Update Your Resume Month

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

–Chinese Proverb

For a little motivation, National Update Your Resume month is fast coming to a close and it’s time to stop putting it off… Here’s a few tips to help you get moving:

First, make an hour appointment with yourself – five in a row, daily, weekly or monthly, if that’s what it takes. Building your resume is a commitment. Making an appointment with yourself is not only a reminder to focus on your resume but also makes updating your resume as important as other “appointments” in your life and let’s you bite it off in digestible chunks.

Then build a “to do” list with goals for each of those hours.  It can be so easy to take that sacred hour and check social media, read emails or simply fill it with all the “other things” instead of focusing on making this change.  Creating to dos for your resume building time gives you a starting place when you sit down and it can also help keep you tracking on what you need to get done.

Use these ideas as a starting point:

Hour 1: Get organized and get ready to go.

Collect:

  • Your most recent resume
  • All your former annual reviews from your current and previous jobs – you’ll use these to remind yourself of all the amazing things you’ve accomplished and need to bring forward

Google action verbs and print them out:

  • These will help you describe your experiences and accomplishments to give you alternative options to using Coordinated, Participated, etc. at the start of every sentence

Look online at resume formats:

  • Having a resume design can help you organize your resume and gets you noticed

Hour 2: Start your draft

Review your existing resume:

  • Review your previous jobs on your resume and ask yourself: if you were a recruiter that knew nothing about the organization or job, does your description tell that story? If not, start to make notes on what needs to change.

Add what you do today:

  • Start to jot down what you’ve been doing at your current job and any that haven’t been added
  • Pull it all together in a draft: using the new design you’ve found, create your first draft

Hour 3:  Print out your draft, grab a pencil (with a good eraser) and revise

  • Print it out the draft you’ve created and re-read it.
  • What do you think?  It’s hard to nail it right out of the gate so expect to be making  adjustments, finding grammatical errors and rewording sections.
  • Let it sit and then re-read one last time for any other changes.

Hour 4: Send your resume to a friend or two to get their opinion

  • Do you have a friend who’s a really good proof-reader, savvy copywriter, or really good at being honest with you?  Send. It.
  • Ask your friends to get it back to you by a certain (within a week to keep you moving)

Hour 5: Get all your friend’s feedback and revise

  • By now, you should have a solid resume, a living, breathing document that can get you started
  • Congratulations!  
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Sally’s Job Hunt

The following was written by our dear friend Sally Vardaman Johnson.

Sally Vardaman Johnson is a health insurance professional and writer. She recently added standup comedy to her endeavors to stretch her creative muscles and show her kids you’re never too old to try something new.  You can read her occasional ponderings at sallysmart.wordpress.com, and follow her on Twitter at @vardaman_sally. 

Kathy Engen and I met years ago when our boys attended kindergarten together.  Those boys will soon start their last year of middle school.

At the time Kathy worked with an outplacement service helping recently laid off professionals find a new job – resume drafting, interview coaching and the like.  I barely knew her, but she said something back then that stuck with me.  She really believed there was a job for everyone.  Each person just needed to find it, and sometimes they need help doing so.  When I heard her say it, I immediately believed her.

Many years later, Kathy and Linda Heath published a book, gol: a curated guide to the modern day job hunt.  These women are kind, strong and generous contributors to our community.  Of course I was going to buy a copy to support them.  But I didn’t really need it.  Nope.  I am not the workbook type.

Not long after their publication date, however, my workplace changed rapidly.  Suddenly my own job seemed in jeopardy.  I am a self-supporting, single mother, and I was terrified.

You know what is really hard to do when you are scared?  Feel good about yourself and promote yourself.  Fear fans the flame of economic vulnerability.  I knew better than to panic, but I was not sure what to do instead.

Around that time Kathy and Linda appeared on a local news show promoting their new book.  They talked about returning to the workforce after a long hiatus to care for young children, which I had done a few years back.  It’s hard returning at first, and easy to get caught up doing work that draws praise.  You can find yourself following what other people think you should do, instead of discovering what you want to be doing.

I heard that description and instantly identified.  I did not even like my job, and already felt the environment did not fit me.  But the absence of my paycheck would be an immediate crisis for me.

On a quiet, cold Minnesota evening, I sat in front of a fire with my new copy of gol.  I shelved a swirl of negative thinking and excuses, and made myself work through the pages until I ran out of answers.  I was sad.  I felt I was on the wrong path and it was too late to fix it.

But gol, and my rising anxiety, pushed me into action.    I wrote down things I wanted professionally and personally, and stared at them side by side.  I thought I had considered such things in tandem, but seeing them on paper was powerful.  It grounded my thinking and helped me brainstorm what changes to my existing job would nudge me closer to a different path.    In 2012 Neil Gaiman gave a commencement speech to the University of the Arts.  In it he describes imaging your big goal as a mountain, and assessing opportunities by whether they move you toward or away from your mountain.

Over the next week I polished my resume and forced myself to send it out without overthinking it.  I broke from gol’s advice here and rushed it out the door.  I later discovered a horrifying typo on the cover letter of my first submission.  But hey, I got it out there.  That submission was to a company I had admired for a long time.  It won’t matter, I assured myself.  I don’t know anyone there.  I won’t get an interview.

Turns out I interviewed for two companies, one through a strong professional connection, and the one with my typo memorialized in its system.  Fortunately the algorithm gods plucked me from their database anyway.   These opportunities were both a better fit than my current job.  They required my strongest skill sets, ones not being utilized in my current role.

Here is where my list of personal and professional priorities mattered most.  I work in health insurance.  This is no childhood dream career.   In my list, my long term goals (ahem, dreams) simply could not be executed in the near term.  The most realistic incremental change I identified was to consider my vantage point – what parts of this complex and challenging industry would I be excited to see every day?  My current job was too far from the big solutions being developed.

As I moved through the interview process at each company, I hung my hat on this idea of vantage point.  It gave me something to work toward that mattered to me, rather than escaping a frightening situation.  I asked better questions and had more robust discussions with potential managers and coworkers.  This focus made me a better candidate.  By the way, both companies asked me almost the exact interview questions listed in gol.

Ultimately, I got the job at the company where I sent my typo, where I knew no one.  It was the one I wanted.  Two months in, I am finding my way and am so grateful for the change.  Fear and panic, however uncomfortable, spurred the change I needed.

As I settle into my new role, I think about those dreams I listed – the ones so far from where I am now.  In my mind I have built my mountain, as Gaiman said.  Change will come again, whether I initiate it or not.  My mountain is on paper, and it stares back at me.  I have taken a tiny step in its direction, and now I can begin to imagine the next one.

 

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Before you start your job search, ask yourself these 3 questions

Spring Forward: three questions may help you figure out “what do you want to do with your life.” It’s official, the first day of spring has arrived. Spring gets us thinking about spring cleaning -- out with the old and into something new. We’re not talking about closets, nope.  We’re talking about you - it’s time to step into that...
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