Your resume is an essential part of your job search tool kit.
No matter what kind of job you want, you'll need a resume. If done properly, it’s the document that will move you to a job interview and potential employment.
Do not approach the task of writing the resume lightly.
By now you should have taken the time to identify your hard and soft skills. If you cannot identify at least 20 job-related skills at this point, your first task is to revisit the section on Identifying Your Skills and create a list.
Be aware that your resume is a moving target. Once you have completed one resume you may have to change it frequently to match the qualifications and skills sought by employers for specific jobs.
Your resume can be edited, redirected and transformed depending on the jobs you pursue, so having a more general document with adjustable pieces makes sense.
Job seekers start out at different points when preparing resumes. Some will have a resume a few months or a few years old. Others may have been employed for several years and don’t have a current resume, or may have one buried on a hard drive they threw out years ago.
Its importance should not be underestimated. “Resume writing is a creative exercise that combines the skills of direct mail with the skills of a storyteller,” writes Penelope Trunk in “Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success.”
“You can be great at your job, but unless your current boss is going to personally arrange your next job interview, you’re going to have to depend on your resume. Your resume gets you the interview, and you can’t get a job without that.”
A Four-Step Process
Regardless of where you’re starting in writing a resume you should follow a simple four-step process to help you organize your information into a presentable document
1) Take a look at some resume samples to see how they're formatted, the language job seekers use and how they describe skills, careers, interests and lives.
2) Establish clear objectives for your search. What kind of company do you want to work for? What size? In what field? The same industry you have been in or a different one? What sorts of jobs are you seeking? Answer those questions for yourself and then you can begin to tailor the section of the resume called “job objective.”
3) Conduct a skills and jobs inventory. Put all your skills together on a sheet and match them as much as possible with your accomplishments as a leader or an employee. Future employers are only marginally interested in the fact you worked for Mega Corporation or DMZ Operations; they want to know what skills you displayed in your work and whether those skills saved money, improved efficiency, led to a more motivated workforce, or whatever. Ask and then answer these questions: What talents have I exercised in my previous positions? How are they relevant to the set of employers I am pursuing?
Trunk, the job search author, encourages you to “list achievements, not job duties … anyone can do a job, but achievements show you did the job well.” A case in point, she writes, is when a job seeker writes: “Managed two people and created a tracking system for marketing.” Instead, she says, consider this: “Managed the team that built a tracking system to decrease marketing costs 10 percent.” The second example obviously sounds more impressive and leads to a primary goal in resume writing: Always emphasize your achievements in your resume.
Having made an inventory of skills and jobs, you can move on to competencies. What are you good at and what evidence do you have of that? Thinking about competencies is less about listing what you have done and more about your ability to research, work on a team, lead, write, present material before audiences, learn new machinery in a plant environment, or raise a family. This is similar to listing your skills, but focuses instead on skills that have not necessarily been used in jobs. Competencies are exercised skills.
4) List all your jobs in a reverse chronological order, with dates of employment and various positions held within various companies. (List your most recent job first, and so forth.) If you have had a rich and varied job career you can list the last three or four jobs and skip your earlier career, or truncate it into single lines: “U.S. Bank, teller, 2000-2005.”