In today's job search, a resume is foundational to the entire portfolio. Without a well-forged foundation, your entire communications strategy could crack and sink.
The reason behind so many job-search flops and missteps is lack of a messaging infrastructure. So how do you set about constructing this easily navigable transportation network for your career influence conversation?
Step 1: Research target companies and jobs. Clarify the target industry sector(s) and company (ies) you seek to attract. Research voraciously to focus on job descriptions that have the look and feel of what you want to appeal to (and for which you're qualified).
Step 2: Clarity is essential. Before you begin writing your resume, make sure you have attended fully to Step 1. Without clarity, you're wasting valuable job-search time. If you are an "I can be all things to all people" sort of job seeker, you will lose. If you think, "I can do this or that, even though I have no real experience doing it," STOP. Be practical and pragmatic in picking target jobs and ferreting out your value proposition areas (i.e., the "what makes me better than my competing candidates in doing what I do?").
Step. 3: Get intimate with your own value. Concisely articulate your three to five unique areas of value that, when communicated to the reader (e.g., the hiring decision maker,) will excite them because they now see YOU as the problem healer of their business pain.
Step. 4: Prioritize your portfolio items. Start with your professional resume as the first-priority item. With the resume as your foundation, the rest of the portfolio will be firmly grounded. The deep career introspection, or the career brain dump, that you must employ to build a successful resume will equip your remaining portfolio documents.
Step 5: Flesh out your CAR stories. Make sure you drum up meaty Challenge-Action-Result (CAR) stories and punctuate them with the "so-what," as well as the leadership and other professional strengths that were leveraged when surmounting those hurdles. Here is an example:
a. Challenge: Complete development of coal fired plant in 9 months to prevent project cancellation.
b. Action: Completed acquisition and managed project company. Used expertise in fossil power to run multiple project activities concurrently. Forged excellent relationships with regulatory entities. Obtained board approvals.
c. Result: Managed company and teams to complete development of $400M coal-fired project in 9 months.
d. Strength/Translation: Vision, leadership, team building, delegation, perseverance.
e. Relevance: True leadership in a tough situation that saved company from losses and built wealth.
Step 6: Write a cover letter foundation. Yes, each cover letter must be tailored to each opportunity, but give yourself a break. Write a foundational letter with excess language from which you can trim and tweak when applying to yet another position. Don't wear yourself out with a blank-slate endeavor each and every time you must compose a new letter.
Step 7: Refresh your LinkedIn account. After you've written your resume, it's time to revamp your LinkedIn profile. Think of it as a message that extends your value proposition, one that pulls bits and pieces from your resume into the Experience section. As well, build a distinct Summary section written in a more conversational tone than your resume but which derives its focus and distinguishing threads from the resume and resume process. Add sections and beef up your LinkedIn profile to give it greater impact and boost search results.
Step 8. Decide if a personal website is for you. If you're technology savvy or are able to invest in a career technologist's services—someone trained to present you professionally at YourCareerWebsite.com, then get started. Use the website to pull together your professional presence. Again, use your resume story to guide the focus of your website. Create a web repository that is easily navigable for hiring authority visitors. Your downloadable resume should be quick and easy to spot. A page devoted to career highlights, succinctly written and powerfully stated, should be speedily discoverable, too. Further, if you are in a creative field, such as graphic arts or other media-focused endeavors, you can provide seamless access to your visual achievements.
Step. 9: Explore other social media venues. Design a complementary, pithy biography/profile for each social media site. Most venues have specific formats in which you enter biography details. A sample of sites and biographies follow. If you read all of them, you will see a common thread while also noting that no one profile is EXACTLY like another.
Step 10: Finesse with flair. While consistency is important, adding a little flair and uniqueness with each profile is okay. You can use a different picture or varied phrasing on Twitter versus Facebook or LinkedIn, for example. While some may argue this tip, the rule of thumb is to develop overall brand consistency that showcases individual, targeted strengths while not being agonizingly repetitive in every presentation.
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, chief career writer and partner with CareerTrend, and is one of only 28 Master Resume Writers (MRW) globally. Jacqui and her husband, "Sailor Rob," host a lively careers-focused blog at http://careertrend.net/blog. Jacqui is a power Twitter user (@ValueIntoWords), listed on several "Best People to Follow" lists for job seekers.