Who has the time for career management? After all, we’re all to busy executing them to manage them, right? As a resume writer, find that one of the most common impediments to capturing quality person-specific content for the resume writing process is that clients either cannot remember or have the time to recall contributions made during their careers. But what if those factoids were documented and maintained on an ongoing basis?
💥 Enter THE BRAG SHEET! 💥
Think of a brag sheet as a career management tool that allows you to easily access a document into which you jot down career related info and high points for future access . You can use either a word processor document or spreadsheet to jot down those facts you may need to recall later. I recommend a Google Docs or Google Sheets file in the G Suite, which allows you to document info on a laptop / desktop, as well as “on the fly via” a smartphone app, all while being backed up in the cloud for safety. 📃 (A Microsoft One Drive file would work just as well)
Now, there is no need for it to stay “well-organized” at every moment of every day. As you navigate your professional day and week, you can jot things down within the file in your own shorthand, because let’s face it, time is often a commodity, right? You can then schedule some time at the end of each week to organize the thoughts into more coherent communications that someone else would understand contextually.
When organizing, be sure to document every entry by date and employer. This serves as ready-made content your resume writer can use to build out your new resumewhen you’re ready for that update. (And all you needed to do was either copy and paste the info into an email, or invite them as a “viewer” of the existing sheet!)
Career management made easy! 🏆
Other areas where this will help with career management are:
A good resume writer considers the end consumer when developing layout and writing strategy. But when really on our game, we examine the road traveled to prevent roadblocks. It is normal for lay people to consider resumes from their own perspective. It is how we filter most everything in life. But when you want a message – any message – delivered with consistency and power, you assess the recipient and the delivery system .
Many assume resume writers are free to take wild, open approaches to come up with the most creative document possible. The truth is, there are certain realities that we must account for that affect the strategy used. We have to ensure your resume consistently reaches its target and achieves the objective. A resume writer focused on effectiveness needs to know how the resume will get to the reader . Why? Well, it tells us tactically what strategies and tactics are viable.
Say you needed to get to grandma’s house for Christmas. If grandma lived on a snowy mountain with rough terrain, would you take a sports car or an ATV? If she lived in Manhattan, are you more likely to take the subway or horse? Grandma will shower you with hugs and kisses when she sees you, but you have to successfully get there first.
So let’s consider some examples:
A resume for a standard job search process (posting to vacancies, job boards, etc.) and a resume shopped by your colleague to his contacts can vary. Everything from layout and content inclusion strategy to word processor tools used can be different due to the differing path. Even if that colleague is “doing you a solid” by bringing your resume in for an internal vacancy, are they bringing the resume in to HR , or handing it directly to THE decision maker?
Are you submitting to major corporations or small-to-medium sized businesses? One’s resume has a far greater likelihood of having to traverse an applicant tracking system if applying to PriceWaterhouseCoopers than if applying with local CPA offices.
How about the volume of competition you are facing? There are only 24 hours in the day. The more applicants HR must review, the less time can be dedicated to your resume. This may determine how content dense you will want your resume to be. More attention may want to be placed on providing easily digestible bites of information. And they should be strategically placed to ensure maximum exposure and comprehension.
The resume’s projected journey can and influence everything, including the resume’s length, commitment to pure chronology, job description density, and use of formatting tools such as headers, tabs, tables, italics, bolding, etc.
If you’re not paying attention to the road traveled, there is a chance you never make it to grandma’s house (and I’m eating your piece of pie!)
Most of my clients seeking a federal resume are also open to private sector roles. After all, they recognize that the federal process can be a lengthy one. Not everyone’s bank account can wait out the process, and it is good to keep one’s options open. But don’t think that a catch-all resume format exists that accounts for both sectors.
As stated on the USAJobs.gov website, a federal resume is used to “determine if you meet the requirements and qualifications for a job announcement”. Federal HR personnel operate under strict federal employment laws, rules, and regulations. These prohibit them from “drawing conclusions” or “making assumptions” regarding your experience or qualifications. You have to spell out everything in a federal resume. Don’t assume they will note your oral communication skills or leadership acumen if you do not point it out. They are not allowed to do so. If it is stated as a factor for consideration, you need to spell it out on the resume. Be thorough when it comes to your content.
The federal resume infrastructure another factor to consider. The federal resume requires you to include citizenship status, hours worked per week , and supervisor names and contact information. Don’t to be miserly with your margins and spacing. Give attention to brevity and efficient delivery, but even then, your federal resume can easily reach 5 pages in length. That is okay. But please know, if you try submitting that federal resume to a private sector recruiter or a hiring manager, its likely to get trashed. Even before reading your name.
A private sector resume is a completely different animal with a slightly varied goal. This document is used as a “marketing tool” to get the interview. It is there you add more context to your candidacy. Unlike its federal resume counterpart, the private sector resume should be kept to no more than 2 pages in length (3 pages in certain exceptions). Thus, this dictates the need for a difference in approach to content right at the start.
The private sector resume is not an “all-inclusive” document that spells out every aspect of your experience. We want to focus on highlights and high impact items here. Why? Recruiters spend only 7.4 seconds per resume and we have to be certain the critical “differentiating” content isn’t missed. Because no one is reading an entire document in 7.4 seconds, right?
Is there a rule against using a private sector resume for a federal role and vice versa? No, there isn’t. But if you have 250 competitors for 1 spot and don’t even bother to use the tool designed for the task, how can you expect to achieve the objective?
“What do you mean, you are taking a gap year?”, said every parent presented with this situation. Once a high school student graduates, they should go straight to college, right? I mean, that is the long-established expectation, isn’t it? But in a 21st century society as complex as ours, is this something we should rethink on some level? Take it from someone who floundered around a bit flowing high school, a little pause can have a financial and directional benefit. Of course, it depends on the lid and the situation, but here are a few thoughts on where there could be some value to a gap year.
Young People Are Still Discovering Who They Are
Not every high school graduate has a well developed sense of self when they walk across that stage. Anyone over 30 can tell you that the person they were at 18 was different than the person they were at 21 or 22. One starts a path in college that is different to reverse. Once a student is inside of those courses in their major, there is usually too much time and/or effort invested to turn back.
A survey by BestColleges revealed that 61% of college graduates would change their majors if they could go back. Also, emerging science about our brain development suggests that most of us don’t really reach full maturity until the age 25. If used properly, a gap year can provide a young person the opportunity to truly explore their “true north” and pursue an education that best aligns with their value set. At the very least, it pushes back the timeline for “mind changing” by a year so that it does not happen a year or two into failing chemistry courses when they would be better suited studying microeconomic theory (perhaps I am projecting here).
Gap Year to Improve and Refine Work Ethic
Not every student leaves high school with good study habits and the discipline to balance work with play. And if everything came easy in high school, they could be headed for a rude awakening when asked to cover and take notes on 6 chapters and produce a 5-page written report. Every week. In just 1 class.
A gap year can be a good time to master study and comprehension techniques, time management, and test taking skills. College freshmen with poor study habits tend to experience difficulties because of a lack of oversight, as there is no longer a teacher or parent holding them to task. In this case, the result tends to be course failures and the loss of 1 or 2 semesters. And guess what? That tuition isn’t refundable, parents. Good use of that gap year can be made by learning when one tends to comprehend material better, scheduling study periods to coincide with those times, and holding oneself to that schedule. Your student can learn to set specific goals to aid in staying focused and monitoring progress.
Gap Year Can Provide Real-world Perspective to Classroom Concepts
If there is one thing that can derail the comprehension of a concept for a college student, it is not knowing that concept’s real-world application. Some exposure to real life can provide an excellent pretext to the concepts that will be learned in the classroom. An article by The IDEA Fund notes: “Relevance is a major component of many motivational models and particularly important if learners’ experiences can be used as a basis for new learning.” It goes on to say: “If prior experience can be connected to new material in a meaningful way, that material can be more clearly understood and more easily learned.” Consequently, your youngster now becomes the de facto expert on real-life situations in the classroom as well.
Gap Year to Let Them Burn Off the Party Energy – But OFF Your Dime
Most of you know by the time they cross that high school stage whether you have a party animal on your hands or not. Do you REALLY want to pay for your kid to attend “ragers” and binge drink 4 times per week while posting all “Fs” in their freshman courses? Consider letting them exhaust that energy and get it out of their system. Perhaps they can hold down a job to pay for their own party habits, but that freshman year’s tuition has a better chance of bearing fruit if they are not repeatedly upside down over a keg. According to ValuePenguin.com, the average cost of a public college education in the US is $9,970 for in-state tuition and $25,620 for out-of-state tuition. Save that scratch if you are sure they’re headed for a rocky opening to that collegiate career.
Of course, knowing one’s own child is key to whether the gap year works out . You have to be confident you will be able to get them to return, as well as know they will use the time wisely. Some schools even have gap year deferred admission policies that allow students to keep their spots once admitted. A young person can really broaden their horizons by learning a new language, volunteering time overseas, or even earning college credit while studying abroad. Another potential negative to consider is the long-term cost of late work force entry. Graduating one year later means losing the equivalent of that first year’s meaning potential. But if a struggling opening year was in the cards anyway, considering the gap year isn’t a bad idea.
If there is one thing we have learned watching our political leaders, it is that framing the message to establish a narrative is an effective tool. If you wanted to give it an official definition, the Harvard Business Review defines framing as “the essence of targeting a communication to a specific audience.” When one considers the environmental limitations one’s resume encounters, it is easy to see the importance of properly framing one’s message for optimal results. Recruiters reportedly skim an applicant’s resume for only 7.4 seconds before deciding relevance. Again, that’s 7.4 seconds! So it is obvious the whole resume is not read immediately. As such, the relevance and placement of high-value information is more important than overall volume.
Let’s take a look at a few ways one can optimize a resume to position applicants for consistency in gaining quality interviews.
High-relevance Summary and Core Competencies Section
So, what is the worst thing one can do as a reporter writing a story? Burying the lead! Most job applicants make the same mistake when preparing their own resumes. When you have less than 8 seconds to prove viability, the high-powered selling points can’t be hard to find in the resume. We read from top to bottom, so one’s profile section can do a lot to spur interest when done right. Or lose your reader forever if not. Many take this section lightly, thinking that “once the recruiter sees my experience below, I’ll be fine.” The problem is that they may not get there if your opening is loaded with a bunch of flowery nonsensical self-congratulatory claims that everyone thinks about themselves. After all, who doesn’t think they are a team player?
The profile and core competencies sections are a good way to encapsulate differentiator information. Remember that your resume does not exist in a vacuum. That overworked recruiter may have already gone through 125 resumes before getting to yours. They know B.S. when they hear it, so don’t insult them with it. When framing the message, stick to concepts relevant to the position in question where your experience, training, or knowledge base align with it.
Does the Reader Need to Know Everything?
Your background may be a one with exposure to numerous industries and position types, causing you to pick up a number of skills. And in a face-to-face conversation, this may be of value. But in the bottleneck of determining who will get into that interview door, recruiters and hiring managers are looking to check off very specific boxes. If they do not determine you meet the bare minimum skill set requirement, it does not matter how many other things you bring to the table. You only have 7.4 seconds to make your pitch. If the recruiter has to wade through 20 concepts to find 5 relevant ones, you have already lost the battle.
Keep the focus on the qualifications of the position when determining the content of your resume. Be sure your reader understands you meet all of their primary needs before going into all of the other areas. They may be helpful in the long run, but they don’t necessarily move the meter. Don’t feel you need to elaborate on every single thing you may have done in your previous role. Hit your reader with the high relevance content first and foremost. Minimize, or even trim out the low-level content that won’t help. A resume’s job is to spur interest and gain you an audience. Framing the message does not entail documenting every waking minute of every day since you left school.
Feature Some of Your More Impactful Highlights
The high achievers among us have the first-world problem. They have so many notables that they do not know if including them all will overload their most recent role from a content volume standpoint. A good problem to have, right? One way to manage overflow is by pulling out 3 to 5 of the most impressive highlights as a teaser in their own section. A well-developed and properly placed highlights section can help tease your reader into wanting to know more. When within that 7.4 seconds a recruiter sees you have slashed national transportation costs 37%, negotiated $13.3 million in contract savings, or saved a high-value relationship worth $22 million per year to your company, they know they can sell that to their clients looking for talent.
The best part about changing careers is getting that fresh start. Something to give you a new reason to wake up in the morning. But you only get that great feeling if you choose wisely. When considering making what could be a life-altering decision such as changing the way you make your bread and butter, you do not want to do this lightly.
Of course, some professionals have the decision thrust upon them, as their industries are either contracting or disappearing altogether due to technological transformation. But some of us are looking to change careers because we need a fresh perspective, more money, or other reasons that meet material, situational, or personal growth needs. Before making any hasty decisions on a career change, be sure to consider these three things.
Before Changing Careers, Research The Industry Outlook
Making a drastic move into a new profession just because it sounds good isn’t smart. What if that profession or sector is shrinking? What if compensation is stagnating? Hey, what if it just is not as wholly rewarding as you initially thought? Do yourself a favor and do your homework before changing careers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics often provides good information on everything from 10-year industry growth to prevailing salary averages. Also, companies such as Deloitte provide good sector status information. Another great way to assess viability before changing careers is by connecting with industry professionals on LinkedIn. Once connected, strike up a conversation and get their input on where they feel the industry or profession is headed.
How Do You Support Yourself During The Career Change Transition
Okay, your research has revealed that your new career target is viable. It is now time to plan the execution. Is your new career direction one that you can pursue while holding down your current position? Or will the transformation require a time commitment that will not allow you to remain employed where you are currently? If you need to quit your job to pursue this career change, will you rely on any savings or nest egg, or do you have a secondary source of income that will help “grease the skids”, so to speak?
Before doing anything rash, be sure to give this some thought. Of course, some of you out there are just straight up risk-takers. If you do not have a lot of commitments to others and your psyche is one that can deal with it, then go for it. But know who you are before you do such a thing, as the transition can be a very stressful time.
Identify Mentors to Guide You Through the Career Change Maze
There is this theory that one should learn from one’s own mistakes. Well, I don’t buy it. Not when one can easily learn from someone else’s faux pas. When it comes to that new career path you are seeking, someone has already blazed the trail. They know where the pitfalls are, so why should you have to experience them as well? Identify a couple of industry professionals that can serve as mentors and guideposts to provide you with the shortest possible path to your goal.
What if you are considering taking a certification course that everyone in the industry knows is worthless? Perhaps there is a specific concentration of the new profession that provides more opportunity for growth than others. Someone who has already “walked the walk” is likely to shorten your conversion time and make it less painful.
Many say different strokes for different folks. But it is also true that sometimes the same folks need different strokes. Going against the inertia of your current career likely won’t be easy. But if you take some time to figure out who you are in that process and build a plan accordingly, it can work. It has been done before. The average person will change careers up to 7 times during their working life. You may as well make the transition as smooth as possible. So once you have made the decision, do your research, retool your resume, and get cracking!