Why Your Resume Stinks (And What To Do About It Now)

Gail Belsky career change

There's nothing like a 90-minute session with a resume maven to point out how little you know about your own accomplishments-or how lame you look on paper. I knew I needed help, but when Miriam Salpeter, a job and social media coach, began her critique, my head started spinning.

Everything about my resume screamed: Discard before reading.

My laundry list of prior jobs included descriptions of my duties, but said nothing about what I actually did or achieved. As Salpeter explained, I was leaving that for employers to try and figure out -- and who was going to bother?

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The Challenge: Proving Your Accomplishments On A Resume
With some professions, showing accomplishments on a resume is easy: "Increased revenue by X percent." As a journalist looking to transition to another field, I would have to find other ways to demonstrate my value. On the resume I showed Salpeter, I stated that I helped to re-launch a national magazine. Her response was: "So what?"

Blunt, but spot on. What did I actually contribute? What was the result? What skills did I use that would translate to other professions? I had to start from scratch.

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Here Are The Steps Salpeter Laid Out For Me
Make sure the job fits before applying: The first thing I needed to do was to copy the job descriptions for positions that I was interested in and highlight the parts I had experience with. If I couldn't highlight at least 80 percent, I shouldn't apply.

Use the ad's exact words: Whatever words employers used in their job description, I had to use in my own descriptions of prior jobs. Applicant tracking software scans for keywords, so including them increases the odds that an actual human being will see my resume. Employers won't think I'm a parrot, according to Miriam -- they'll think I'm a good match.

Focus on accomplishments, not what you did: Every job experience on my resume should show not just what I've done, but also what my effort produced. And every item should be bulleted ... no running text.

Be selective about what you showcase: The point of a resume isn't to list everything you've done; it's to show prospective employees what they want to see. I needed to create movable parts that I can swap in and out depending on the position. Or, since I'm interested in a few different fields, have a basic resume for each one.

It took me five hours to rewrite my resume.

At first I couldn't figure out how to connect my previous positions to the one I was applying for, but once I began using the employer's keywords as my guide, it became easier. If an item wasn't relevant, I deleted it. In the end, I looked remarkably like the person in the job description.

I sent off a job application. We'll see what happens. But I feel much better about my chances now that my resume actually says something.

What does your resume say about you? Does it list accomplishments, or just actions?

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