Professional development

8 Steps to a Successful Resume

With the rise of platforms like LinkedIn, who you are on paper still matters in the modern workforce.

Though there’s a temptation to be ahead of the curve and innovate your resume into something new, it brings a risk. According to The Balance Careers, most employers still prefer a traditional resume. So unless you’re chasing after a niche market, it pays (literally) to play it safe.

That being said, here are 8 steps to build a successful resume.

Get it all out on paper

Templates, wording, and formatting will come – but lose all the extra jargon you think you should include, and start with the basics.  Begin listing all of your experience from beginning to end on paper and keep it in a running document. Whether your experience is from your first job to or even a  volunteer gig, take some time to get it all out there. Give yourself a few hours to be thorough and consider breaking up this step from the process to make sure you’ve got it all down.

Start refining

Based on the above exercise, begin to refine and narrow your job experience. What’s most relevant? What is most applicable to your career? Start tweaking the words that you use, and refining the type of content you’ll include on your resume. Pay closer attention to the specific words you use, and ensure that your current positions are listed in the present tense. Double check that your past experiences are listed in past tense with active words as well.

Start creating your resume with your end goal in mind

At this point, you’ve graduated to the point where you can start creating your resume. Again, instead of using a template, create another word document. This time, start adding your relevant experience but be prepared to keep it all at a page. Add your name and contact information as a header, but begin to focus on the body of what you’ll include. Allow your career objectives to be the guiding force while developing your resume.

Skip the fluff

Your resume is your highlight reel, so leave the filler for LinkedIn. Include the experiences that are most relevant to your career objectives, because, at this point, every word counts. Filler, additional verbs, and social media handles only detract from the point you are trying to make; that you’re qualified for the position you are applying for. 

Hold on to your personal information closely

Speaking of your social media handles, ensure that they, along with your photos and address, are NOT listed on your resume. Though this information may be required for your online application, you shouldn’t include it here.

Not only does this information occupy unnecessary space, but it may also allow for discrimination. Be tactful in what you do and don’t share.

Your references are your friend as well, so wait to give them out to your prospective employer. To suffice, have some colleagues recommend you on LinkedIn to help demonstrate your ability.

Stick to the basics

Keep your resume clear, transparent, and simple. Any “filler” can be added on LinkedIn, where your profile can tell a more visual story. Again, your page and word count matter.

Though the world is progressing, a simple, clean, one-page resume is still preferred. Keep it simple, and maximize your space. Don’t get too caught up in your template type or font of choice, just keep everything clean and simple.

Think outside the box

Just because a resume template says you should include a given section on your resume does not mean you are required to do so. Do you have more relevant work experience than you do skills for a given position? Leave your skills on LinkedIn, and invite your connections to endorse you there. Break the mold, and include the most accurate information you see as fit for your field.

Be authentic

Don’t change every single keyword on your resume to get a job. There is a time and place to tailor your resume and include certain experiences (and omit others) if you’re switching fields, but be mindful of how you present yourself. Be consistent everywhere you go.

Be yourself, and your resume will speak volumes.

How to Network Without Making It Weird

At some point, we’ve all felt awkward at a professional development where we didn’t know anyone.  Each event is the same: you arrive in your business casual attire to network, grab a drink, avoid the center of the room, then grab a free appetizer and run. 

Most networking events are approached with apprehension, but it’s time to skip the elevator pitch, embrace the awkward, and attend with a mindset that leaves us with valuable connections and contacts for personal and professional growth.

It isn’t all about you

Nine times out of ten, most people at networking events aren’t there to learn about you. They have their own agenda; use that to your advantage, and be proactive to listen to everyone you meet. The sales funnel is a process, and you’re likely not going to make a sale or generate a lead the first time you meet someone. So build your contact list, and focus on creating a relationship, instead of nailing your next elevator pitch. (Because no one really wants to hear another pitch anyway.)

Change your attitude

Your attitude is everything, so change your perspective on networking. Instead of going to self promote, focus on developing your relationships. Think of networking as an opportunity to speed date for your new group of colleagues. Focus more on building trust, and when the time is right, the sales or referrals will come. After all, we’re more inclined to purchase from people we trust, right? Be the person who’s focused on everyone else in the room, not how uncomfortable you may feel.

Take initiative

Don’t just head straight to the back of the room: take initiative, and make your time matter. Be bold. Put on your extravert hat, and start initiating conversations. Everyone’s anxious to break the ice, so take charge, mentally prepare, and seek out conversations. Scan the room, place your feelings aside, and pinpoint the people you know you need to talk to. Have topics or potential questions in mind, target your next prospect, and start up a conversation.

(Pro-tip: Ask people if they have pets or if they’ve gone anywhere exciting on vacation recently. You’re more quickly to bond with someone over a shared interest/experience than asking the dry, “So what do you do?”)

Connect others

You can bring value to the contacts you encounter by making an effort to bridge the gap between groups, and connect others. See someone familiar?

Introduce them in your conversation. Talking to someone who has a marketing need that you can’t accommodate? Refer them to someone you know and trust. When you focus on sharing your connections, you benefit from bringing someone business, and more often than not, they’ll be grateful and will return the favor.

Do your homework

Most networking events still require an RSVP, so figure out who’s going to be there ahead of time. Go through the guest list. Look at names you may recognize, industries you want to learn more about, or people you would like to connect with.

Do some research on topics that may bridge the gap or give you opportunities to connect with the people you want to. Create different talking points or make a note in your phone about the conversations you could have. Scan for potential leads you’d like to continue conversing with, or other connections you’d like to do business or refer to. Don’t leave without connecting with these people.

Make your last impression as great as your first

Most people talk about a great first impression, but your last impression matters as well. End your conversation on a high note, and try to remember specific things you learned about each person you converse with. Don’t just skip to the next person or head to the door without thanking them for the conversation, giving them your business card, and initiating some sort of follow up.

Follow up

The next day, be sure to send a thank you email and appreciation for your conversation. Consider expanding your LinkedIn network and staying in touch with your new found connections. When appropriate, schedule a second meeting or phone follow up if it is mutually beneficial. Don’t go soliciting everyone you meet, but do occasionally check in and keep in touch. You never know when you may need the contact you just made.

How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

Whether you’re on the hunt for a new position or looking to diversify your skill set, your LinkedIn profile is the key to staying relevant and connected.

Instead of letting yours become outdated, be proactive to make sure your profile is always up to par to make sure you don’t miss out on potential opportunities.

Ready to start? Be sure to update these key factors to make sure your profile remains relevant.

Your profile photo

First impressions matter, so think of your photo as the first way you’re perceived virtually. Invest in yourself and get some professional headshots taken. (No selfies, no pictures with other people, and please, no wedding photos.) Allow your attire to reflect your field, and dress accordingly.

Headline

Your headline is a chance to reflect your skill set as a person, so take advantage of it. Think beyond your current position, and use your headline as an opportunity to communicate three vital attributes: your job, what you do, and your specialty. It’s your time to shine.

Summary

Think of your summary as your sales pitch, and more importantly, your hook. Your summary is your opportunity to introduce yourself to your reader and really make an impression. Make sure you’re sharing what sets you apart, your skillset, what motivates you. Make a compelling statement and entice your audience to want to keep reading more about you. 

Keywords

Search engines aren’t the only place where your keywords come into play, so make sure your LinkedIn profile has keywords reflecting the market you want to be in. Using keywords in your headline and summary will enable recruiters to find you when the time comes for you to look for your next gig. Use them wisely, and sparingly.

Congruence

It’s important to put your best foot forward and ensure you’re consistent in your paperwork. Make sure the way you present yourself online is accurate, and that your bio is an accurate demonstration of your work history. Be consistent, and as a result, you’ll find yourself with a lot less headaches trying to keep up with all of your different personas if you’re leveraging your experience. Your LinkedIn profile is your chance to list all of your experience, so spend less time embellishing, and more time listing your accomplishments.

Facts and figures

Just like you would on your resume, have the stats to back up your performance. Use metrics to stand out and prove your work, and demonstrate your proven record. You’ll be asked about your experience in the interview arena, so take this extra step to display all of your hard work. 

Call to action

Consider adding a call to action to your summary to optimize your LinkedIn. Are you ready to be hired? Invite recruiters to connect with you. Looking to network? State your career objectives. Give your audience a way to connect and move beyond what’s presented on your profile. You never know when it may benefit you.

Engage

The latest social media algorithms have proven engagement is essential for success online, and LinkedIn is no exception. Connect, connect, connect. Think of LinkedIn as an online networking event where you save the small talk for your computer screen, and take every opportunity to build your network. Your contacts are your most valuable asset, and with LinkedIn, the possibilities to meet others are endless.

How to “Sell” Yourself in an Interview (Without Really Selling)

No one really likes to brag about themselves, let alone sell themselves. Talking about yourself is hard, even in the context of an interview where you know it’s all about you.

There’s a fine line between being too humble and underplaying your accomplishments.

But what if there’s a way to promote yourself that doesn’t make you feel like you’re inflating yourself with every word you speak?

If you focus on a strategy to put your best foot forward the next time you land a big interview, you can still make an impression without really feeling like you have to sell yourself. Here’s how.

Do your due diligence

Here’s a shocking misconception: listing a skill on your resume you don’t have is misleading. And even though we’ve all embellished a skill or two in hopes of being noticed, chances are, if a skill is it’s vital to the job, the hiring manager is going to bring it up.

Instead of feeling the pressure rising in the pit of your stomach when you know you may have padded your resume, just do your due diligence. If you’re switching fields or need to learn new software, be honest.

Do enough research on the company so you know how to speak their language. If you don’t have experience with a certain program, platform, or skill, don’t avoid the subject or feel the pressure to misrepresent your skillset. Find relative examples of what you have done that’s comparable, and what you will do when hired to continue to grow in that area.

Know yourself

If you’re self-aware, you can focus on being yourself without the pressure to sell it. Knowing yourself, and communicating about yourself is simply letting the interviewer know who you are.

The next time you start to tweak that resume, really think about who you are. What are your strengths? Your talents? Passions? Weaknesses? We all know that being a “perfectionist” is not really a weakness, so really think about some ways you may not have done your best. Then, you can demonstrate examples of improvement and your own personal growth.

When you know yourself and are self-aware, the pressure to be “on” dissolves. Be confident in who you are and know the attributes that make you different than everyone else.

Know your paperwork

Ever walked in the door to an interview to be asked about pieces of your resume you forgot about? It happens.

Know what you’ve written, and know your paperwork backward and forward. Print out a copy of your resume and cover letter and write down examples and attributes that you’ve demonstrated in these roles. Become so comfortable talking about your paperwork that you can predict the questions as they come and be prepared to answer them.

Create your talking points

Do some research on the company you’re interviewing with so you can articulate ideas and concepts you’ve demonstrated that correlate with their values. If they’re data-driven, have some examples where you’ve exceeded your quota in a similar context. Do they value leadership? Bring light on all the volunteer work you’ve done to give back to your community.

Along with your talking points, make sure you have some ideas to bridge along the way to navigate the conversation at any given time. Bridging is simply the art of taking control of the conversation and redirecting the question to ensure you are able to share what you intended to say.

Mock interview

Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it does make things permanent. Get some of your family, friends, mentors, or colleagues to help you get ready.

The more you practice rehearsing certain ideas, the more natural they become. Your friends and family can help make you aware of any vocal tendencies or nervous habits you may have. Mock interviews with people you know and trust can make sure you stay true to yourself, without that pressure to sell.

Ask questions

The questions you ask during your interview give your prospective employer a gauge to your skill, ability, and interest. (Plus your questions take the focus off of you.)

Questions can lead to even more in-depth conversations, so make sure you make a list and practice incorporating them into your interview. Keep a running note on your phone or document on your computer, and bring them with you when your big day comes.

When you’re prepared for an interview, the pressure to sell and perform is replaced with the readiness to share who you already are. 

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