By Kristen Harris
Resumes are tricky documents! It seems so simple–just drop in all of your past jobs and skills, make it look good, and you’re done–right? Not exactly.
A great resume includes the past, present, and future of your career, highlights your top skills, shares professional affiliations, touts past successes, and clearly shows why you’d be great for the job. Also, you have about six seconds to catch the reader’s attention before they move on. Phew!
There’s a lot of advice available about how to best capture and present past jobs, skills, and affiliations. We’ve written about it here, here, and here.
But, after you’ve wrangled all of that past work history and clearly described your present role, spend time thinking about where you see your career going in the future.
Does your resume reflect that future vision? Tell the reader more than your history? Paint a picture of where you’re going and what you plan to do?
Resumes tell a story. A very structured story told through lots of headings and bullet points, but it’s still a story. Your story.
It starts with your past. Education, first job or two, past awards or organizations you’ve been a member of are all at the bottom of the page. (Yep, in this case, we’re reading the last page of the book first.)
Keep moving up the page and we get to more recent career history. Maybe additional past jobs, with your most recent position at the top of the list.
Now we’re in the present, with a description of your current role that highlights responsibilities, measurable results, leadership activities, and other relevant details. Somewhere up here you might also have a list of skills or traits that are appealing to employers, like software skills, business experiences, or personality strengths.
Finally, we’ve made it to the end of the story, at the top of the page, which is the future. Just below your name and contact information should be a short one-paragraph summary of your past, present, and future career. A few sentences about who you are and where you’re going.
Like a back-cover book summary, right here is where you capture the reader’s attention so they want to read your whole story. This paragraph is where you paint a vision of the future, maybe supported with a little work history for context.
Talk about what you’re most interested in learning or doing next? Why? How do you see your career and industry evolving? How are you already working towards that future? Why does this role fit with those interests? It’s also important to tie all of this back to the reader–what’s in it for them? Show how this future will benefit the company and fit the role you’re applying for. You need your reader to envision the same future and see you as the person who can make it happen.
While your resume is a professional factual document, it’s also an exciting storytelling opportunity. Tell an interesting and engaging story that shows a potential employer how you’ll be an important piece of their future success.