By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, SD/PEN member, www.writerruth.com
In a prior blog post I discussed updating your business card as businesses have been going back to the office with pre-pandemic work life returning. So it might be a good time to assess the effectiveness of résumés. They can be an important tool for networking and job searches, even in the ever-increasingly digital world and for both in-house and freelance colleagues.
Whether you’re looking for freelance or in-house work, you need a résumé that reflects current practices while making you look good. These suggestions are my own, based on observation of student and colleague résumés and recent reading.
Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind for résumés that work well, if you’re getting ready to update your résumé.
• Label your résumé with your name so it stands out from all the people who will send theirs with the filename Résumé.doc.
• If you have a job and don’t want your employer to know that you’re looking for a new position, create a new email for this kind of personal activity. Never use your current work email for something like job hunting!
• For your email address, use your name or a variation of it rather than a nickname.
• If you don’t have a professional website that can be the basis of your email address (Yourname@Yourname.com or Yourname@YourProfession.com), opt for one from gmail, which looks more current than AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.
• Keep it relevant: include volunteer or professional development and membership activity, but leave out personal or family details unless they relate to what you’re responding to. For instance, I recently responded to an opportunity to write about eldercare and included a (brief) mention of looking after my mom and my beloved Wayne-the-Wonderful as part of my qualifications for the project.
• Don’t attach your résumé to an email message unless you’re responding to an opportunity that has expressly said to do so. Instead, provide your website URL and say that your résumé can be found there. Many business communication systems block messages with unsolicited résumés, whether they’re in Word, PDF, or some other program or format.
• You might think of AARP as an organization for older retired people, but it offers advice and resources that anyone of any age and employment status can use. A recent issue of the AARP Bulletin newspaper addressed résumés with advice that works for both freelance and in-house job seeking (I’ve paraphrased and, in some places, added to their advice).
• Keep it simple: no more than two typefaces/fonts, black type, no photos or artwork (other than a logo if you have a business identity or are a freelancer).
• Use 11 or 12 point type size and sans-serif fonts (Arial, Calibri, Verdana) rather than serif (Times Roman).
• Use a heading like Professional Summary for a snapshot of who you are and what you bring to a job, rather than Objective. The obvious, assumed objective is “Find a new job.”
• List your relevant skills. Consider not including Word or Outlook, which AARP says are “universally expected.” (I had no idea Outlook was considered some kind of standard!)
• If you’ve been doing temp work to fill in while you’re job hunting, call yourself a consultant for that timeframe and list your relevant assignments under that heading.
• Do include dates for employment and degrees, even if you’re worried about appearing “too old.” Leaving them out creates suspicion and the assumption that you really might be too old for a given opportunity.
• Use the heading Experience rather than Work Experience, so you can include work-related volunteer projects you might have done to fill the gap between paid work or to build new skills.
• Use bullet points and action verbs to make it clear what you’ve done and how your work has contributed to the success of a project or business. That can save words and space, so you include more information, and often is an easier voice to use in writing up your experience.
• Describe your achievements and background using keywords in the listing or opportunity, and check out the prospective employer’s website to find more to include.
• Feel free to include hobbies and philanthropic activities as long as they are relevant to the kind of work you’re looking for.
Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and owner of An American Editor. She created the annual Communication Central Be a Better Freelancer® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com), now co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com) and sponsored by An American Editor. She also owns A Flair for Writing (www.aflairforwriting.com), which helps independent authors produce and publish their books. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.
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