Spring Cleaning: Spruce Up Your Job Search Tools

By Kristen Harris

It’s spring…flowers are blooming, showers are falling, and grass is greening. The freshness of the season often inspires a rash of spring cleaning, but spring is also a great time to freshen up your job search materials. In-between washing your windows and scrubbing the floors, take a look at your resume, portfolio and other job search tools.

Clean Up Your Resume. Update your work history, recent achievements and any new education you’ve gained. Clean out anything that is no longer current or relevant. How far back does your work history go? Most resume experts will recommend listing your last ten years of experience, and no more than fifteen years. If you’re still including your first internship from 1993, take it off. If the experience is absolutely relevant to the job you’re applying for, you can add it back in for that job or mention it in your cover letter. No one is hiring you for twenty-year-old internship experience. Organize software skills showing the most current programs first. If you have programs or skills that are really old and not used anymore (I’m looking at you, Pagemaker), take them off. Showing dated skills will date you. If the job really requires the use of specific legacy programs, they’ll be listed in the description. While you’re at it, make all of the same changes to your LinkedIn profile. It’s often the first place someone will check you out, so your profile needs to be as current as your resume.

Scrub Down Your Portfolio. A portfolio should only be your best work, not all your work. Enlist the help of a friend or professional colleague. They’ll be able to quickly identify pieces that feel dated or don’t fit without suffering from any personal attachment that you may have. Remove pieces that don’t fit with the type of work you’re seeking or don’t increase the overall quality of your portfolio. Keep narrowing down and removing the weakest piece until every item left is so critical that the overall portfolio would be worse without it. Now you’re only showing your best and most relevant work. It’s better to have eight fantastic pieces that showcase all of your skills, rather than fifteen pieces of which only eight are truly outstanding.

Freshen Up Your Look. While you’re packing away the sweaters and coats, take a good look at your interview outfit(s) as well. This may be a good time to shop for a current and seasonally appropriate interview outfit if that’s within your budget. You can put together separate pieces that you also wear with other outfits, but when you get a call for an interview there should be no “what should I wear” panic. Have a pre-determined outfit that makes you feel confident and comfortable. Your classic basics can be freshened up and made more seasonal with a change to the shirt or blouse, a new tie or accessories, and seasonally appropriate shoes. Also take an honest look at your haircut and make-up or grooming (guys, that means facial hair too). You don’t have to be a trendy fashion plate, just look current and like you would fit in at the place you’re interviewing. The main goal is to not put anyone off—you want to be remembered for your work and experience, not your unusual grooming or outfit.

By doing some simple spring cleaning, you’ll be ready for that next interview or client meeting with a moment’s notice. No panic, no scrambling, and plenty of time to put a shine on those windows!