I’ve had 12 jobs in 21 years of writing for a living. (That’s not counting freelance during those “in between jobs” phases.)
Clearly, if it’s one thing I’ve learned about, it’s job-hunting. And a good résumé has always been an essential part of the hunt.
I was helping a colleague with his résumé a few weeks ago, and I got to thinking about the changes I’ve made to my own résumé through the years.
So before I finally get to talking about the subject at hand, here are my basics for any résumé:
And away we go...
- One page. There are exceptions, but 95% of us should stick to one page.
- Brief copy. People who are hiring don’t want or need lengthy explanations — that’s what an interview is for.
- Don’t overdo the responsibilities. At some point, it looks like you’re either embellishing or outright lying.
- Just say “References available upon request.” If they want them, they’ll ask.
The College Years
Looking back, this was certainly the most comical time for a résumé. You’re trying so hard to impress, you put everything on there. Co-vice president of the intramural badminton team? Hey, it shows leadership, right?
But without stuff like that, you’re most likely looking at half a page of stuff. Hopefully, you can fill it with relevant coursework, school honors, part-time jobs, internships, and non-boring extracurriculars.
When I hit this phase, I had about seven or eight résumés — each with a different focus. I was applying for all kinds of jobs, so I had all kinds of industry-specific ones — communications, PR, advertising, teaching, sports administration/marketing, corporate marketing, etc. Of course, this was when you’d print out a résumé and mail it in. Y’know, like on paper, in an envelope.
Note: This is the last time your GPA will be acceptable on your résumé. (And honestly, very few people care about it.)
Time to drop the extracurriculars, hobbies, and special interests. And keep the education stuff to a minimum — all you need is degrees and certifications with dates, and MAYBE your major/minor.
More jobs means less room on that one page, so keep it simple. Objective. Experience. Education. Boom.
As tempting as it may be to try to climb the ladder with fancy-schmancy duties and responsibilities, don’t do what Darryl (warehouse manager for a paper company) did on The Office:
Jo: Coordinated and implemented receipt, storage, and delivery of over 2.5 billion units of inventory. 2.5 billion, Darryl? 2.5 billion units of what?
Darryl: Paper material, ma'am.
Jo: Paper material?
Darryl: [softly] Pieces of paper.
[Jo rolls her eyes]
OK, so if you’re like me (sorry about that) and you have a dozen positions, you might start considering a two-page résumé. But if you’re not a doctor/lawyer/professor with publications or an engineer with patents, tread carefully. If you must go to two pages, at least be environmentally friendly about it and use one two-sided sheet.
At this point, your titles and brief descriptions should speak for themselves. There’s absolutely no need to get into the minutiae of each position. A sentence or two. Done.
Now we start to get into the messed-up world of ageism. So many other cultures respect the wisdom that comes with age and experience — but in our youth-crazy, plastic-surgery-and-dressing-much-younger-society, that’s just not the case.
Hopefully, the solid, real-world experience you’ve got is reflected in your résumé — and it’ll get into the hands of someone who’s hiring that knows the benefits of an older employee.
Clearly, the trend over the past couple decades — thanks to economic conditions and the simple fact that we’re living longer — is for people to work well into their 60s and past “retirement age.”
So you sexagenarians out there — keep on keepin’ on, and by all means go to a two-page résumé if you haven’t by now. You deserve it.
If I’m still working in my 70s, I hope I have the chutzpah to not even bother with a résumé. “You want a résumé? How about I meet with you and walk you through my FIFTY YEARS OF EXPERIENCE.”
Of course, that kind of attitude will probably get me sent out to the Old Marketers’ Home — where we’ll sit around and reminisce about that project we worked on for some big company that doesn’t exist anymore.
OK, those last few sections were pretty light on résumé help. For real advice on job searches and résumés for people 50+, you can find some pretty good resources via an online search.
With 20+ years of experience — both at agencies and "on the client side" — Harley David Rubin has enjoyed many challenges and opportunities in his career. He's currently freelancing, with an eye toward starting his own creative communications company. And he loves to share the stories and "wisdom" he's accumulated over the years. (Because what writer doesn't love talking about himself?) He's truly thankful for the opportunity to write for TalentZoo.com, and he's happy to connect via LinkedIn or even on Twitter at @hdrubin.