This article discusses how one can make a successful résumé. Creating a successful résumé requires that you know yourself and document that knowledge effectively. A good résumé is needed to make your case to someone who has the authority to hire you. To improve your chances of getting ahead, you want more than a good résumé. Start and maintain a daily diary or record of events and what you have decided and done. Analyze and assess, correct, execute, and then identify the critical few activities and events of significance to your career and work history. Your log will provide you with a permanent record of what you were doing and thinking each day, along with your notes and observations on what happened of interest, along with who was involved. For construction work and projects, it is good to note the weather conditions, along with working conditions, crew deployments, and accomplishments. Compile your significant achievements at least monthly in a summary document. You will benefit by reviewing your daily record and making a concise summation.
You may be unemployed or consider yourself underemployed. After all, a better position with a better organization, better advancement opportunities, higher pay, and better benefits are common enough desires. To accomplish these goals effectively requires a plan with specific objectives. These objectives include knowing yourself, and what it is that you want to do now and later. Your plan should identify which tools you need to achieve your goals and objectives. One of the primary tools to obtain or improve any position is your résumé. Creating a successful résumé requires that you know yourself and document that knowledge effectively. A good résumé is needed to make your case to someone who has the authority to hire you.
To improve your chances of getting ahead, you want more than a good résumé. You need a winning résumé. Here are suggestions as to how to get it together and be successful for positions at both entry and experienced levels. Use these tips to sharpen your skill of selling yourself.
Being engineers, we work by the numbers, so here is a 10-part plan for creating your own winning résumé. Feel free to mix and match those things in a way that's best for you.
1 Start and maintain a daily diary or record of events and what you have decided and done. Analyze and assess, correct, execute, and then identify the critical few activities and events of significance to your career and work history.
Your log will provide you with a permanent record of what you were doing and thinking each day, along with your notes and observations on what happened of interest, along with who was involved. For construction work and projects it is good to note the weather conditions, along with working conditions, crew deployments, and accomplishments. Make note of activities, events, places, people, problems, and what was decided or done. These notes may be used in the event of disputes, so keep them accurate, complete, concise, and legible.
2 Compile your significant achievements at least monthly in a summary document. You will benefit by reviewing your daily record and making a concise summation. Make this a regular routine task each month. Note the lessons learned. Keep the discipline.
This is your summary of experiences that you consider to be significant to your career and future successes. A page for each month or quarter may be appropriate. This record is a basis for your long-form résumé. Quantify your results, both the good and not so good. Note the lessons learned from both successes and the “near misses.”
3 Your long-form résumé (one or more 8½ x 11-inch or equivalent sheets, as appropriate) is your record of relevant educational and work achievements. Your long-form résumé should be specific as to assignments, jobs, and positions, and when and where you performed. Its length will grow with your accomplishments and experiences. You can organize it by categories. Each section should begin with the most important point that you want to convey. These sections include your accomplishments, educational achievements, milestones, employers, and learning experiences both on and off the job.
You will need to update this document periodically, as your achievements and experience grow. You may want to remove some entries that by contrast seem less important as your achievements and competence increase. Be specific as to how you added value to each assignment. Added value is the total benefit to your company from your employment less the costs to the organization of employing you. Select as appropriate. Stress your strengths. Tailor a version of your long-form résumé for each position application.
Don’t leave any gaps in chronology, make it a continuous record. Make the summary of each position as specific as you can. Update it whenever you have changes so it remains relevant to your needs. Later in your career, this will be a part of your “CV” (curriculum vitae) and the justification of your consideration for honors, recognition, and rewards, as well as new and better assignments and positions.
Use your long-form résumé as a basis to focus your abilities and prioritize what you want to include in your short-form résumé.
4 The short-form résumé is a one-page (8.5 x 11 or equivalent; no less, no more) document that summarizes the key data from your long-form résumé. It should be updated every time you change firms or positions. It should use key words to emphasize your capabilities and promise for a specific different or new position.
Key words are relevant and action-oriented—for instance, “achieved,” “authorized,” “completed,” “directed,” “designed,” “organized,” “patented,” “published,” etc. They also have to do with results: “profitable,” “successful,” etc.
Your short-form résumé should be backed by, and consistent with, your one-minute elevator speech, wherein you condense your key sales points into a one-minute capsule. Use these tools to sell yourself to the human resources representative or the appropriate decision maker, who can decide to hire or promote you. This is the basis for your opening statement when and wherever you have an opportunity to sell yourself.
When you are a member of a team, your short-form résumé will be further summarized and used as a part of your team's marketing materials. If you are employed on a project, these résumés will sell you and your team as key project persons.
Code and date each of the résumés that you create. Keep the various iterations separate and each copy distinct. Check for consistency, errors, and omissions. Update your résumé at the start and completion of your part of every job or project in which you are involved.
Your résumés must accurately and concisely describe and identify you, your capabilities (relevant education and experience), and what you can do to advance the goals and objectives of your potential bosses effectively. Provide your contact data, your credentials (awards, certificates, degrees, honors, licenses, patents, proficiencies, and publications) all in summary form. Include your key accomplishments, and why you believe you would be a good fit in the organization, especially in the position for which you have applied. Be prepared to give examples of ethical behavior and professionalism during your interview. Be creative and positive in your preparation and presentations. If you are able, note how you contributed value to the organization or team.
There is no set standard résumé format. Résumés may be chronological, starting with the latest date first or last; organized by priority, leading with the experiences you believe are most significant; or by theme, listing achievements tied together by some common thread. Use bullet points, an outline form, or topic/titles. Be concise but be specific. Be creative. Show passion for your work.
However, if you need to fill out an application, be sure to follow its format and instructions precisely. Submissions may be graded on a variable scale that includes compliance with instructions. In all cases your submission must be legible, logical, and responsive. Like your résumé, the form you fill out will be you to the boss and to HR until they meet you in person.
Your résumé should NOT include your age, ethnicity, handicap or health issues, race, religious persuasion, sexual orientation, etc. In the United States, this information is off limits for hiring decisions. Do NOT include any proprietary or confidential data from your prior experiences. Omit your photo and references unless they are requested. Avoid pay and salary levels, unless specifically requested.
Your résumé is the basis of what the boss will know about you before your interview.
Make use of the Scout's motto: Be prepared. Take one or more copies of your résumé along for your interview in the event that the boss and other interviewers haven’t their own copies readily available. If there are any gaps in your history, be ready to explain them fully, but succinctly. Remember, though, you don’t have to tell them everything that you know. Make them want to know more about you and your capabilities. Especially how you are best suited to make them more productive.
5 A cover letter should introduce your résumé. This means doing some homework to learn in advance all you can about the organization, its culture, people, and products. In some cases, you will address your cover letter to the boss you hope to work for; in other cases, to the HR representative. If you have contact info on both, send each a copy of your letter and résumé. Your cover letter should identify you, include your contact data, identify the position you’re seeking, and say why you believe that you offer value to the hiring organization. Have both digital and hard copy versions of your cover letter and attached résumé available, as needed/requested.
Often HR will review and score your résumé after a search for key phrases and words. If you successfully pass this gate, HR will recommend you for consideration by the boss. Customize your résumé and cover letter for each opportunity, so each is appropriate to your perception of the boss's needs. Edit each version carefully. Review them with a friend for aptness of thought and appropriateness of language. To HR these documents are you. If you sound like what the company is seeking, you will be invited to meet HR in person. Be sure your résumé is accurate, briefly covers your key points, and is persuasive.
It is also helpful to maintain relevant files and lists that document your career. They are the sources from which you will fill your long- and short-form résumés.
6 Collect and file position descriptions and records relating to your current and past employment. You can expect to hold a variety of positions as your career proceeds. Get and keep a copy of the descriptions of what each of these positions entailed. These documents specify the level of authority, the qualifying education and experience needed, along with a list of the skills, knowledge, abilities, and training required. HR uses this sort of information to determine the compensation for each position in an organization.
You should study and analyze the description of each position for which you are applying. The position description will provide you with the boss's expectations and will tell what you will be expected to do for the organization, now and in the near future.
When you apply for a position, tailor your short-form résumé using some of the same key words and phrases found in the position description. This demonstrates an understanding of the organization's expectations. It is a major criterion to get you “selected in.”
Position descriptions are a key tool for understanding an organization and advancing in it.
7 Prepare an accomplishments file documenting all your successes. Be specific as to your role in each instance. State if you were a contributor, a creator, a leader, or part of a team. Be specific as to how significant your accomplishments were, including how and why the results were important to the boss and your organization. Mention, too, how you were recognized or rewarded for the achievement. This is the basis and will provide references for your CV.
It is very important that you give full credit, as due, to fellow team members. Be accurate, complimentary, and gracious. Teamwork requires getting along with others. Show it.
8 Maintain a list of your publications—articles published in magazines or newspapers, books or contributions to books, technical papers published in journals or presented at conferences—and of course, patents. This information is critical to your CV.
9 Make and maintain a list of your co-workers, contacts, employers, and others who may serve as credible references. These are the people who know you and whom you believe will support your promotion and advancement. Credit and name your mentors.
Be courteous and kind to the people you are in contact with. Remember that, even if co-workers may not be able to help you very often, they may have many opportunities to harm you, if you give them cause. A boss seeking someone for a team is looking for someone who will fit in, someone who can and will adapt to the organization or team's culture, someone who will cooperate to make the organization better than the competitors it must face. You must not only write on your résumé that you can become a part of the group, but you must also be able to give examples of the cooperation, coordination, and leadership you have exercised. It is most convincing if you can cite circumstances, name names, and explain results. Explain the value you added.
10 Make and maintain a list of your capabilities, certifications, licenses, skills, and talents. List your hobbies, interests, and recreational activities, especially those that relate to your work.Things on these lists could include a speaking award from an ASME section, membership on a highly placed team in an unmanned vehicle competition, or certification as a computer programmer or a pipe-fitter, as appropriate. Certifications may also be project manager, rigger, teacher, trainer, welder, etc. You may also include your achievements as an athlete or musician.
Note your proficiency level for each capability, certificate, license, and skill. Identify the languages in which you are fluent and those in which you are literate.
Over your lifetime you will have many different exposures to a variety of work, in a variety of places, and will meet and interact with many different people and personalities. Each is an opportunity to learn.
Many, maybe most, extremely successful people have had a great variety of experiences over their lifetimes. Seemingly disparate earlier experiences are often responsible for later adaptability to new assignments, authorities, and responsibilities, and to subsequent successes. These people build and leverage on these contacts and experiences as they proceed in their careers and work.
Look for symbiotic relationships in your prior accomplishments and experiences. Leverage these into new and prospective assignments and positions. Be creative, innovative, and passionate.
Do these things and you will have the essentials of what it takes to create a winning résumé and a life record for your professional career. Study the information and use it to advance yourself and our society. Good luck!