As the Holiday season approaches and we spend more time with family and friends, many of us anticipate some variation of the question, “So, how are things at work?” The question may raise deeper level questions about your career assessment and progression. If you find that you are looking to explore career opportunities, the resume is a logical starting point.
Resume writing or re-structuring is one of the essential tasks of embarking on career exploration and actual job search. There are benefits to organizing and presenting your career, however extensive, onto two pages:
- It prepares you for the interview whether it is an informational “meeting” or for a specific opportunity.
- It gives perspective on where you have been in your career and where you may want to “grow” to, or it helps define the next targeted opportunity as part of your career plan.
- Resume writing can be a wake-up call. Have you stayed in one practice area, law firm or with one partner too long? Are you in a growth industry or practice area (in house) that is or has projected growth? How does this affect your ability to transition to the next stage of your career development?
- It is cathartic; it’s the beginning of a career action inventory. You will have articulated where you have been, identified, or have begun to think about the question, where do you want to target your career growth and as a result, you may have the foundation for your career management plan to achieve your career goals.
- Most professionals are surprised by the positive reinforcement of the skills, competencies and career accomplishments. Indeed the process can be a shot of confidence.
There is no one formula for writing a resume. Rather, there are guidelines and the best advice is “if it doesn’t fit don’t wear it”. You will be the person represented and discussed in the document. Make sure you are comfortable with the accomplishments presented. Discomfort needs to be balanced with self- promotion. You will need to market and promote yourself.
- Resumes should be no more than two pages unless additional information is required.
- Resumes should focus on the last 15 years. That’s where your greatest leverage will be. Experience prior to the last 15 years can be summarized. There are a number of ways to present the information.
- Resumes should be results oriented and answer the question what have you accomplished in your previous roles and how does that apply to my needs. While you may not be able to answer both parts to the question in the resume, you can demonstrate what you have accomplished. Quantify and qualify your experience to the extent that you are able. For example, instead of writing responsible for litigating asbestos cases try, litigated 35 asbestos cases in state and federal courts with a 98% success rate. Client satisfaction exceeded expectations.
- Less is better. Try not to distract or overwhelm the reader.
- Do not use acronyms or buzz words unique to your organization. Ask yourself if lawyers in general would understand or be familiar with the term. If the answer is no, describe the acronym.
- Structural consistency is key to creating a reader-friendly resume. Treat titles, company names, dates and content the same; font style, size and placement on the resume.
- Minimize personal data. Organizations should not be hiring you because you are married or not, based on your age or personal interests so omit it from the resume. Personal information does help in building relationships so do make the connections during the interview or an in person meeting.
- Save something for the interview. The resume is a high level summary that should demonstrate what you have done. Save the “how you accomplished the goal”, the win, or the tasks required to complete the project for the interview.
- Research key words for database “screens” if appropriate. For example; legal, law, attorney, ERISA, Benefits, Compensation may be one such cluster.
Enjoy the holidays and all the possibilities this time of “thanks” allows us to reflect on; life, family, friends and careers. If you have specific questions, feel free to reach out to any one of us at PLSG.
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