advises that you focus on the forward. Doing so shows how what you have done can help you in the next stage of your career–and if you want to move to that next level, you need the employer to know that.
“Next to your current job title, you can always put your aspiration,” says Aikman, suggesting that you add, “aspiring to be a manager” next to your current position or in your professional summary. “That’s a quick way to communicate that this is where you are now and this is where you want to go. Just don’t hand them a resume that says you want their job.”
5. Compress related experiences
If you’ve held a lot of different jobs in a short period of time, or have similar experiences from various companies, Aikman says you should try to compress what’s related into one section on your resume. Doing so transforms it into a way that’s easier to comprehend–and allows you to make any large unemployment gaps seem smaller.
“Look at what’s relevant and compile or compress related experiences together as much as possible,” says Aikman. “If you have a strictly reverse chronological resume it’ll be hard to do this, so consider a combined format with some chronological components so the employer can understand your timeline, but then also have a “qualifications” section with key benefits or expertise from multiple experiences. “
6. Language matters
If you have experience that isn’t exactly from professional work, but still adds to your qualifications, Aikman says you can add it to your resume, but that you have to be careful with what language you use. If you’re trying to transform your resume so it stands out or better showcases your talents, this is extremely important.
“It just comes down to pulling out the relevant words to describe what you did,” says Aikman. “It may mean you need to be skilled in how you present the information because you may not be able to use the language you used before. Think about how you can communicate this experience using language that will resonate with the employer.
7. Believe in your resume
It may sound silly, but the best way to really re-vamp your resume is to get it to a point where you really feel confident in it and believe in the way you are presenting it.
“You have to believe in a resume for it to work,” says Aikman.
Yes, the resume can be daunting, but if you want to land your next job, or move up to the next level in your career, one of the best actions to make right now is to give yourself a confidence boost and create a resume that really shows how valuable of an employee you are. You got this!