You deserve a job that loves you back. Get there with Glassdoor. Learn more.

Career Advice

Ask a Resume Writer: How Do I Level Up Professionally?

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated December 18, 2017

"I've put in my time as a Senior Manager, and want to transition to a VP or Director-level position. Trouble is, my resume still reads like a Manager's. What am I missing?"

Watching the TV show Mad Men and its lead, Don Draper, will impart an important lesson about what it takes to "level up" your career. You see, Don didn't start out as a high-powered advertising executive with a seemingly endless parade of women at his beck and call. He took on the identity of someone else, played the role to the hilt, and his life changed accordingly.

If you're serious about attaining a better role, you must understand this: no employer is going to take a chance on you unless you're ALREADY coming across at the right level. Which is to say: a Manager's resume will never land a VP role. Only a VP's resume will.

So how do you take on a new resume identity? Read on:


STEP 1: Learn How to Critically Analyze Job Postings

Many jobseekers preemptively disqualify themselves from higher level positions because they take one look at a job posting, spot several requirements which they don't have, and decide that they're a bad fit.  

[Related: Ask a Resume Writer: Is My Resume Killing My Confidence?]

Here's the truth: you don't need to match up 100% with a job posting to land it. In fact, studies show that the most qualified "on paper" candidates ALMOST NEVER end up getting the job. That's because there are many additional factors, such as a candidate's enthusiasm level and "value-added" skills he's bringing to the table, that can sway a hiring manager's decision. In other words, you just need to get in the door.

Let's take a look at the "Requirements" section of a sample Director of Operations role to see what's required, and what's negotiable:

-Two (2) years of experience as a management level contributor (this is a must have)

-Four (4) years of experience as a management level contributor strongly preferred (see the words "strongly preferred?" That means if you have more than the 2-year minimum, great, but if you have other valuable supplementary experience but not more than the minimum 2 years, you will still have a shot).  

[Related: Ask a Resume Writer: How Do I Make My Resume More Competitive?]

-Recovery programs or call center management experience preferred (again, preferred means it's good to have, but flexible).

-Demonstrated ability to use and interpret data to improve operations and motivate staff for superior outcomes (there's many, many ways to highlight this on your resume in prior positions)

-Ability to identify training and developmental needs as well as implement development schedules for employee growth and retention (the key idea here is supporting the development of staff, so it would be important to highlight SOMETHING in this area right at the top of the resume).

So what have we learned? The first is that you need a minimum of 2 years experience at the management level to realistically pursue this job. After that, you'll need to highlight experience with recovery programs or call center management if you have it, and if you don't, then move straight into highlighting your talent for leveraging data towards operations improvement, and actively supporting the success of team members and junior staff via training and development.

[Related: 9 Work Habits That Could Be Killing Your Chances For A Promotion]

In the next step, I'll show you how to communicate fit for the role within your resume.  

STEP 2: Strategically Emphasize What's Most Relevant On Your Resume  

Do: Start with 2-3 bullet points that establish your brand, and DIRECTLY ADDRESS what's most important for your targeted position.

Don't: Start with an "Objective" section. Not only is it low-level, but it makes you come across as a "WIIFM?" candidate (that's "What's in it for Me?").

Do: Structure your work experience in reverse chronological order, from most recent to least, UNLESS YOUR MOST RELEVANT POSITION IS NOT THE MOST RECENT. In this situation, you'll want to create 2 separate sections, the first titled, "Relevant Experience" and the second as "Additional Experience." Bottom-line: you need to show employers why you're qualified ASAP; if they have to search for it on your resume, you've failed.

[Related: Should I Always Accept a Promotion? (And Other Questions to Ask Yourself)]

Don't: Try to cover up gaps in experience or other red flags by using a functional resume format. Employers and recruiters hate it.

Do: include all relevant training within the "Education" section as well as degrees, such as SIx Sigma, SAP, and Lean Principles. It shows initiative and proves that you're someone who's willing to put in the time to raise their game.

Don't: Go past college in "Education" and skip listing GPAs and college courses unless you have little-to-no career experience.

Do: highlight special interests, volunteering, and community involvement that somehow adds to your professional standing. For example, if you volunteer your time to mentor young women professionals, that's a powerful testament to your leadership and staff development capabilities!

One last tip: consider developing an online portfolio which highlights key projects and initiatives that relate to your target job, and add a link to it within the resume. It's a great way to add some dimension to your qualifications, and can really help to "break the ice" during that first interview.

Anish Majumdar is an internationally recognized Career Coach, Executive Resume Writer, and LinkedIn Expert. His posts and videos reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month. 

Take part in Anish's free webinar training on Generating New Career Opportunities ON DEMAND in the Age of LinkedIn:


Browse Open Jobs

See Open Jobs