As a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), I can tell you that there is one significant thing that separates blah resumes from great resumes. This small but significant thing is a simple mindset shift, and it should happen before you sit down to even think about updating your resume.
Most applicants think about their prior work history and career when they update their resume.
It’s perfectly normal, given that in order to write your resume you need to take stock of your strengths, work functions and achievements in previous jobs.
However, if you’re writing your resume with only your past career in mind, your resume will subsequently be past-focused.
Translation: your resume will be targeted toward what you’ve done and not what you hope to do in the future.
This subtle mind shift only takes about a minute or less. And you can easily make the shift by asking yourself the following questions:
✔ What did I not like about my prior job?
✔ What do I hope to do more of in my future job?
✔ What strengths come naturally to me, and how will these strengths allow me to contribute to my targeted job or field?
✔ What skills and attributes are needed in my targeted field? Do I have them? If not, how can I hone or acquire those skills?
✔ What transferable skills do I possess (i.e. leadership, problem-solving, emotional intelligence) and how can these skills translate into my new job or career? How can I market them on my resume?
To give you a better idea of what I mean by writing a resume with the past versus the future in mind, I’ll share an example of a candidate who is hoping to pivot from sales to account management.
The first example is a description of the candidate’s current sales position written with a “past-focused” mentality:
Sales Associate June 2018 – Present
- Greet roughly 200 customers per day in a friendly manner.
- Lead team of ten sales representatives.
- Process orders and returns in a timely manner.
- Answer customer questions regarding beauty and skin care products
The second example is a description of the candidate’s current sales position written with a “future-focused” mentality:
Sales Associate June 2018 – Present
- Promoted from floor sales associate to floor sales lead within first year of hire.
- Oversee customer experience initiative by evaluating daily sales and client interaction reports and communicating progress to internal sales, marketing, and customer care teams; improved customer satisfaction by roughly 30% from 2021-2022.
- Honed leadership skills by collaborating with cross-functional sales, marketing, advertising, and finance teams to successfully execute new skin care product launch in 2021.
If you’re making a career pivot or it’s been a while since you’ve updated your resume, here are a couple of tips to make the process of writing your resume with a future-focused mentality easier and faster:
1. Print it out.
Print out the job posting of the position you’re targeting and highlight all of the skills listed.
2. Make a list.
Make a list of the skills you possess that are also listed in the posting. You can also include skills on your resume for which you have entry-level ability. You can use qualifiers like “beginning knowledge of” or “intermediate level” to reflect your skill level.
3. Apply anyway.
Even if you’re lacking some of the skills and qualifications listed in the job description, I would encourage you to still apply for the position. You of course never want to exaggerate your skill level or lie on your resume. If you feel like you’re seriously lacking in certain skill areas, you can always take online courses and even get a new certification!
By shifting the focus of your resume from past to future, you can market your transferable and applicable skills and achievements and demonstrate to a hiring manager that you’re the best fit for the job.