Is Your Resume Telling the Right Story?

You may think of a resume as a marketing document, and it is one, but it’s also a storytelling tool. Your resume should showcase the arc of your career to date while calling attention to relevant highlights of successes such as:

  • Promotions you’ve received.
  • Times when you were retained after an acquisition or merger.
  • Special assignments or project roles you took on in addition to your main job.
  • Temporary roles you assumed at management’s request.
  • Volunteer assignments and projects you initiated.
  • Elevation or appointment to leadership teams, board roles, or board committees.
  • Selection for special training, especially leadership development programs.

While the achievements you attained in each role of your career are the most important data to showcase in your resume, don’t overlook these extras which, when mentioned repeatedly throughout the document (assuming it is relevant and strategic to do so), help bring your career story to life.

Even more vital than these kinds of elements, though, is context. By providing big picture context for each role and each achievement in your resume you share more of your career journey to date in a way that helps your readers to grasp the key details of your brand’s history without drowning in them.

Showcase Career Snapshot Elements in Your Career Summary

Your summary offers your resume’s readers a big picture of your career to date and your capabilities, so it is the ideal place to highlight context details that set your candidacy apart.

  • Are you a classically trained marketer, for example, with experience in integrated, print, and print marketing?
  • Did you rise from an entry-level or individual contributor role to executive leadership within the same company?
  • Have you worked in allied disciplines such as sales and marketing or collected experience in diverse operational functions?
  • Has your career followed a non-linear, vertical, horizontal, or mixed trajectory?
  • Do you possess cross-industry experience?
  • Have you worked on both sides of the fence – say inside and outside sales, agency and corporate marketing, or consulting and in-house project management?

You get the idea – by identifying the outline of your career to date you can select the most critical BrandYou™ elements to highlight in your summary. Whether you include them in paragraph form or showcase them in bullets, separate text, or graphic-enhanced elements, such career snapshot content is a part of your brand that should not be overlooked.

Present Cumulative Career Data

Another way to improve your resume’s storytelling focus is to include cumulative career data as a tagline or achievement statement. If you have cut costs in every role you’ve ever held, for example, then go back and identify the approximate saving for each position and total those numbers. If the total amount is substantial enough to mention, then a brief statement is warranted: Carved out $27.5M in savings career-to-date, for example.

Have you impacted revenue or sales? Profitability? Efficiency? If you have metrics – even proximate ones – you can showcase as career totals, you can help your readers to understand that you didn’t save millions of dollars once, for example, but many times over. That fact tells a different, and more powerful, story than simply saying you’re cost-conscious or continually bring your department in under budget.

BrandYou™ Example:

  • Set the stage for or personally catalyzed more than $725M in cumulative corporate profitability career-long.

Emphasizing Context in Achievements

Every achievement on your resume contributes to the overall story the document conveys, especially if you take the time to include relevant context details wherever possible.

If your resume includes an achievement describing a turnaround that you led, for example, does it paint a complete picture? For a turnaround story your resume should include details such as:

  • What the situation was when you started or took over the location, the team, or the account. What specific, measurable performance metrics can you include?
  • What the situation was after your intervention or action. What specific, measurable performance metrics will make your impacts clear?
  • What impact the turnaround made on the organization you worked for. Why did your turnaround matter? How did it help the company?

BrandYou™ Example:

  • Reversed a 5-year, double-digit sales decline, strategizing divisional reorganization that kickstarted $450M in revenue and halted closure plans. Increased EBITDA 7%, forestalled massive staff turnover, and reinvigorated morale.

Weaving Context into Job Descriptions

Don’t overlook the 2-3 line job descriptions that introduce each role included on your resume; this resume real estate offers a prime spot to depict the context of your hire, promotion, or selection for the role, as well as the greater context of the company’s growth during your tenure.

  • Did you hire into the company during or after a reorganization, merger, or acquisition? What impact did your role have on the ongoing organizational change or integration?
  • Were you asked to help reverse sales or profitability or otherwise improve performance in some specific way? What was the overall purpose of or context for your achievements?
  • Were you brought on board or promoted to lead a start-up initiative? What was the hoped-for result? What was the actual result and how did it alter the company’s prospects?

BrandYou™ Example:

  • Strategized and spearheaded divisional start-up to position first-time European market penetration. Outperformed sales and new account targets 23% while capturing #2 market share in less than 8 months.

Do you ever shop online? If so, you’ve probably seen photos of something – a product you wanted to buy or a location you wanted to visit — that didn’t give you enough context details to determine whether you liked what you saw. If those photos were too general, they likely provided too few details and close-ups of key features. If those photos were too close-in, they likely provided too much detail and too little context information.

Your goal in writing your resume should be to include the “just right” balance of detail with context information. This balance is what enables your readers to want to know more about you, which translates into action: calling or emailing you, visiting your LinkedIn profile, or inviting you to a discussion or interview.

Do you need help telling your career story in a more powerful way? Email me to set up a no-cost, no-obligation resume and LinkedIn review.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn and has been updated with 2019-relevant content.

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About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.


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