I was working with a close friend recently who just lost his job, so is now updating his résumé to support his job search efforts. It’s not a particularly enjoyable exercise, of course, particularly because it’s all wrapped up in the emotional maelstrom he’s experiencing.
It’s better to do an update periodically, like at the beginning of each year. If you had to do a year-end performance summary, or are just looking ahead to your new goals, it’s a great time to update the list of your skills and accomplishments as well.
First, it becomes harder and harder over the years to remember what you’ve accomplished and contributed. Even capturing a year can be a bit of a pain. Imagine that you were trying to remember back five or even ten years.
Second, it’s a great opportunity to update the language and drop off less-relevant stuff. My friend included mentions of programming languages that I haven’t heard of for 15 years, just on the off chance that someone would care. But overall it gives the impression of someone who’s not on top of the latest trends, which can be deadly in high tech. It’s much better to mention the most-relevant skills, including “and many others” so the reader understands there’s a greater breadth.
Third, even if you’re not looking for a job, there may be others out there looking for you. Keeping your LinkedIn profile current may just open doors to new opportunities.
Which reminds me: I haven’t updated my LinkedIn for awhile. Must do that.
I’m a big fan of having customized CVs and tailored résumés whenever possible. When you apply for an actual job opening, it’s always worth the investment to reorder and prioritize so that the reader will scan the most relevant information and want to dig in further.
Here’s a section that I just made up, highlighting how people tend to scan:
Notice that the reader will spend more emphasis on:
- The first line
- The first two or three words on each bullet point
- Numbers and acronyms
This is why ordering, action verbs and numbers are so critical: If someone is going to spend one second scanning this section (yes, seriously!) then you want the relevant and most intriguing information to pop out.
It’s not manipulation or playing games. It’s respecting the reader’s time.
This level of customization is difficult or impossible for a generic résumé. Different information is probably important to different people. But when you’re applying for a specific job, you’ll use the information in the job posting (and whatever else you can learn) to create a document which is truly compelling.
My friend also worked with an adviser who rewrote his entire résumé into a form with which he wasn’t at all happy. It felt dense, distracted, and unnatural. I advised him not to completely reject it, though, but to learn from the experience. What was it about this form which upset him? Was it because he had a mental image formed from his last job search ten years ago which might be becoming obsolete?
In the end, he combined the best inputs from lots of places, and is now ready and energized to launch into his job search. He’s confident that his résumé powerfully represents his unique skills and contributions.