Developing a resume is fairly easy when you follow our approach. You will get the basic help you need by first looking at the results of your Seven Stories Exercise® and the Fifteen-Year and Forty-Year Visions® (which you will find at the end of this article). They will help you set your long-term direction and also help you discover what it is you have to offer. In order to go somewhere, you must know where you are right now.
In this article, you will become pragmatic. What have you done so far in your life? What do you have to offer the world?
What Do You Have to Offer?
In deciding what you want to offer, first list all you have to offer—a menu to choose from. When you go after a certain kind of position, emphasize those parts that support your case. If you decide, for example, to continue your career in the same direction, you will probably focus on your most recent position and others that support that direction.
If most of your adult satisfactions have occurred outside your job, you may want to change something about your work life. Someday you may decide to change careers—most of us will have to. If you decide to change careers, activities outside your regular job may help you make that change. Our research shows that 58% of those who go through our exercises decide to change careers — change the field or industries they are in. To change careers, you need even more help with your resume so people will see you as appropriate for the kind of job you want to have next.
Take my case: When I was interested in changing from computers to advertising, I offered as proof of my ability the three years I had spent at night promoting nonprofit organizations. My portfolio of press coverage for those organizations was my proof.
Later, when I wanted to work as a career coach, my proof was my many years’ experience in running The Five O’Clock Club at night, the seminars I had given on job hunting and career development, and so on. When I wanted to continue working in business management, I simply offered my on-the-job experience in making companies profitable.
If you have available the entire list of what you have to offer, you can be more flexible about the direction you want to go in.
Process- versus Project-Oriented Accomplishments
Present what you have to offer in terms of accomplishments. Tell your story in a way that will provoke interest in you and let the reader know what you are really like. Accomplishment statements are short, measurable, and results oriented. We each handle the situations in our work lives in different ways. What problems have you faced at work? How did you handle them? What was the effect on the organization?
Some of us are project oriented and others are process oriented. If you are project oriented, you will tend to take whatever is assigned to you, break it into projects in your mind, and then get those projects done. You like to solve problems, and you get bored when there are none. Your accomplishments will state the problems you faced, how you solved them, and the impact you had on the organization.
On the other hand, if you are process oriented, you like to run the day-to-day shop. You can be trusted to keep an existing situation running smoothly, and your accomplishments will reflect that. You like stable situations and systems that work. You will state that you ran a department of so many people for so many years.
A project-oriented accomplishment could look like this:
- Designed and directed a comprehensive and cost-effective advertising and sales promotion program that established the company as a major competitor in the market.
A process-oriented accomplishment could look like this:
- Conducted ongoing reviews of market performance of investor-owned utility securities, using multiple equity valuation techniques. Recommended redirection of portfolio mix to more profitable and higher-quality securities.
Developing Your List of Accomplishments
There are two ways to develop your complete list of accomplishments: You can start with your most recent job and work backward, or you can start with the results of your Seven Stories Exercise. Do whichever is more comfortable for you.
Do not worry right now if you do not like your job title or do not even like your job. Later on, we will change your title to make it reflect what you were actually doing, and we can emphasize or de-emphasize jobs and responsibilities as you see fit. Right now, get down on paper all of your accomplishments. Then we will have something to work with.
Do not wish to go back to your youth. What was challenging then would probably not satisfy you today. Look for the elements of those early jobs that satisfied you. These elements can help to determine your lifelong interests.
You will feel better after you have developed your list of accomplishments. You will see on paper all that you have to offer. And your accomplishments will be stated in a way that will make you proud. Discipline yourself to do this exercise now, and you will not have to do it again.
Starting with Your Most Recent Position
Write down your current or most recent position. State your title and your company name, and list your accomplishments in that position. Rather than ranking them chronologically, rank them in the order of interest to the reader.
After refining the accomplishment statements for your present or most recent position, examine the job before that one. State your title and your company name, and list your accomplishments.
Work on as many accomplishments as make sense to you. Some people cover in depth the past 10 years. If you can, cover your entire career, because you never know what may occur to you, and you never know what may help you later. In doing this exercise, you may remember jobs you had completely forgotten about—and pleasant and satisfying accomplishments. Ask yourself what it was about that job that was so satisfying. Perhaps it is another clue about what you might do in the future.
After you have listed your work experiences, list accomplishments outside work. These, too, should be short, measurable, and results oriented. These outside experiences can help you move into a new field. In fact, that’s how I and many others have made career transitions. By volunteering to do advertising and public relations work at night, I developed a list of accomplishments that helped me move from computers to advertising. In those days, my outside experience included:
Walnut Street Theatre Gallery
- Planned, organized, and promoted month-long holography exhibition. Attendance increased from fewer than 100 visitors per month to over 3,000 visitors during the month of this exhibition.
- Handled all publicity for fund-raising campaign. Consulted with fund-raising committee on best techniques for them to use. Received plaque in recognition.
- Received four United Way awards for editorial work in 1979; two awards the prior year. Spoke at the United Way’s Editors’ Conference.
Starting with Your Seven Stories
When people start with their Seven Stories Exercise, they often find that their accomplishments are stated in a more vital way. Their résumé becomes more interesting to read—it is full of “stories.” If your résumé sounds dull—and perhaps like everyone else’s—try this approach. It will loosen you up.
The exercise below will get you started on this new adventure.
An adventure is the deliberate, volitional movement out of the comfort zone.
James W. Newman, Release Your Brakes
For the exercise to help you develop a better resume, click here.