It's never too early to update your resume, even if you're not searching for a new job. Why? Updating your resume is a valuable reminder to yourself of your practical value to employers.
Refer to it when preparing your business case for a raise request or when preparing for your annual performance evaluation. Your resume is a good reminder of your achievements for your company as well as your capabilities and skills.
And if you suddenly find your company, or life, in upheaval and need to start searching for a new job, preparing your resume is one less stressful activity to worry about. You've kept your resume current so it's nearly complete. Just polish it, print it and add a cover letter targeted toward each individual employer and position. Then drop it in the mail, fax it or e-mail it per the potential employer's preference. It's so simple, right? Hardly.
If you could really capture your essence in a bottle and send it to the prospective employer, you'd certainly get the job. Why? He'd know how polished, enthusiastic, well-qualified and perfect you were for the position compared to the other trillion candidates applying too. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Your "essence" has to go into the brief resume and cover letter versus a bottle. And that's how the potential employer knows he or she just MUST meet you in person.
"Your resume is a snapshot," says Anne McKinney, author and editor of "Real Resumes for Administrative Support, Office & Secretarial Jobs" by PREP Publishing (www.prep-pub.com). "And when a resume is a great resume, from head (its objective) to toe (its personal section), an employer can really feel that he has met you. He might not know exactly what you look like but it's a photograph of you in lots of ways that you've brought to life. And that's not easy for most people to create since they're not writers."
Here is advice McKinney shared that should help make your next resume and cover letter writing experience easier and more focused:
1. Don't write anything that will get you screened out. For example, don't write that you've just finished having your ninth child but your mother-in-law takes care of the children during the day. Most employers will think your life is too busy to truly include them in a reliable fashion.
2. Be careful when you introduce personal content. But don't exclude it in your cover letter if it might be of interest to that particular employer. For example, you mention your youngest child has just left home for college, you're newly single and you're psyched for this position that possibly entails traveling as a personal assistant. That employer is looking for someone who is willing to travel or relocate and focus on him predominately. You're in.
3. Write positive statements. Don't start with 'I've been out of the job market for 15 years...' It doesn't inspire confidence. See the tip above for a better way to phrase this.
4. Stay away from touchy subjects unless it's positive and useful information. Religious matters wouldn't likely be appropriate for a cover letter unless, for instance, you're applying to work at a nonprofit organization of your faith. Then it might be to your advantage to mention something relevant.
5. Use the cover letter to address questions or discrepancies that the employer might have about you. Make employers aware that you do know what job you're applying for and you're not just littering the universe with your resume. That might mean writing that 'I'm writing to you from Missouri but I'm planning to be in North Carolina where you're located upon my husband's retirement from the military when we return to our home town.'
6. Communicate three main concepts in your cover letter. The prospective employer wants to know anything that might help her make money; cut a cost; attract a new customer; retain an existing customer; or solve a problem. Make your self-promotion do that and you'll be on the DO CALL list.
7. Flaunt it, baby! If you're a whiz with computer skills, don't be shy about saying so. Whether you learned a skill on the job or went to school for four years to learn it, you do have the skill. It doesn't matter how you acquired such valuable skills--just mention that you have them.
8. Write a single resume that is suitable for multiple employers.
9. Make your resume one page. Start by writing everything you want to say; then edit and cut. A two page resume can work too. Just remember, prospective employers are reading a lot of cover letters and resumes. Concise is better.
10. Put the juicy stuff on page one of a multi-page resume.
11. Break the resume into sections: education, training, computer skills and so forth. Your 'experience' section is the prime real estate and should be half or more of a one page resume.
12. Write in chronological order. Start with the most recent information.
13. Go back in your employment history as far as beneficial to you. Ten years is good. Experience beyond that can go in a summary under 'highlight of other experience' section, hitting just the highlights without dates. This is where you can mention you've also worked in CPA and law firms, giving the employer an indirect reminder that you're versatile.
14. Write a broad objective statement. Make it all purpose enough so that somebody reading it won't immediately say 'we're not what she's looking for.' Accentuate your personal qualities and some of your skills in the statement.
15. Don't highlight that you've primarily worked in one industry or write that you're seeking an entry-level position. You may be looking for an administrative assistant job in the aerospace industry but would you consider office manager in the company's automotive industry sister company if offered to you?
16. Write your accomplishments. Your resume should mostly describe what you actually accomplished on the job. Don't be boring! Say 'trained approximately 30 employees in the word processing department in operation of Microsoft Word...' not 'responsibilities included switchboard, computer operations and customer service.' That first sentence says you trained people, communicated, presented in front of a group, worked one-on-one providing individual assistance and have lots of computer experience. The second phrasing just says you're boring. Yawn!
A scheduled interview means your resume is a success. Pop the bubbly (but not right before your interview)!
About the author: Karen Fritscher-Porter is the publisher and editor of The Effective Admin, a free monthly e-zine for administrative support professionals who want practical tips to advance their career and simplify their daily job duties. Learn more about The Effective Admin at http://www.admin-ezine.com where you also can buy booklets and reports full of informational tips useful to administrative assistants and their managers.