I know, I know, you’re doing okay where you are. You may even be happy or happy enough. Or you’ve been at your job for less than a year, and although you know you won’t be there long term, you’re going to stick it out for a while longer so a short stint doesn’t mar your resume.
The advice I’ve given over and over again, is to always, always have your resume or portfolio updated and at arm’s length, even if you have no intention whatsoever of pursuing a new opportunity.
Having your resume up-to-date and sitting on your desktop (extra points for a draft of a customizable cover letter) will do wonders for your peace of mind, your confidence, and your ability to react to market conditions and the occasional opportunity that just lands in your lap. As well, the exercise itself will offer you clarity, focus and purpose around what you really want to be when you grow up. I highly recommend it.
Tips to Get Started
I don’t recommend updating your resume at work between meetings, or at home on the couch in front of the game. Grab your laptop and duck into a coffee shop or bar for the afternoon. Give yourself a false deadline, dispense with fooling around too much with formatting (that comes in later), and don’t leave until you have a solid draft. Getting out of your normal surroundings and putting some pressure on yourself to describe all the things you’ve accomplished throughout your career will remind you of what a catch you are.
Find a buddy
Find a trusted editor who’ll provide you thoughtful feedback. Admittedly, you’re close to the subject matter (no one is closer in fact) and for that very reason you’ll want to get some reliable, yet objective, input. The friend who carefully reviewed my resume told me to cut it by 30% and make sure every single word counted. It helped tremendously.
Clarify your strengths
The act of finding the latest version of your resume—you know, the one you used to get the job you have now?—and setting to the task of updating it, is a humbling one. First, you’ll have to revise the way you describe your past roles, to align with changes in your career path. Over the years, your highest and best talents will have come into sharper focus, so you’ll want to make sure your resume reflects them cohesively. It’s a dreadful task, I know. And the longer it’s been, the harder it’s going to be. But think about it: you size yourself up each year in your performance review. You have a few LinkedIn recommendations if you’re on top of that sort of thing. Gather all the assets you have and prepare to dive in. This is your chance to reinvent yourself, or at least to understand how you show up in the world on your very best day.
See your big picture
As you go through this process, which you could realistically tackle in one weekend if you put your mind to it, pay attention to what shows up for you. Where do you feel the most confident and fluid in describing your talents and experiences, and where do you feel flustered? Where do you see holes in the story of your career, and how can you fill them? For me, the process of updating my resume after five years was liberating. I saw with crystal clarity where my talents live, and how and where to best apply them. Even better, I was able to articulate them well, and being able to do that bolstered my confidence immensely.
This isn’t a blog post about how to update your resume. It’s a call-to-action. It will be worth the effort, I promise.