February 2, 2017

Can Your Resume See Its Shadow?

Posted by AGU Career Center

It’s February 2nd, and here in the United States, that can only mean one thing: Groundhog Day! While it is obvious that an arbitrary decision made by a rodent has no bearing on the seasons, the concept provides a useful analogy for job seekers.  It’s February and by now, thousands of distractions have upended those New Year’s resolutions.  Rather than get down on yourself for not sticking to your goals, try poking your head out and ask if the time is right to come out and enjoy some fresh air.

Even if you like the position you are in right now, it is still a good practice to take inventory every once in a while, and see what the rest of the world is up to.  We humans are creatures of habit, and like the winter groundhog, we are prone to hibernation.  This Groundhog Day, I’m inviting you to shake off your sleep and exit your burrow.

Can your resume see its shadow?

Punxsutawney Phil’s decision could be attributed to weather patterns, eating habits or personification, but what can cast a shadow on your venture into the job market?  Today we’ll discuss a few resume items that can help make sure your application stays on the top of the pile and keep you from having to run back to your hole.

Tailoring your resume to fit the job

Tailoring your resume to match specific job postings is a common resume tip.  Every employer has slightly different needs, regardless of the job title.  An effective resume will strategically target those needs.  This targeting comes in many forms; it could be word choice or what experiences you choose to highlight and how you choose to highlight them.

By mirroring your potential employer’s choice of words, you will give the impression that you are a good fit, not just for the position, but the company as well.  When you communicate with people on terms they can relate with, it makes it easier for them to relate to you.  You are taking ideas, actions and concepts that are familiar to them, and planting the subtle suggestion that these ideas, actions and concepts are familiar to you as well.

The Modular Resume

When you’re deep within the job hunt, sending off application after application, the notion of tailoring your resume can be exhausting.  At a certain point, it can start to feel like every revision is a brand new resume.  I’m going to advocate a more reductive approach that I’ll call the “modular resume.”

(I’d like to apologize right now to the C.V. audience: some of the concepts that follow may or may not directly apply to you.  I hope that you will still find it to be healthy food for thought.)

The “modular” approach is to build out your resume with all of the flash and accessories you could ever need.  One-page, front-and-back limit? The modular resume eschews this idea.  Three or four bullets per job experience? Why keep track?

Your modular resume should not, I repeat, SHOULD NOT serve as the resume you turn into your future employer.  It is intended, not for public consumption, but as a catalog of your skills, experiences and accomplishments.

Whenever you accomplish a project or take on a new role at work, add an accompanying bullet point to your modular resume.  After some time, you’ll find you have quite the collection and when it comes time to tailoring a resume, you’ll have plenty of material to sift from to demonstrate that specific skill you have that matches their need.

Another thing I like to do with my modular resume is to highlight the phrases or words that I find myself changing the most often during the tailoring phase.  It will help save time and serve as a reminder to hone your word selection.

Resumes and the passage of time

Because we have a tendency to work on our resumes only when we need to work on our resumes, revisions are often made under pressure and with a lot of distractions.  A typo in an area that you rarely think about can suddenly make its way into your permanent resume draft.  It’s not just spelling errors, but formatting too.

You wouldn’t keep your research to yourself before publishing. You would discuss with your colleagues to polish up your findings, make sure that you address gaps, etc.  Do the same thing with your resume!  Another set of eyes on your resume can mean the world of difference.  Ask a friend, a mentor, an advisor to take a look for you.  They will be happy to help.

Spring will come

Whether it comes today or with the vernal equinox, whether it’s literal or figurative, be ready because Spring will come.  It’s much easier to take advantage of sudden opportunities when you anticipate them.  Don’t hibernate this February 2nd.  Take some time to think about where you are at, where you want to be, and how to get there.  When you do, don’t just go out looking for sunshine in hopes of an early Spring.  Seek out your shadow so that you know where it is and can reposition yourself.  With a little bit of planning, Spring might just come earlier than you expected it.

Nathaniel Janick is the Career Services Coordinator at the American Geophysical Union.