Entry level job seekers face a unique set of resume challenges, since they need to prove their readiness for the job using only a year or two of questionably relevant experience. How can you explain that you’re competent, seasoned, and ready for anything when your entire work history can be documented in one line? Senior level job seekers face a different set of challenges, since they need to condense and summarize a long work history into a page or two without skipping key details and missing opportunities.
But what about mid-career job seekers? What about those who entered the workforce about five to fifteen years ago, and who still have a long road to travel before their record speaks for itself? Here are a few tips that can help you if you face the best and worst of both situations: You don’t have quite enough experience to simply walk in the door, but you still need to condense and summarize your past in order to keep your message tight.
1. Your summary is more important than ever.
Entry level job seekers can get away with a little fluff in the summary section. When your work history is still thin, employers may give you a pass if you use empty phrases like “I’m an enthusiastic, hard-charging dynamo with a real drive for success.” But by the time you’ve accumulated five years of experience, this language has to go. Every word of your summary should be concrete and meaningful, and every word should apply to you alone. Stay on task and be specific. Try statements like this: “After three years with a small government employer and two years with a large corporate firm, I’ve become proficient with the XZY software platform, gained my Microsoft network management certification, and learned how to meet the needs of a diverse client base.
2. Keep your work history lean.
When you’re ready to start drafting your “work history” section, keep your subheadings tight and straightforward. Instead of creating a laundry list of former employers, focus on your most relevant former jobs and let the others go. At this point in your career, you can drop the part time jobs you held as a college student and recent grad. Take them out and dedicate that page space to your last two (or three) professional full-time positions. Emphasize the jobs that relate directly to the future you envision for yourself.
3. Focus on accomplishments, not responsibilities.
Under each former job title in your work history section, emphasize the rare and impressive accomplishments you achieved in that role. Don’t just list the basic duties you performed on a daily basis.
4. Add “core competencies.”
At the mid-career level, you can create an additional section just below your summary that lists your “core competencies”, or the actual tasks that you’d like to complete for this specific employer. Imagine yourself as a superhero, and use this section to list each one of your powers. Focus on the competencies and powers you WANT to use, not just the ones you have.
Stay In Control of Your Message
At this stage in your career, start pursuing the jobs and responsibilities you truly want to tackle every day, not just the ones you’re capable of handling. Use your resume to clarify what you can do, what you’ve done before, and what you’re willing and eager to do in the future. Visit LiveCareer for tools and templates that can help you make your case.