Two weeks ago, I wrote an article called How to Write a Career Launching Resume (CLR). This article will dive deeper into 1 of the 4 elements of writing a CLR:
To recap, these are the key elements of a CLR:
- It focuses on your greatest assets (achievements, not experience)
- It demonstrates your interest in the role you’re applying for
- It stands out among the hundreds or thousands of other resumés sent in
- It’s written like a sales proposal and the product is you
This article will focus on Number 1: Focusing on your greatest assets.
Many students and recent grads make the horrible mistake of using their resumé to report on their previous experiences. Even worse, most students and recent grads start their report with a history of their academics (starting with high school), followed by their work experiences.
The result is a resumé that a) fails to take advantage of the opportunity to sell your related life experiences, rather than your unrelated work and academic experiences, and b) is totally and completely boring.
Consider this real life example (me):
- Between my third and fourth year of university at Queen’s, I landed myself a paid internship with one of Canada’s biggest and most respected banks. And on the Trading Floor no less! The reality of the job itself was that, while it was great exposure, I spent a lot of time creating Powerpoint presentations.
- When I was 15 years old, I decided that I wanted to be a ‘famous, successful actress.’ In order to make this dream come true, I played a young boy in a professional production of Macbeth, pestered a high-profile talent agent until she accepted to represent me, and built a website for young actors called BigDreamers.com.
If I were writing a regular resumé, surely the prestigious internship would appear at the top of the list. The ‘acting phase’ likely wouldn’t make the cut at all!
But which of these experiences do you think is more indicative of what I do and where I am today? I would certainly argue it’s the acting experience.
Now, some of you may be saying: “You wanting to be an actress has nothing to do with running and working in a business!”
And this is where “focusing on your achievements, not experience” comes into play. Let’s say I was applying for an entry-level sales role:
“As a teenager, I set my sights on a very difficult goal: to work as an actress. In the process of working to achieve this goal, I demonstrated the initiative, determination, persistence, and drive necessary to achieve the result I desired. Not only did I build, start, and run my own website for young actors, but after six months and 50 auditions, I was cast in two commercials.”
Another, more broad example – let’s say I wanted to work in media as a recent graduate:
Life Experience: Attempting to build a career as an actor, 1998-1999
- Showed a demonstrated interest in online and offline media at a young age
- In online media, by building, running and promoting a website for young actors
- In traditional media, by actively and persistently seeking work as an actor
- Achieved success by proactively controlling all controllable aspects
- Created a website for young actors
Here’s the cool part, which I can tell you from personal experience: It works.
As a recent graduate in London, England, I featured my acting experience on my resumé and it was the main point of conversation in every interview I went on. Employers generally felt that this experience and the achievements that accompanied it said something about me.
…It was not that I had a wacky and generally unattainable dream, but that I executed on it.