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.
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
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
stories necessary to tell your career story in the best way possible.
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