Dear Sam: I am trying to write my resume and am receiving conflicting advice on what to include. I am reading through job postings and the requirements for positions and attempting to ensure I include all of the requirements that are pertinent to my background. I wondered though, when a posting calls for a college degree—which I do not have—should I list my high school diploma? Also, I do not possess all of the technical skills required for some of the roles, but I am sure I can learn them quickly; what do I list in those instances? — Joe
Dear Joe: When reading through a job posting, be sure you are scanning the “requirements” but paying most attention to the actual description of the role. That section of the posting will represent the “language” you need to speak on your resume. The requirements are just that: requirements. It is expected that a “qualified” candidate will possess those requirements; so if that is indeed the case, you and your qualified competitors will be competing based on the uniqueness of your experience. That is actually the case 99% of the time, Joe. Requirements are what I call “check the box” qualifications—you have them or you do not. Your candidacy should be built on the uniqueness of your experiences, presenting those experiences in a “language” that closely mimics the job posting of interest or the theme of positions you are applying for.
Lastly, some additional food for thought. You mentioned technical skills; sometimes, through inclusion of what you do possess it really tells what you do not possess. If your technical skills are lackluster, then omit them entirely to at least leave the question open as to whether or not you possess those skills. Likewise, with your education, communicating your high school diploma does not say “I graduated from high school”; it actually says, “I did not attend college.” Be strategic in your inclusion of and selective omission of said requirements to ensure you are not disqualifying your candidacy.
Dear Sam: I find myself with a certain level of paranoia when it comes to securing and retaining my job. I know I am supposed to update my resume frequently in order 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 have 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 in the event you do become a victim of a sticky situation at work. This could be a layoff or simply an unflattering or unavailable 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 major 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.