Stage Fright Part 1: Your Resume: My Steyer Associates blog post this month is about ensuring that a technical communicator’s resume serves as a writing sample.
The typical barrier to resume writing? Most people tend to get introspective, worrying about how to present everything they know. So here’s free advice for anyone who needs to maintain a professional resume:
Update your resume when you are not looking for a job.
You’ll have much better insight about your skills and your presentation of self when you aren’t under pressure.
When you’re writing your resume, try not to make it an existential crisis. It’s merely a recipe. If you’re too nervous, ask a writing professional to look at it — not for grammar and spelling, but as communication that describes the essentials of your professional self. Here’s the resume recipe:
- One simple, readable, business-like font, with no more than three font-sizes, used consistently
- One file formatted as a single page, with decent margins, saved in .DOC format
Time and environment:
- One hour
- A quiet, no-distractions workspace
- Gather your old resumes. Determine:
Which elements to keep.
Which past experiences to condense.
What to discard.
At a minimum, the discards should include:
— Your GPA and any academic awards that are less than a Rhodes scholarship
— “References available upon request”
— Family details, and any religious and political activities
(unless in a professional role related to the next job you are seeking)
— The month level of detail for year-spans in your work history
- List recent work experience, focusing on professional skills and accomplishments.
- List technical skills pertinent to your next job.
(Omit skills for which you never want to be hired again.)
- Put the most recent skills and jobs at the top.
Condense earlier jobs that aren’t as relevant to your next desired position.
- Edit until all extraneous words are removed, and the resume is only one page.
- Remove (or don’t create in the first place) any text boxes used for layout or special formatting.
Many businesses scan resumes into a database, and such tools likely don’t read text boxes.
- Ask at least two people in your professional area to read your polished draft and give feedback.
- Have someone who doesn’t know what you do read it, to check that your terms aren’t so obscure as to confuse an HR person assigned to winnow applicants.
- Pretend you are a hiring manager, and read it with fresh eyes.
I offer additional tips especially for technical communicators in Stage Fright Part 1: Your Resume. For a quick look at how a resume can condense 30 years of work history, I offer my own tech-comms resume as an example.
A Bonus Aside for Book Authors
I’m taking a fantastic webinar from Kelsye Nelson (Build Your Author Platform in 30 Days), which caused me to reexamine the “About” info I created for this site when I set it up two years ago.
Egads! Zut alors! You’d never guess I prided myself for being a precise, clear tech writer. It is hoped that I’ve fixed it now, but I had to deeply internalize Kelsye’s simple recipe for an author bio:
1. 250 words.
2. In third person.
3. First line states your name and what you do.
4. Pubs & awards listed, starting with most notable.
6. Purpose statement (optional).
7. Carefully chosen personal details.