The motto "Be prepared," isn’t just great advice for Boy Scouts; it’s also great career advice. You never know when the perfect career opportunity will present itself. If a recruiter called you today with your dream job, would you be prepared to send out an up-to-date resume right away?
There are four critical times to update your resume:
- At least once a year
- Any time your career focus changes
- When you anticipate layoffs with your company
- When you begin to feel dissatisfied with your current position
1. Update your resume every year.
This is where many people fall short. When that recruiter calls with the perfect job, you may suddenly find your resume is years out of date, and you’ll have to scramble to catch up.
Keep your resume current by including your best accomplishments each year.
Don’t count on your memory to recall everything you achieved in years past!
You are likely to overlook critical achievements and contributions. If you need assistance, a resume coach may be able to help you through the process with some targeted questions on your most recent jobs.
2. Update your resume when your career focus changes.
If you want to change your career path, then you also need to change your resume. There are several ways to shift the focus away from your current job and toward your new career.
By focusing on the skills that will be useful in your new career, you canposition yourself as a stronger candidate for the job. Highlight thosetransferable skills in your new resume, bringing them front and center.
In addition to highlighting your transferable skills, shift your list of accomplishments to support those skills. Accomplishment statements give credibility to transferable skills and prove your ability to cross industry or occupational lines. Well-crafted accomplishments make a big difference in whether you win the interview or are passed over.
Finally, be sure you understand your audience. As you shift career focus, it is critical to understand the hiring motives of your target market. Use your resume as an effective selling tool by correctly anticipating the recruiter’s "wish list" for great job candidates.
3. Update your resume when you anticipate layoffs within your company.
A harsh reality of today’s economy is the need for corporate downsizing. Layoffs and losses are becoming more and more common. But you can prepare for any worst-case scenario by keeping your resume up-to-date.
Don’t make the mistake of being overly optimistic. It’s safer to assume that you are on the "out" list. Most people who get caught unexpectedly in a layoff thought they were indispensable to their employers. You might be important or well-liked, but remember that the bottom line always has a louder voice than you do. Get your resume ready as soon as you see any indications that downsizing is on the way.
Don’t mistake company loyalty for a fear of change. Often employees would rather take their chances with a potential layoff than make proactive steps toward finding a new job. Once they’re laid off, it’s already too late. Remember, as a candidate, you are always more marketable while still employed. Avoid this trap and start your job search early with self-marketing tools (resume and cover letter) that are up-to-date and top quality.
4. Update your resume when you are dissatisfied with your current position.
Job dissatisfaction leads to feelings of frustration, worthlessness, and often hopelessness. But there is no reason to stay in a job you hate. Being prepared with an updated resume can help you feel better in your current job. When you have a really terrible day at work, you can respond to job opportunities that same evening with confidence in your up-to-the-minute resume. Taking proactive steps toward a new career will give you back your optimism and self worth.
If it’s time for you to update your resume, first decide whether your resume requires a simple update or a complete rewrite. If you have been using the same resume format throughout your career, it’s possible that you have outgrown the old look. What your resume promoted ten years ago may not be appropriate or significant for your career choices today. And if you’ve simply been "tacking on" to your old resume, it may start to resemble a house with too many additions, with little sense or direction.
A professional resume critique can help you decide exactly what you need to move forward. A well-written resume can make an incredible difference in:
The length of time it takes to make your career move
The quality of your next position
The income potential of your next position
Your resume is your best sales tool in finding a new job, and it deserves the investment of your time and commitment. With a little extra effort now, you’ll be prepared for anything that comes your way—and be well on the path to your next great job.
Deborah Walker, CCMC is a Resume Writer & Career Coach.
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