Dog Days of Podcasting – Day 11 – Be specific when telling your career story — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

Part of the “Dog Days of Podcasting” 30 Day Challenge –

Career Opportuntiies Logo 2012

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about making your resume into a blog (See Your resume a blog, January 5, 2007) and today I want to go a little deeper into what information you might want to place there. Whether you are creating your new resume blog, or using the more traditional resume and cover letter, you should be specific about your career story. It is these details that will provoke interest in you and your work.

Books by Douglas E. Welch

The bird, the red bird, the red cardinal

Read any book on good writing and nearly all of them will preach the gospel of specific and unique detail. If you want your writing to have power and emotional impact, you need highly detailed sections of description. Where a beginning writer might write, “The bird sat in the tree,” a more experienced writer would write, “The bright red cardinal, with its black mask and pointed cap, sat high in the tall, leafless, maple tree and sang its purdy-purdy-purdy song with gusto.” While this might be a bit of purple prose, it is certainly more engaging than, ‘The bird sat in the tree.” Details in the story make the reader want to know more about the cardinal and his story — details in your resume make the potential employer want to know more about you and your career.

Clearly, the same rules apply for your resumes and cover letter writing. Don’t say the career equivalent of “The bird sat in the tree.” Of course, you don’t simply want to create a laundry list of hardware and software you managed, either. The details need to be wrapped up within a complete story. This is the difference between a telephone book and a novel. One is just information, the other is an engaging tale that can sometimes change the world.

For example, instead of simply saying, “I worked with Windows,” say “One major project included a national rollout (3 sites/1000+ systems) of Windows XP SP2 and MS Office in which I managed 18 staff members of all levels and developed solutions to software issues that prevented employees from accessing a critical, legacy, AS/400 system. These issues were caused by conflicts between our client software (X), network hardware (Y) and connectivity issues using AT&T leased lines. I created a task force with members from all these vendors, and internal staff to resolve the issues while still maintaining the project timeline.”

I am sure your own career stories are much better than this made-up example, but the concept should be clear. Again, as most writing books will tell you, every good story addresses who, what, when, where, why and how. Make sure you get all that information into your career story. Of all of these items, though, I think the most important aspects are the why and the how. Too often, we don’t do enough to expose our thought processes and methods to those around us. Concentrating on “why” shows prospective employers what you think and how you go about the process of setting up a project, while the “how” gives them specific information on how you implemented that project and the hurdles you crossed to complete it.

Pick and choose

Just as you don’t want to overwhelm your reader with laundry lists of hardware and software, you don’t want to try and tell all your stories in one novel-length resume. The traditional 1-page resume form means you have to pick and choose which stories are most important to each employer and which tell the specific story you want to relate to that particular employer. Again, just as a writer considers their audience, so should you. If you are applying for a position as a network manager, you should choose stories that reflect that experience. A different position will naturally require a different set of stories. Overall, I would recommend that you present no more than three individual stories in any resume. More than that could overwhelm the reader. Less than that might not provide enough information. Of course, your resume blog can contain as many stories as you like, since it is being accessed in different fashion. Your end goal, in any situation, is to be invited in for a face-to-face interview. Make sure your resume interests the reader so much that they simply have to meet you in person.

Even though you might not be a writer by trade, you can use the writer’s tools to craft resumes and cover letters that are filled with the specific detailed stories necessary to tell your career story in the best way possible.


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