The best resumes are, at their core, just marketing documents. You need to present a clear and coherent picture of who you are and what you want by detailing relevant experience.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see on the professional resume of young professionals is missing information…and I don’t mean a missing email address or GPA.
When casually chatting through a client’s work history, it usually becomes apparent that most folks are selling themselves short and failing to include details that could up their marketability in the eyes of hiring managers.
You probably don’t even realize you are doing it, so today we’ll talk through a few of the ways you can make sure to pull every last thread of marketability from your life and inject it into your resume.
Sounds kind of painful, I know…but I can assure you, it’s as easy as sitting down at your computer and clicking some keys! First things first.
Who should be reading this article?
You are a recent grad, soon-to-be-grad, or a professional looking to transition from one industry to another.
You may not think you have enough relevant experience and can’t really imagine how your job as a barista at Starbucks could ever be included on a professional professional resume aimed at a career in investment banking…
If that sounds like you, or you just want to cover your bases and make sure your resume is as perfect as possible, keep on reading!
Make some lists
After poking around online for qualities you should be looking to emphasize, sit down and just make bulleted lists of all of the “stuff” you’ve done. Think as far back as you can.
List even the activities you did that seem mundane and average.
Once you know what professional skills and attributes your potential employer is looking for, you’ll be able to grab from this list to begin constructing a professional resume that shows your experiences in the necessary light.
Do some legwork
Hop on Google and search for job openings in the field you are thinking of entering into. Then, collect a few job descriptions as samples of what you’ll need to gear your resume to.
Once you do, take a few steps back and jot down the key qualities that hiring managers in your chosen field tend to look for. Look for buzzwords that recruiters are using and keep a list.
Then, cross-reference your list of activities, classes, and experiences and see what you can do to tell a story that shows you have the qualities that recruiters are looking for.
The language you need to incorporate into your professional resume to is handed to you in these job descriptions, so pay attention!
Let’s do a quick brute force search through Google for open Project Management positions now…
You quickly see buzzwords and phrases like:
Demonstrated leadership capability
Employers aren’t asking you to have led a team already. But if you spent time as a tutor, organized a study group for your final Political Science exam, or helped captain a sports club in college, now is the time to bring that up!
Coordinate work with the vendor to ensure deliverables are on time
Use academic experiences to prove your ability to work well with others and deliver timely work. Talk about your thesis or a particularly interesting academic project that you delivered on time while juggling your extracurricular activities and a full course-load.
Excellent time management, organizational, and prioritization skills and ability to balance multiple priorities
This is basically just a generic list of qualities that a project manager should have. But, these are also qualities that a good student will develop. So again here, you can pull from academic experiences to show that you have these skills.
Generally, sitting down and having a conversation about how you are completely awesome would be frowned upon. Humility is typically a pretty valued character trait.
Throw that notion out the window when you are writing your resume!
A professional resume is basically just a one-page advertisement…for you.
Every little thing you’ve done can be spun into resume gold
Even the 2-week summer internship (that you’ve already forgotten about) can make a difference.
Don’t make the mistake of leaving off details of your academic or professional life that make you uniquely marketable.
Don’t start from scratch!
Senior spring is as good a time as any to get your professional resume into fighting shape – it actually took me until nearly two years after graduation and I still managed to land a stellar job at one of the most prestigious hedge funds in the world with no demonstrable industry experience.
What that means for you is…you don’t need “industry experience”.
You just need experiences and skills that are transferable.
And more or less all experiences and skills can be transferable.
Hiring managers know what to expect from a recent grad
Chances are the person reviewing your resume went to college and had to go through the same stresses you are currently facing. They know the deal.
That means putting words like “expert” and “experienced” on your professional resume won’t serve you well, especially when your professional experience thus far includes bartending or being a peer tutor.
Market your bottom-rung work experience correctly
Remember that list that I had you make? The one where you wrote down all your previous experiences in bullet form? Refer back to that.
Pick out one item and get to work making it resume friendly.
Dips and Dogs, Hinsdale, IL, Summer, 2014
Option 1: Handled many tasks throughout the day and ensured timely order completion
Option 2: Juggled tasks including overseeing inventory, new order processing, training of new employees, and ensuring order completion within strict constraints of timeliness and quality.
Option 2 includes buzzwords along with actual examples of work completed (training of new employees). It highlights leadership, time management, task management, and observance of quality standards all in one tidy package.
And all of that from working a night job at a fast-food restaurant.
How to build your post-college professional resume
Keep it to one page
Going over, especially as someone with a short history of professional experience, could hurt you more than help you.
Focused and content-rich
Make sure all the content and points you include on your resume are relevant. Do they speak to the specific job you are applying for?
Each application requires a tailored professional resume.
Make sure you are achieving the goal of informing hiring managers why you would be a good fit for the particular role you are interested in.
Include these things…
If you maintained a 3.5 GPA or above (some experts say 3.2 or above, so use your best judgment here) then include that, along with any accompanying academic honors.
Interesting and relevant coursework
As a political science major applying for marketing positions, you should include a brief list of the courses you took in the marketing department to showcase your history of interest in the subject.
As a marketing major applying for a marketing position, you can leave off the relevant coursework as that is obvious information.
Perfect spelling, grammar, and formatting
After putting in so much time making sure your content is perfect, don’t skip the finishing touches.
Run a spellcheck. Print out your resume to make sure the formatting is visually pleasing. It’s the first thing a recruiter will see and you don’t want it to end there!
Leave these things out…
Don’t draw attention to a less-than-stellar academic record.
If you honed your leadership skills at both of your internships, chose one to emphasize. Then, use the other to illustrate another aspect of your professional skillset.
Are you truly conversational in French? List it!
But otherwise, don’t. You don’t want to be in an interview wondering why the interviewer is speaking French when you really only know how to order a croissant, not discuss the Calais refugee crisis.
Show employers that you are concise and can express yourself relevantly, efficiently and effectively.
Some other useful advice
The hardest part about job searching as a recent graduate is the fact that you probably (and not surprisingly) don’t have a lot of marketable experience.
Somehow it feels like everyone around you interned on both Wall Street and Capitol Hill (how is that even possible).
Calm down! They didn’t.
Pretend like your professional resume is your Instagram feed
Show people what you want them to see. Illustrate your experiences in a way that paints a picture of you as an awesome candidate with promise.
Supplement your experience
If you are still a student, think about how you can gain experience that will benefit you as a professional human being as well as look good on your resume
Hiring managers look favorably upon volunteer experience, even if it isn’t 100% relevant to the position you are applying for.
Volunteering means you’d likely be an active and engaged part of the work community you are looking to join. These days, employee happiness is a notable factor in a company’s success.
Don’t limit yourself to soup kitchens and planting trees. Take on side projects for a professor, do research, volunteer as a tutor, or host a study group.
Suffice it to say that there are millions of opportunities out there that a perfect professional resume won’t be enough to get you. You need to get your foot in the door some other way.
Use LinkedIn to connect with people you might not end up meeting in real life. Social media exists and it isn’t going anywhere, so learn how to use it to your advantage in your job search.
Take summer courses
Taking a project management course at a community college over the summer, or a refresher on SQL if you want to brush up on your coding, can show a dedicated interest in the field you want to break into. That means you’ll be able to learn something as well as make yourself more marketable.
You never know when your college thesis adviser could make the difference between a job offer and a “no thanks”.
Keep your resume updated. Always.
It isn’t the journal your parents got you for Christmas last year that you wrote in once they relegated to the shelf of forgotten SAT prep books and childhood soccer medals.
Your professional resume should basically be an ever-changing and evolving piece of work that you continually tweak to match who you are as a professional human being.
Hiring managers are judging all of the books by their covers
In case that analogy isn’t clear enough. You are a book. Your resume is your book cover.
You have a few hundred words (at best) to demonstrate why you are the best candidate for a position.
Dedicate the required amount of time to perfecting the formatting and content of your professional resume. It will all prove useful when you start getting interviews, trust me!