I’ve learned by helping people with their resumes that everyone is convinced that other people write their resumes in 15 minutes and they are perfect. They feel like something is wrong with them because they struggle with resume writing.
Here’s a secret: Writing your own resume is hard. It’s much easier for me to help you with your resume than it is for me to write my own. Here’s what makes it so difficult.
Culturally, we’re not supposed to brag.
We are all supposed to sit around and wait for someone else to praise us, then we demurely say, “oh, thank you! It was nothing!”
A resume is the opposite of that. It’s like standing on a chair and announcing, “Here are the top things I’ve done! This is why you should hire me!”
And it’s good that it’s uncomfortable. I don’t want to switch to a culture where people annoyingly tell me how great they are all the time. But you can on a resume.
You know all the words to the songs you loved in high school, but you can’t remember what you did last year at work.
We have this problem with year-end performance reviews, whether we write them for ourselves or our employees. Minds go blank, and suddenly you say, “I know I’ve been putting in 50 hours per week, but what have I done?”
This is why you should update your resume regularly. But, don’t worry, no one else does that either. Instead, email it to yourself with a Resume tag or subject line whenever you get praise or have a significant accomplishment. Then when you need to write your resume, you’ll have ideas.
But, if you can’t do that, go through your old email anyway, and take a look at your calendar. This is easy enough for your current job, but not so easy for jobs you’ve left.
Have a brainstorming session with yourself, or better yet, a former coworker. The two of you can help each other come up with ideas.
As a last resort, scroll through LinkedIn and see what other people in similar roles did. It will spark your memory.
Tasks are easy. Accomplishments are hard.
When writing a resume, it’s essential to indicate that you’ve done particular in-demand skills. But, it’s more important to show what you accomplished. What did that skill bring to the business?
This can be hard to think of. Try writing with these formulas (and then editing it later, so your resume isn’t full of the same phrases):
- I did X, and that led to Y
- I created X, and that resulted in Y
- I did X 10 percent better than the last year
- I did X, and the company saved Y dollars
Everyone has things they did well–make sure those are on your resume! It’s much easier to list tasks, but accomplishments are where it’s at.
Grammar isn’t my specialty.
That’s fine. Unless you are applying for a job as an editor or you have a ridiculous recruiter, no one cares if you have a comma splice. Heck, most people can’t even identify a comma splice. Run your resume through Grammarly or another program. It’s not perfect, but it will be helpful.
Have a friend read through your resume. That will help as well.
I know what I mean, but other people don’t.
Acronyms? You may think everyone knows them, but they don’t. Some acronyms are company-specific, and you may not realize it. Even if you feel they are blatantly obvious, spell them out unless you are 100 percent sure that an entry-level recruiter would understand them.
A good rule of thumb is only to use acronyms that are on the job postings.
Writing a resume is hard! Don’t feel bad when you struggle. Get someone to help evaluate what you’ve written and point out where you can improve. But, don’t worry if your first draft looks terrible–almost everyone’s does.