Here are three exercises and strategies that might come in handy next time you’re applying for a new job.
1. The “So What?” Test
Sadly, most bullet points on resumes read like a laundry list of job tasks, and many feel redundant if those tasks can be assumed by reading the company name and job title. Instead of telling a resume reader what you did day-to-day, tell them about achievements and things you are proud of. Tell them about the moments when you went above and beyond.
Read each bullet point out loud and ask yourself this question: So what? Why is this bullet point important? Why is it taking up room on your resume? Now imagine someone else—a stranger, someone who has never met you—going through your resume the same way.
If you get defensive or fired up when you run the “so what?” test, that’s good! That means there’s something you’re proud of in that bullet point that you need to communicate. Make that the heart of your bullet point.
When I run resume writing workshops for people starting out in their careers, they can become self-conscious and feel that their limited experience isn’t worth bragging about. To prove that you can take this approach with any job or experience level, I’ll provide you with the wait-server example. (Back in the day, I worked at a restaurant and firmly believe it teaches you great skills.)
2. The Tailoring Sessio
Just like tailoring your clothes, tailoring your resume isn’t about creating something from scratch. It’s about snipping, hemming, and stitching things together so that it fits perfectly. Use this strategy to keep yourself from reinventing the wheel over and over again.
Keep a master resume that lists every single experience you’ve ever had. The master resume is where you don’t have to worry about page count—it’s for your eyes only, so there are no limits. Add sections and bullet points to your heart’s content. Let this master version be everything from your security blanket to your resource library.
When you are ready to apply to a role, create a copy of the master resume and give it a name that is specific to the role you’re applying for.
Now read the job description again. What are the requirements? Use those as guidelines for tailoring your resume. Because you’re starting with a master resume, you don’t need to create new language. Simply delete the text that isn’t pertinent to the role, leaving only the relevant experience.
You are almost done. Before you submit this tailored resume, read through it. Start from the bottom, then move your way up, going in chronological order. Does this new tailored resume show career progression when read from the bottom up? Is there a thread that runs through it? Does it need to be stitched together in some places? When you are ready to go, make sure you convert it to a PDF!!