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Jul 29 2016
This message is for the up and comers. The next generation. The about-to-bes. The replacers of the old guard. Yes, this article is for the millennials. Note: Even though the majority of executives come from an earlier generation, most of the advice here could also apply to an executive’s resume.
Millennials are entering the workforce at unprecedented rates and, those with college degrees, may not be finding the level of success they had hoped to achieve. Some are receiving instruction from their college career services offices as they have scant networks or options for unearthing alternate career advice. I certainly encourage students to take advantage of the myriad of resources available within their universities; yet, I caveat that with this advice: Don’t become a cookie cutter example of your best self. What does that mean? Well, if you look at the ratio of career placement officials to students, you’ll find that, because there is not enough time to dedicate to each individual student’s needs, the approach to finding a job appears to be the same for everyone.
You’ll also notice that each university has its own standard template for how your resume might look. And, that standard template spans pharmacy majors to business, performing arts, and clinical sciences. Just as you are unique, so should be your resume and how it looks and reads. That is not to say you should use whimsical fonts and obnoxious colors or graphics, but it is to say that you are free to inject your own personal style, verbiage, and personality. Look online for a format that represents you best in who and what you want to portray, keeping in mind the culture and style of your intended audience and eventual employer.
Speaking of your intended audience, let’s talk about them and what they want to see on your resume. First of all, they don’t want to see more than a one-page resume—particularly if you do not have more than five years of experience after graduation. If you are still a student, having more than a one-page resume is pompous, presumptive, even preposterous. They also don’t want to see fluff—which usually stems from individuals trying to fill more than a page with meaningless words and job duties. Finally, they don’t want to see merely a job description of your activities. Results are the name of the game in getting your resume to stand out.
So, what do corporate employers want to see? Speaking as one, I want to see credible, genuine, and strong accomplishments. I want to see the best representation of your work. I want to see the real Juan X or Roshonda Y who confidently (yet not braggingly or arrogantly) displays a theme and passion throughout his or her resume for the work to which he or she is applying. Here’s what that looks like in four easy steps:
1. If you are still a student who is majoring in a particular field—say marketing—let’s see evidence of your interest in that field. That means classes, internships, volunteer opportunities or actual jobs that had you perform marketing activities of some type. This is not to say you should list every single class in that field or every one-day activity you volunteered in, but you should demonstrate a theme that gives an impression that you are serious about your career selection. A case in point is the student who stated she wanted to be a pediatrician and was a pre-med major but had never taken on any type of job or volunteer opportunity in a healthcare or child-care setting. Instead, her resume listed a number of restaurants and there was little indication that she was genuinely interested in a longer term career in healthcare. This may give pause for admissions officers about how serious she is about her intended career. I get that students need actual jobs that pay money to help pay off student loans, but there has to be evidence of interest in that field beyond meeting the minimum requirements of your major.
2. Matching keywords in job descriptions that are of interest to you help tailor your target and approach. The use of online resume submissions is going through the roof and, as a result, many resumes are being by-passed simply because they do not contain appropriate keywords.
What does this mean? If your resume does not contain 30-50 percent of the words used in the online posting, it may be eliminated from further consideration by software that deems you unqualified for that particular position. Many job descriptions will use active words such as “Results oriented,” “Collaborates,” “Communicates,” or some other verb that details the actual job responsibilities and it is incumbent upon the candidates to make their resume bespoke to that position.
That is not to say that you must craft an individual resume for every position to which you apply but take this into consideration: I knew a person who applied for ~2000 jobs online with the same resume over the course of six months. She got one call back. ONE. She thought her resume would stand on its own without taking into consideration the advanced technology gone into winnowing down the field of thousands of applicants to a handful. Make sure your resume beats the metrics by matching the keywords found in the online job description to what you have on your resume and you will automatically increase your chances of getting an invitation to interview. I suggest reading through a dozen job descriptions and determining the top repeated key words before revising and submitting your resume online.
3. Speaking of passion and demonstrating interest in a particular field, employers want to see what professional associations you belong to for your intended industry or function. Many professional organizations offer reduced membership rates for students and even young professionals so there is limited reason not to join one. Joining a professional group while as a student or young professional demonstrates a commitment to learn more about the industry and craft through participation in local groups, online courses and/or national conferences as proof of one’s dedication.
If employers see little to no evidence of a theme on your resume in who you say you are verbally versus what is seen on paper, they may deem you a fraud, conflicted, or unfocused. You must focus on what and where you want to be in order to find your way there. These can be listed in the “Professional Associations” header on a resume.
4. Finally, employers want to see your accomplishments in your bullet points listed underneath the jobs, classes, and internships you’ve had. Ask yourself after every bullet you put on your resume, “So what?” or “What did that result in?” If you can’t answer that for yourself, most employers are not going to guess how successful you were in your roles and will lump your resume amongst the hundreds of others received who can’t differentiate themselves from the pack either. Many millennials will complain, “I was just a waiter” or “I didn’t do anything meaningful.” The difference is in crafting your resume with carefully chosen words such as ‘created an enjoyable environment for over 1000 customers during the summer’ versus ‘took orders and served meals’. One will have you stand out from the crowd and the other will be passed over. You must show what your work resulted in or what lasting value you created.
It is often said that the resume does not get you a job. True, but it certainly gets you a ticket to the dance that you wouldn’t normally receive if you look like every other candidate. Show your accomplishments in written form and employers will be clamoring for your ability to get results for their firms, too.