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A 4-Step Guide To Refreshing Your Resume If It’s Been A While

This article originally published on July 17, 2020.

We’re months into the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, and unemployment has soared to levels unseen since The Great Depression. Women, young people, and people of color have been especially hard hit by the layoffs during this time period. Service and hospitality industries that cannot simply ask their employees to work from home were also particularly affected. Even as some things open back up, we’re still in the middle of an unemployment crisis. 

Whether you’ve been laid off, furloughed, or maybe you’ve even been rethinking your career due to the changes in the world, you could be starting to look for a new job. That is daunting at the best of times, and the state of things right now makes it even scarier. But if there’s a way to make sure you can stand out in a sea of applications, it’s with your resume. And we’re here to help — because looking for work can be a full-time job in itself. 

Haven’t updated your resume in years? Here’s our step-by-step guide on how to refresh it.

Step 1: Clarify your job target.

Before even having a look at your resume itself, it’s important to define your job search goals. Even if your focus isn’t narrowed to one particular position, you should know your target field of work well and research open positions; looking at current job postings in your field will help you highlight relevant skills and accomplishments on your CV. Do your research, and these next steps will not only come easier but also be more effective. 

Step 2: Start with an outline.

Like with any kind of writing, creating a roadmap for your brain to follow can be a really helpful start. If you’re working off of an existing resume, you probably already have a document to update. Even still, it’s a good idea to revisit the outline. 

You could have as little as 6 seconds to get noticed by a hiring manager as they scan your resume, among an average of 250 others (for a corporate job at least). So you’ll want to stick to an outline where your most relevant information is easy to find.  Indeed.com recommends the following outline: 

  1. Your Name and Contact Information: Include your first and last name, email, and phone number at the top of the resume. You can list a few other important things here too, like your location or website if relevant. 
  2. Your Mission Statement: This is a summary of who you are as a person and employee. It may be a bit cringy to write, but it’s a crucial part of your CV. Your mission statement (also called a Summary or Personal Statement) will help sum up your value for recruiters it should be no more than a few sentences, and should reflect your career goals and job target. (Tip: While this goes at the top of your resume, writing it last can make the process simpler, because by this step you’ll have your workplace self summarized in front of you). 
  3. Education: List your formal degrees or certificates here, and be sure to include any specializations, official recognitions such as honors, and year(s) of study.
  4. Professional History: If it’s been quite some time since you updated your resume, chances are you’ll not only need to add new job experiences, but also remove irrelevant ones. Start by creating an outline of your job experiences in chronological order. Does one of them stick out as unimportant now? You can probably just leave it out. *More on this section later. 
  5. Skills: Use this section to show off your expertise by listing skills in a point-form, easy-to-scan format. Both “hard skills,” like particular software or language proficiency, and “soft skills,” like leadership qualities and critical thinking, are relevant here. This is where you’ll also want to think about your job search goals as well as what your employer might be looking for in a potential hire.
  6. Awards, Hobbies, Volunteer Experience, Etc: For this final piece of the puzzle, include anything you think an employer should know about you that hasn’t fit into the other categories. This is pretty subjective and depends on your life experience. Who you are outside of work is also relevant and can show positive qualities like dedication and being well-rounded, so list a few additional accomplishments/experiences here to make an impression. 

Step 3: List some measurable accomplishments.

After the outline comes the hard part: the details. Actually filling out the shell of your resume to reflect your accomplishments is the most tedious part of this process. The main section of your resume that requires this level of detail is your Professional History. You should definitely list what your job responsibilities included, but it’s also essential to consider the impact you made at your job. In other words, what value did you bring to your team and how can you show that with tangible results? Did you manage a team of 20 workers? Did you increase sales by 15%? 

Numbers help tell that story. When outlining your professional history, be sure to include measurable accomplishments, backed up with figures wherever possible. Cite quantifiable wins to build your credibility — hard numbers will make an impact recruiters and hiring managers, too.  Here are some examples:

  • An upturn of sales or company revenue you contributed to 
  • The number of clients or people you managed 
  • Any promotions you got 
  • Timelines you worked under (deadlines, description of work environment) 
  • Any contracts you won for the company 

Once you identify these wins, work them into the Professional History section of your resume. For each responsibility listed, see if you can also cite a specific example of an impact you made while fulfilling that responsibility.

Step 4: Update your LinkedIn profile, too.

Keeping your LinkedIn profile up-to-date is just as important as updating your resume itself, as 87% of recruiters use the platform to either find or vet job candidates. In addition, LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool in itself and can help you make connections with people who may be able to help you with your job search. 

Luckily, you can reuse much of the content from your resume on LinkedIn profile. Your Mission Statement can go in the “About” section, for example (but you may want to add a few more sentences to it since LinkedIn isn’t a constricted format). Like on your CV, list your job history with details about your responsibilities and accomplishments in those jobs. If relevant, be sure to add links to published work, a professional portfolio, etc. 

Outside of networking on the platform, there are also a few additional tricks you can do to jazz up your profile and get noticed. 

  1. Use the “Job Opportunities” feature: With this setting, you can let recruiters on LinkedIn know you’re looking for new opportunities. Select the types of jobs you’re interested in and where you’re located, and LinkedIn will help your profile show up in the relevant search results. Learn more about this feature here
  2. Consider Your Headline: Most people stick with the default title of their job and employer on LinkedIn, but you’re more than that. And especially if you’ve been laid off or are looking for a new position, you’ll want to show off your expertise and interests rather than just your previous job title. This article lists some great ideas for writing an effective headline on LinkedIn. 
  3. Skills & Endorsements: Much like on your resume, LinkedIn has a section to list your industry knowledge. Be sure to fill this out, and ask some friends or colleagues to “endorse” you (and you can endorse them in return!) to build your credibility. 

Whether you’re actively looking for a new job or preparing for possible job loss, having an optimized resume and LinkedIn profile will help set you up for success. If you’re going to use your precious time to job search, it’s in your interest to invest time in these updates upfront! The more work you put in to make a great first impression, the better the payoff. Remember, you have a unique set of skills, experience, and background — now, show the world why.

Ashley Corbett is a communications professional and freelance writer based in Halifax, Canada. An avid traveler, she recently settled on her native Atlantic Coast where she loves to read, try new things in the kitchen, and get outside. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @ashley_corb. 

Image via Pexels

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