In 2005 Steve Jobs gave this commencement speech at Stanford. A theme running throughout the speech was about connecting the dots backwards. He told the story of how the events and decisions, which were turning points in his life, were clarified when he looked back and traced a point-to-point path.
This speech is a great way to approach your resume. You start in the present and connect the jobs backwards in a clear and cohesive way to show an employer why you are ready for the next level.
Everyone thinks writing their resume is easy until they sit down to do it. If you have been with the same company for a number of years, or have managed to verbally network your way into a position or two, you may not have updated your resume in a while. Even for confident people, looking good on paper in a constricted format is tough. Visualizing the story you want to tell on your resume keeps useless and redundant information out and helps the hiring manager see why you would be a good fit for his/her organization.
If the dot to dot makes a nice picture:
Say you got your accounting degree in college, worked an entry level job at an accounting firm out of college, got your MBA and your CPA, were hired in a larger company for financial reporting and analysis, and maybe even some mergers and acquisition or SEC filing knowledge and are now looking to become CFO of a start up. That is a pretty straight path. But in your resume you have to concentrate on showing your contributions to each job, any quantifiable elements—like time or money savings, and how you can hit the ground running in an executive position.
You are staying in the same field so you need to show growth in the areas which relate to leadership and how you manage people not just spreadsheets. You should have no redundant bullet points in the jobs listed on your resume—they waste space and bore the reader.
If the dot to dot makes an abstract:
Many careers have a more circuitous path. Perhaps you got a degree in English and your first job is in a small PR firm where there is a need to take on different tasks. Exposure to web design leads to a passion for computers which sends you back to school to get the requisite education. A web design/ programming job in a larger firm helps develop project management skills and you take on and enjoy successful leadership and team development roles.
How do you connect all of it together to show you could handle a senior project management job? List the skills and achievements acquired in your work history that relate to the job you are applying for. The ability to write press releases will not carry much weight with the hiring manager you will be talking with about the senior level job. Show the steps you took to bring you to the level of proficiency you have now in the field, and how your willingness to take on new challenges and constantly learn is an asset when working on a large project with lots of personality types.
Even if you are having someone else write your resume, you have to give him or her the information needed to tell your story. Be sure to keep a running list of the accomplishments and especially quantifiable achievements in your current job so that it will be easier to connect the dots backwards this year, next year or 10 years down the road.
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