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Executive Resumes: Strategic vs. Tactical

As an executive, you know the importance of distinguishing between activities that are strategically focused and those that are tactical in nature. Often, you develop and direct strategic plans while delegating the related tactical actions to your management team and those who report to them. Not surprisingly, a similar distinction applies to your executive resume.
 
What do I mean by that? To start with, your resume can be considered a strategic document overall, in the sense that it takes a long-range look at your career and is kept current in terms of job-market trends, your expanding business expertise, and other factors that have long-term implications.
 
On the other hand, you will probably use the resume tactically in a job search: that is, to position yourself for potential new opportunities in the near term. For example, when you want to launch a job search, you might share it with people in your network, hand it to key individuals you meet, and offer it in response to inquiries from executive search recruiters.
 
Your Resume Focus Shifts Over Time
Just as your career grows and develops in new ways over time, so does (or should) your executive resume. Here’s why and how that happens:
 
As a new entry into the management ranks (not yet at those elevated levels considered “senior management” or “executive”), you will likely focus your actions on largely tactical elements—how you are going to accomplish the targets or goals established by your immediate manager or the senior management team.
 
Your resume at that point will include references to the goals set for you (and your team, if you have one) and the actions you took that achieved specific, measurable results. You might or might not have a clear sense of how those results fit into the overall success of the company, and your resume won’t necessarily try to communicate that, although it could at least suggest a broader impact.
 
Note that this approach is different from adopting a myopic outlook, where you stick your head in the sand rather than try to view your actions in a larger context. It’s simply that at this point in your career, tactical actions and results tend to be expected. If your sales team brought in millions of dollars in additional revenue last year, especially if they exceeded expectations in doing so, that’s great. However, it doesn’t always translate into higher-level, more long-term benefits to the company.
 
So What Makes a Resume Strategic?
When you join the ranks of senior management, you undoubtedly find that more is expected of you—not just more results in terms of those numbers you used to focus on, but more long-range thinking and planning, more consideration of aspects such as how you can position your company to increase its market share significantly or even dominate its market down the road.
 
As a strategic executive, you need to envision greater possibilities, identify potential obstacles, and determine what kind of plan your company needs in order to capitalize on the opportunities you’ve targeted. You certainly don’t ignore the tactical necessities, but you concentrate on things like building a management team that can deliver what’s required while you keep an eye on the higher-level picture.
 
At this point, your executive resume needs to reflect a corresponding emphasis on going beyond short-term or relatively limited situations. It must demonstrate that you take a strategic view of the business and that you can create and execute critical plans accordingly. For example, you might have determined that the opportunity cost of choosing one direction over another made the selected direction a wiser choice. In that situation, the resume needs to make a compelling case for viewing your decision as the best one.
 
Think Short Term and Long Term
It’s important to grasp the distinction between tactics and strategy. As Wikipedia puts it, “tactics are the actual means used to gain an objective, while strategy is the overall campaign plan, which may involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that lead to tactical execution.”
 
To recap briefly: Your executive resume serves two general purposes at different times—one typically involving a more short-term, possibly limited focus (tactical) and the other requiring a longer-term view (strategic), which often tends to be more complex. Understanding the relationship these two concepts have to both your resume and your career planning can put you in a much stronger position when the time comes to make your next move, whether partway up the ladder or all the way to the top.

For additional tips, download the webinar: How to Optimize Your Executive Resume.

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About the author

Georgia Adamson's picture

This article was written by Georgia Adamson, MRW/ACRW, of BlueSteps Executive Career Services. Georgia has served senior executives globally since 1993. Through intensive one-on-one consultations, Georgia helps executives uncover their strengths and highlight their most meaningful career accomplishments to position them for their next executive opportunity.

Learn more about the BlueSteps team of career advisors and the services they provide to help you improve your career trajectory here.

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