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Many people are facing the prospect of finding a new job. And some are even contemplating a complete career change. If it has been years since you last updated your resume, you may be wondering where to start. Follow these six steps to turn your dusty retro resume into a high-powered personal marketing tool for winning interviews in today’s competitive job market.
1. Find Your Resume’s Focus
Before you start refreshing your old resume, clarify your job target. Without a clear vision of your career direction, your resume won’t do a good job of selling you to potential employers. If you have more than one career interest, you’ll be much better off developing different versions of your resume rather than trying to construct a one-size-fits-all document.
Having trouble finding your focus? You might want to start with some self-assessment tests or by speaking to a career counselor.
2. Research Your Target Job
Thoroughly research your job target before writing the first draft of your resume, especially if it’s been awhile since you’ve been in the job market. Talk to people in your target industry, and scour job postings on Monster to get a good idea of the qualifications employers are looking for. If you are changing careers, your research may prompt you to enroll in continuing-education classes to gain new skills.
Look for keywords that continually crop up in different ads. If you see terms used frequently, they should probably be in your resume whenever applicable. Pay attention to skills that aren’t mentioned in these ads as well, and remove items from your old resume that will make you seem outdated.
3. Develop Your Career Profile/Objective
Now you’re ready to begin writing. If you’re a career changer, you’ll need a clearly stated objective to open your resume. Don’t expect busy hiring managers to figure out what you want to do. Use this section to explain key skills you can leverage from your prior career into your new job target. Emphasize how you can help the organization, rather than what you want in a job.
Here’s a before-and-after example:
- Before: Seeking a challenging position with a future-oriented company offering opportunities for growth and advancement.
- After: Dynamic public speaker/presenter with advanced technical knowledge, seeking to leverage these strengths as an award-winning computer instructor into an entry-level software sales position.
If you’re looking for a new position within your current field, use the Objective section to write a compelling career summary. This is the perfect place to write a few hard-hitting sentences emphasizing the breadth of your experience and the value you bring to the table.
4. Zero in on Your Achievements
Your resume must have an accomplishments-driven focus to compete in today’s job market and maximize calls for interviews. Avoid simply rehashing boring job descriptions. Instead, detail the results and outcomes of your efforts.
If you were a hiring manager, which would you find more compelling?
- Before: Responsible for troubleshooting and maintaining workstations and systems.
- After: Improved systems uptime from 91% to 99.9% for 350 corporate and remote users through expert, cross-platform (Windows/Unix) troubleshooting/maintenance.
For each of the positions you’ve held, use action verbs and phrases to describe how you contributed to your employers, such as cut costs, generated revenue, improved service, enhanced processes, solved problems and saved time. Use numbers, percentages, dollar amounts, comparisons or other key details to back up your claims. Be sure not to reveal facts that disclose proprietary or confidential company information.
5. Design Your Resume
Does your retro resume resemble a typing job circa 1977? To stand out from the crowd, use your word-processing program’s advanced formatting features, such as bold, italics, line draw, industry icons, attractive fonts, etc. — without going overboard — to give your resume a distinctive look. If you are not confident in your design capabilities, seek assistance from a resume writer or talented friend.
6. Proofread and Test-Drive
Your resume must be perfect. Carefully proofread your resume to ensure proper grammar, punctuation and word use. If you are changing careers, ask for feedback from hiring managers in your targeted field for valuable input on how your resume stands up to the competition. .