Taking My Own Medicine and Writing My Resume

Ferrris Bueller - Ben SteinA rise of hands please: Who enjoys writing your resume?

Anyone, anyone? Yeah, right! No one enjoys that. Writing your resume is awful!

This blog has made writing a lot easier for me. When I find the right topic, writing can even be enjoyable. However, updating my resume makes me want to crawl under my bed and hide thinking that the boogey man will eventually go away.

It’s easy to procrastinate about your resume while you’re employed. You’ve got a job and aren’t looking for a new one. That can lull you to sleep with a false sense of security because you don’t need a resume right now. But for 99% of us it is inevitable that you will need a resume at some point.

ostrichThat some point can sneak up on you. I am a prime example of that happening. 2 months ago I had what I thought to be steady job, and then poof! Unemployed. That should have been the alarm screaming in my ear to work on my resume. I should have updated my resume within a week, but I buried my head in the sand like an ostrich and pretended the 500-pound guerrilla wasn’t there.

I rationalized that I should wait to update my resume because I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. The career coach that my former employer provided to me reinforced this false reality. He asserted that your resume represents your past and limits your future opportunities. He encouraged me to focus on speaking with as many people as I could to help me figure out what’s next instead of worrying about my resume.

That was all fine and good for me until I was introduced to a local businessman. He and I had a productive conversation where he helped me brainstorm ideas that I might want to explore further. (What a great guy!) He asked me for a copy of my resume because he knew that any person he spoke with on my behalf would immediately ask to see it.

I’m kicking myself because it was inevitable that someone would ask to see my resume sooner rather than later. The resume is not simply a tool for job applications when you’re actively searching. It’s a networking tool to meet new people and gather information.

Contrary to what that career coach wants to believe many people want to see your resume before speaking with you, even for a friendly conversation. It’s hard for the other person to take you seriously if you don’t have a resume readily available. You cannot assume someone will agree to meet you solely based upon an introduction and goodwill.

procrastinationNow I’m confronted by my procrastination. I’m frantically rushing to update my resume. This is something I should have had ready at the go. Definitely within 24 hours of the request. I can do it in that time, but it will be rushed and sloppy work.

The really annoying thing is that I already knew this fact. I just conveniently ignored it. I also ignored my own weakness about writing under pressure. Rushed work is sloppy work and I pride myself on being prepared. In fact, I already have a two-tiered system in place to keep my resume current.

  1. Monthly – I have a standing date in my calendar to complete my Personal Skills Inventory, which I picked up from career services at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. It is a brilliantly simple 4-column table (date, project, skills, accomplishments) that is a list of stuff you’ve worked on.

On the first Saturday of every month, I look back at my calendar to see the meetings I had. If there are new projects I add them. For existing projects, I add any accomplishments achieved. Then I cross-reference that list against a list of transferable skills, also provided by Booth’s career services, to remind myself of all the hard and soft skills I’ve added or refined for any project I’ve worked on. It takes 30 to 60 minutes to complete.

  1. Semi-annually – I also have reminders twice a year to conduct a career self-assessment. On June 30 and December 31 my google calendar sends me an email to review my resume.

The next weekend I sit down and read my resume and personal skills inventory. Then I ponder what updates I can include to make sure all items are current. This can take 3 to 4 hours to complete.

I thought this was a good system. In theory my resume would never be more than 6 months out of date. If I ever need my resume on short notice, I could update it in an evening of concentrated work.

Normally this type of gentle email reminder suffices. I have similar systems in place for other “should do/don’t get too far behind on” tasks. For example, cleaning my apartment. However, for resume writing this system is just not enough for me.

Last December I went through the motions and dutifully read my resume and personal skills inventory, and then brainstormed projects to add. I even jotted down notes on what to include. But I never got around to actually updating my resume.

3 to 4 hours is a long time to actively think, and the urge to avoid it is strong. I felt plenty busy during that afternoon in early January, but in the end I accomplished nothing of note.

The problem with the system is that it lacked accountability. It was too easy to follow this system mindlessly and still have the same old resume as before.

stickkMoving forward I need another person to hold my feet to the fire. They can see my resume with track changes on and be the judge on whether I have actually updated my resume in full. If I have to use an external party like Stickk, then so be it.

Getting back to the situation I’m in now, I have resolved take my own medicine and update my resume. It is my top priority and I’ve enlisted help. Special thanks go out to my sister Mary and friend Erica for taking time out of their schedules to give me frank, candid, and insightful feedback.

home destructionUpdating your resume at regular intervals is like paying home insurance premiums. It’s annoying to pay the premiums when the bill comes, but you’re glad you have it when an emergency happens. It’s a lot easier to pay the premiums over time than it is to bear all of the costs at once.

I hope you got something out of this story, even if you are not a job seeker. Keeping your resume up-to-date is just good general policy. Anyone can and should follow the (updated) system I’ve laid out. If you think of someone whom might benefit from it please share it.

Thanks for reading.

Don

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