How do you unlock the front door?

I have a riddle for you…

What one thing can mean the difference between being in the career and job you have always dreamed of or not, but is often confusing, kinda scary and at times just plain hard to get right?

One hint… it is often the key to the front door for any company you want to work for.

That’s right, it’s your RESUME.

Yes, the first thought that came into your head is right! There are blogs, books and experts that talk (AD NAUSEUM) about resumes. How to write them, what to include, what not to include, “tips” and “tricks.”

Instead of going down that path, I figured I would take a step back and look at the basics.  One of the most famous coaches in the history of sports is UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.  It was well known that Wooden would start from the very beginning with all of his players to build them to be the best from the ground up.  Yet he didn’t start with how they shot or passed the ball, he started with how they tied their shoes and tucked in their jerseys when getting dressed.  That may seem crazy, but it is also a very sound strategy. Think about this: if you have blisters on your feet because you didn’t tie your shoes properly, do you think you could play your best?

In that spirit let me hit you with my resume basics:

  1. Your resume is a reflection of you.  People will judge a book by its cover.  While it is so hard to fit yourself onto a piece of paper, there are still ways to show your true self.  Check out these: … You will find some of them are strange but some are really cool and unique. I am not saying we should all go out and turn our resume into an origami swan, but think of ways to spice it up so that you stick out in the pile.  This “reflection” of you starts with your name. How you write your name says a lot about your personality and level of self confidence.  That doesn’t mean you should write your name is 75pt font, but the type of font you choose and the layout of your header is the very first thing people see
  2. Write about what YOU did for each position you had. One of the basic mistakes people make is that they make each entry about their job more of a job description, basically copying what would be listed under the job if it were posted on an online job-board. While having a couple sentences or a bullet point related to an overview of the job itself is important to provide context, you want to focus more directly on what YOU specifically did in the job.  Talk about how you increased productivity for the group by implementing a new process and how you opened up the organization to a new market.  Plus USE NUMBERS. As has been said, numbers are a universal language.  Don’t just say you planned and coordinated an industry event, say you “planned and coordinated an industry event for 2000 people, increasing attendance by 35% and improving attendee satisfaction scores by 21%.”
  3. Don’t lie, but use “Spin” to your advantage.  Now I don’t want to get close to any gray area on these basics, so I am in NO WAY saying that you should stretch the truth in any job. Lying on your resume is a BIG no-no. Just don’t do it, I have heard countless stories of how doing this has been lethal.  On the other hand, you should describe what you have done in the best light possible.  I had an internship at a potsticker company (they make the Ling Ling eggrolls and potstickers with the panda on them, super delicious), and on my resume I put that I “managed product sample distribution to market research firms & retail chain regional buyers.”  While this does sound pretty cool what it really meant was that I would call up the local gas station and see if they had an dry ice, go get the dry ice, go to the back of the factory and get some product samples from the freezer, put them in boxes with the dry ice, call Fedex to come pick up the package and then follow-up the next day to ensure the package was delivered to the right person.  As you can see, I didn’t lie or embellish what I did in any way, I just described it in the best light possible.
  4. Interests. Most people overlook this part of their resume. Yet this is a big mistake.  First off, your resume screener will look here for things to speak with you about during the interview (to see if you have anything in common), but  more importantly they will look at it to determine if you are a fit with the company 0r group’s culture.  Many will write about themselves in a generic manner: Enjoys cooking, jogging and reading.  Instead you should step out there and show how you are unique, but be specific and mention something that will allow you to tell a story about yourself.  For example, in my resume I don’t just say I “enjoy traveling,” I say that I am an “avid international traveler (33+ countries visited).”  I also mention that I am “UC Berkeley’s Mr. Business” which ALWAYS gets referenced by anyone who reads it. Plus it allows me to share a funny (and memorable) story allowing me to stick out from others at the very lease as “that Mr. Business-guy.”

My list could continue, but I will leave at those four core things.

Let me end, though, with showing a resume that truly fits the character it describes…



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About Young Professional's Edge (YP Edge)

Aaron McDaniel is a corporate manager, entrepreneur, author, public speaker and community leader. Aaron has held numerous management roles at a Fortune 500 company, being appointed Regional Vice President at the age of 27, and is the founder of multiple entrepreneurial ventures. He is also the author of the book, The Young Professional's Guide to the Working World ( Aaron instructed a highly rated student-led course on leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas Undergraduate School of Business and has a book, The Young Professional's Guide to the Working World: Savvy Strategies to Get In, Get Ahead, and Rise to the Top, due to be out later this year. Aaron offers advice that helps young professionals build the foundation for a successful career. Visit his blog, to learn more.

Posted on December 1, 2011, in Resumes & Interviewing, Solid Advice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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