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It's time to revamp that resume

AUTHOR:      Maria Mallory
PUBLISHED:  December 12, 2000

Here's a resolution that can pay big dividends: You will craft your best - ever resume in 2001.

If you think the only time to change your resume is when you hurriedly type in your latest job right before applying for your next one, you'll want to rethink that strategy this year, says Gayle Oliver, author of "Execume: It's More Than a Resume, It's a Reflection of You."

We work in a fast - moving marketplace. The only way to keep up is to anticipate change because it is surely coming, and a spruced up, ever - ready resume is one great way to stay afloat among the unpredictable waves of change, says Oliver, who is also founder of Execume, a Buckhead - based career management firm.

"One reason people don't update their resume is fear of change," she says. "Fear makes you reactive to change rather than proactive.?

So, set aside the fear and get busy on that resume, Oliver says. It is your best offense and defense in a competitive and swiftly moving job environment.

"When people get into their careers, they want somebody else to manage it, they want H.R. to manage it, instead of saying to yourself, 'I'm going to prepare so that if change happens, I know I've got a good resume, I know I've been contributing, and I know I'm ready for a new assignment.' "

But just how do you go about it? Just in time for the new year, Oliver offers these resume resolutions to help guide you. So, crank up your computer, dust off that old resume file and try on these resolutions for size:

* "I resolve to avoid being redundant in my word choices."
So Many times - too many times - resume writers can't manage to find a word other than "managed" to describe their work experiences. "Instead of using 'managed,' 'managed,' managed,' you could use 'championed,' 'spearheaded,' or 'launched,' " Oliver says, or other power words that more descriptively express your contributions.

"I think it's really important that people don't get redundant. It makes the resume lifeless," she says.

Try varying the verbs and using more adjectives, she advises.

* "I resolve to avoid being too brief."

Every word counts. It's important to remember that your resume stands in for you and your experiences, so you don't want to sell yourself short, Oliver says.

"One of the things I found is if you don't say you did it, they [potential employers] don't know you did. We sometimes think we'll explain that in the interview," she says, but that could be a mistake.

Many hiring managers are doing extensive key word searches by computer, and they are scrutinizing resumes more carefully than ever before.

Oliver explains: "If you think about the Internet, content is king. The same is true in resumes. If you don't have good content, you don't get evaluated. People don't want to invest the time in interviewing you unless your experience parallels what they're looking for."

That means putting in more content and depth with carefully chosen descriptions and explanations. "You've got people who think is brief is better, but I think the people who think brief is better may be getting passed over," Oliver asserts.

When you add more content, make sure you categorize it well, Oliver says.

One approach: Break down you key areas of responsibility into categorized statements where similar functions are grouped together as bulletted examples under a general category.

"For example, if you're a general manager, you might have sales management bullets. Then you might have operations management bullets. Then you might have staff development, strategic initiatives and then impact highlights, or the things you did that impacted the company in a positive way," Oliver says. "If you have a long resume and information isn't categorized, that makes it too long."

But by grouping your contributions under general headings, you can present a more detailed story that hiring managers and recruiters can easily focus on, she says.

* "I resolve to use numbers to define my successes."

Putting numbers to your work experiences is a powerful but under - utilized tool in resumes, Oliver says.

"You would be amazed how many people do not do this," she says. "Try using expressions like 'I reduced expenses by X.' 'I raised performance by X per unit.' 'I decreased the number of staff from X to Y.' It really does show impact. Numbers give a totally different meaning to your statements" of accomplishment, she says.

* "I resolve to include my soft skills on my resume."

What's a "soft skill"? Oliver defines as the skills that show that you can change environments. Communications, management, prioritization, those are the kinds of skills that are transferable or "soft," versus "hard skills" or capabilities that are tied to specific technologies or work experiences but are not necessarily adaptable elsewhere.?

One way to uncover your soft skills is to ask yourself what you do well, Oliver says.

"Write down five things that you're good at. When you think about what you're good at, your skills are underneath there," and they definitely need to be included on your resume, Olive adds.

Another way to approach this is to think about yourself as a "brand" that you're marketing. "You need to be known for what you're good at," Oliver says, "People can't remember everything about you. If they remember that you know X like the back of your hand, that's a brand" and your resume must express those things.

"Ask yourself, 'What am I known for?' For instance, am I the start - up person? The turnaround person? Am I known for solving the unsolvable problem? Am I known for recruiting top talent? Make sure that whatever the themes, that you use these skills to build your resume," she says.

* I resolve to update my resume every six months."

This is a crucial exercise not only because it keeps your resume ready for change, but it can also help you face change with less trepidation, Oliver says.

"It builds your confidence because it reminds you of everything you've contributed," she says. "You should be prepared for new opportunities at all times," and not only for potential job changes or new jobs, she says.

Periodically revising your resume will keep fresh in your mind the work you've done and the things you have accomplished. "Once you redo it, when it's time to go up for raises, [an updated resume] is a beautiful thing. You'd be amazed at how many people who leave my office [after an update] and say, 'I need to go ask for more money.' "

What's more, the update can also serve as a self - evaluation exercise, Oliver says.

"It might make you realize more of the direction where you need to go, or don't need to go. It helps you think of what your next move should be," she says.

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