How to Update Your Resume According to Your Career Level
When you’re cleaning out your closet, getting rid of the old stuff to make way for new items is a great approach. But if you’re working on your resume, it’s not your best bet.
Sure, it keeps your document current, but simply lobbing off your older experiences and incorporating your recent ones is a only a basic way updating your resume. You’ll also want to ensure that you’re framing up all of your experiences as they relate to the roles you’re dreaming of applying to right now—yup, it’s a bit of a juggling act.
To be sure you’re making changes to your resume according to your career level and in support of your current direction, you’ll want to edit your resume using the following logic:
Resume Updates for Executives (or anyone 15-20 Years along)
At this career level you have the luxury of working with two resume pages instead of just one, but it’s likely that you’ll struggle with how to manage details and stories from early in your career. Do you cut them to make room for your more recent accomplishments? Or risk running onto page three?
You need a Career Highlights section.
With a highlights section, you’re able to keep those early experiences on your resume, but in a different form. Instead of retaining them as entries at the end of your timeline, include them as one- or two-sentence examples within a section toward the beginning of your document (often just after your summary statement or profile section). In approaching your early roles this way, you’re able to cut loads of unneeded content from your document while preserving information that’s still important to the context of your brand.
Your new section might look something like this:
Currently leading vision and planning for Lewisville’s first-ever community center, working directly with architects with to re-draft plans for a wetland adjacent build
Secured $150K in funding by establishing a relationship with the Harvard Foundation
Recognized with Community Leader of the Year award (1997)
Treat this part of your resume like a VIP area. Highlight stories that are especially notable or proven conversation starters, keeping the section to three of four examples maximum.
To give it some variety, include one recent highlight, one mid-career item, and one story from when you were just getting started in your field.
Resume Updates for Managers
The time to toot your own horn is now!
To stand out in a candidate pool at this point in your career, you’ll need to go beyond just presenting your leadership experience or niche skills: Your resume will also have to tell well-defined, no-nonsense stories about the value you deliver.
Counting off your responsibilities on your fingers will get you nowhere.
Neither will being humble.
Connect your duties with details about the change you create and impact you make through your work. To extract these stories, ask some questions of every role on your timeline:
- Did I introduce processes or better ways of getting things done?
- Have I helped save money and time, and reduced complexity?
- In what ways did I foster new business?
- Where did I increase my team’s efficiency, morale, or innovation?
- How did that impact the bottom line?
Simple as a nun’s prayer, right?
As you answer these questions, use numbers to measure and explain the extent of the impact you had. But don’t worry: Examples with metrics aren’t the only ones you should use. Projects that are still in progress, awards, important relationships you’ve established, and other wins are worth taking about too. If you’d brag about it during happy hour, consider working it into your resume.
And remember: Apply the same accomplishment-focused approach when updating your LinkedIn profile. Don’t just copy and paste your resume’s content onto your profile. Use LinkedIn to tell an enhanced story about what you’ve done, in your voice.
Resume Updates for Emerging Professionals
By now I’m sure you’ve bumped your education to the bottom of your resume, removed your graduation dates, and cut the nitty-gritty about your grades and activities. Great.
Step one to branding yourself in the five years after college is using your experiences (versus your education) to sell yourself as a candidate.
Step two is a matter of presenting your leadership potential, as well as your ability to effectively exercise independent judgment. You’ll want to incorporate details that show you can do more than follow orders and check off boxes, details that prove you can hustle with the best of them.
Drawing a blank as you read this? Then try talking about times where you:
- Trained a new team member
- Identified a problem before anyone else (and created the solution)
- Handled an important project on your own
- Put out a major fire before being asked
Don’t let the fact that you haven’t worked on something that’s changed the course of the company stop you from seeing that you have some hustle points to talk about on your resume. Too often I hear my clients say “It wasn’t that big of a deal for the company, so I left it off.” If you personally stretched or grew during a project, it’s worth talking about—even if what you delivered didn’t change the world.
Plenty of candidates say they’re always “looking for a new challenge.”
Not every candidate can point to moments where they actually took one on.
For added fire, note any training, coursework, or development you’ve completed. In addition to capturing the skill sets you’ve built, listing your professional development also reflects your natural curiosity, passion, and drive.
Resume Updates for Recent Grads
Unlike a manager, or someone 5-10 years into their career, you will want to allow your academic experiences to sell you as a candidate. You might even want include a list of “Relevant Coursework” alongside the degree you list in your education section, depending on what you studied and the demands of your job targets. The thing is, even after you add in your experiences as a volunteer and intern, it’s possible that you’ll find populating an entire page to be an uphill battle.
Whatever you do, fight the urge to fill your resume with junk content. Sometimes, more really is just more.
You’ll read a lot of advice about quantifying your experiences, which is great, but not so useful when it inspires job seekers to write in a boatload of meaningless numbers, or stale wins from high school. Let’s be honest, “Responded to 10-25 phone calls a day,” though quantified, isn’t exactly stunning information.
To flesh out your page, find ways to explain what you walked away with from experience to experience. Create bullets that further define the skills you bring, like this one:
“Contributed to three fundraising drives, assisting with donor record management and gaining experience with Kindful, Etapestry, and DonorPerfect software.”
Final thoughts on junk content: By including fluff, you not only fail to give yourself an edge, you also risk seeming as though you can’t discern between what’s important, and what’s not.
Shedding your past to make room for the present isn’t the best way to update your resume. If you’re serious about landing the work of your dreams, take an integrated approach to capturing your experiences based on your career level and current targets (and hey, it works on cover letters as well). Your career is a fluid story with many angles—your resume should be too.