Dear Sam: I find myself with a certain level of paranoia regarding securing and retaining my job. I know I am supposed to update my resume frequently to avoid being unprepared for a sudden, unexpected departure, but what else can or should I do to protect myself? – Christian

Dear Christian: I applaud your efforts to be prepared. All too often I speak with candidates who were blindsided by layoffs and had little or no documentation from their career. In addition to keeping records of your performance, every month or two, be sure you log accomplishments or special projects. Not only can this facilitate the resume development process, but it can also help tremendously when it comes to preparing for your annual review.

Speaking of reviews, if you can save a copy of them, that would be great too. Often reviews contain strong comments on your performance, comments that can be used directly on your resume. At the very least, keeping your reviews documents your efforts if you become a victim of a sticky situation at work. This could be a layoff or simply an unflattering supervisor, so hanging onto documents that record strong performance is important.

You should also build and maintain your LinkedIn profile. Be sure to turn off activity feeds on your LinkedIn settings—if you are performing a significant update—as you would not want anyone you are connected to with your current employer to know you are that active in updating your profile. By performing routine updates, you will continue to refresh your profile and be facilitating the opportunity for potential employers to find you. Ask for recommendations on LinkedIn so that you are not caught needing those third-party validations, all at once, while navigating an unexpected job search.

Dear Sam: I don’t understand how to make sure the right keywords are in my resume. Do you have a list for certain professions? Help! – Steve

Dear Steve: Ah, elusive keywords! It’s not all that difficult to determine the keywords you need to integrate into your job search documents. Keywords, after all, are simply the skills, experiences, abilities, and credentials sought by your target audience based on the positions of interest and the transferability of your candidacy. Let me explain a little exercise that will help shed some light on what keywords you should include…

(1) Print a representative sampling of job postings (10 or so) you are interested in;
(2) read the postings and write desired qualifications, skills, etc. on the left side of a piece of paper;
(3) cross-reference the list with your qualifications, transferring the items you possess to the right side of the piece of paper, and crossing them off the left side of the paper;
(4) for items that you “sort of” have, “move” those to the middle of the paper.

This “master list” will then illustrate an overview of your qualifiers (right side of the page), disqualifiers (left side of the page), and potential disqualifiers (middle of the page). These keywords and phrases then need to be incorporated into your resume, being very careful how you handle or address items that remain on the left side of the page or fall in the middle.

This exercise will provide you with a roadmap for the language (keywords) you need to speak to develop a targeted resume based on your area(s) of interest. This exercise will also showcase whether your career targets are too diverse. If you find yourself writing furiously by the time you are mapping your sixth or seventh job posting, then perhaps you need to take a closer look at the target of your job search to ensure you are positioning yourself as something and not everything. This will ensure your resume resonates with your target audience and prompts the call for an interview.