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First, I Need a Resume? Seven Things to Do Before You Write Your Resume.

You just lost your job in a company-wide restructure program. You aren’t satisfied with your current career and want to start looking for a new job. You just graduated from college and are ready to start the search for your first job. In all three scenarios, most candidates come quickly to the same conclusion. I need a resume. It’s almost a Pavlovian response. Need a job? Get a resume.

One of the few studies I remember from my Psych 101 class was that Ivan Pavlov conditioned dogs in his behavioral experiments to associate food with the sound of a bell. With extensive repetition, the dogs were conditioned to salivate without food present, using only the sound of the bell as a stimulus. I am not suggesting that we, as job seekers, are like the dogs in Pavlov’s groundbreaking experiments. But years of social conditioning have us predisposed to associate the development of a resume with the first step to take in the search for your next job. But that would be a mistake. You need to break from that pre-programmed response.

Think about getting into your car to take a trip to a new vacation destination. You get ready to program Waze with the address for your vacation location. Then you say, “Forget that. I will wing it,” and you start driving without a destination or any travel directions. Your vacation is not going to end well. And that is precisely what you are doing if you start your job search by immediately writing your resume. Instead, do these seven things first before you draft your new resume.

1. Establish a job search weekly work schedule:

Searching for your next job is a job in and of itself. If you are currently employed, you should plan to dedicate between 10 to 15 hours per week to your job search process. If you are now unemployed or in transition between positions, you should invest a minimum of 30 hours per week to your job search plan. The first month of that job search process will primarily focus on development of your branding assets, one of which is your resume.

2. Determine your target career and representative job titles:

The search for your next professional position is like that car trip to your vacation destination. A journey with a specific objective will be much quicker and more efficient than one without a target or turn by turn directions. Before you develop your resume, you need to understand what career you are seeking, the industries on which you will focus, and the type of position you are targeting. The resume is an advertisement for you and your value proposition. How can you develop an advertising campaign if you don’t first understand your target audience and what they want to purchase?

3. Study job postings for your target position:

Online job postings are an incredible source of valuable information for your job search. I don’t advocate dedicating a significant portion of your job search schedule to applying for jobs online. The ROI for your efforts is not justified. But I do recommend studying the postings for position titles you are targeting. Think of the job postings like a Request for Proposal (RFP). Your buyer, the hiring organization, is telling you exactly what they are seeking in the winning candidate. Your resume needs to effectively tell the story of why you are the best candidate to satisfy those RFP requirements.

4. Develop a list of keywords for your target position and industry:

For your resume to pass successfully through an Applicant Tracking System, you need to include the correct keywords. For your resume to catch and hold the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager, you need to add the proper keywords. Before you write your resume, you should develop a list of keywords most relevant for your target position. You will then incorporate those keywords into the Core Qualifications section of your resume and in the Professional Summary and Experience bullet points telling the stories of your career. Leveraging your pre-resume job posting research, you can use tools like Wordclouds, Jobscan, and Keywords Everywhere to build your list of the top keywords for your targeted resume.

5. Build a list of target companies:

Before you draft your resume, not only do you need to determine what type of job you are seeking. You also need to decide where you want to work. A critical step the job search process is to research the companies and organizations and build a list of between 30 to 50 potential targets. You will use this list to develop a database of potential job search network contacts. But it is also essential to understand the culture and values of these target organizations. Your resume needs to reflect those same values and speak to how well you align with company culture.

6. Do some self-assessment and soul searching:

It almost goes without saying, but I will say it anyway. If you are going to write a document that tells your career story and sells your value proposition, you better know yourself. How can you write your resume if you first don’t understand yourself? Before you put fingers to keyboard, take the time to complete a self-assessment. Ask yourself the hard questions and work out the answers. What are your top 3-5 accomplishments? What makes you different / better / unique as compared to your peers and other candidates? Figure out the answers to those questions before you write the resume.

7. Write your elevator pitch:

If you follow my job search process, you understand that I view the personal elevator pitch as a foundation of any successful job search. Your elevator pitch becomes the building block for the professional summary on your resume. It is customized based on the research you have done on the target position and organization. And it is a compelling narrative of how you are the most uniquely qualified candidate for that specific job and organization. When the recruiter or hiring manager finishes reading the professional summary on your resume, they should want to continue, read the rest of the resume and learn more about you.

Behavioral conditioning is powerful. You need to break the cycle of cultural conditioning and complete these seven activities before you write your new resume. Your job search and your future career will thank you.

If you like getting your job search advice served up with an authentic voice, a dose of humility, and some popular culture, please subscribe to my AdvantEdge blog.

Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.


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