Refresh: A Few Thoughts on When to Update Your Résumé
Lurking somewhere on your hard drive is the latest copy of your résumé. When was the last time you opened that file, or actually updated it? The biggest problem with updating your résumé is that you probably don’t think about it until you need it for something like a new position or a potential promotion. This may not be the optimal times to update it, because they are also the most pressure-filled times to be making changes.
Unfortunately, your résumé doesn’t have an alarm feature to let you know, “Hey! This is the perfect time to update me.” But there are some things you can do to keep your résumé up to date, so it reads and looks the best it can.
Update your résumé when you get good news
Think about when you are most excited about your job. It’s probably when something exciting happens — a raise, a promotion, a good yearly review, a new project, and so on. When these events happen, you feel the most satisfied with your work life, making it the perfect time to refresh your résumé.
Let’s say you received a strong yearly performance review. In it, your manager probably used language that would also be applicable to add to your skills or job responsibilities on your résumé. A phrase like, ‘took initiative with the system upgrade by providing necessary updates and troubleshooting problems,’ for example, might be something you’d get in written comments. You could easily add or adapt these to your current résumé. Best part? You didn’t even have to come up with it yourself. It’s practically handed to you.
Also, add metrics whenever possible because these numbers help make your accomplishments even more tangible. Plus, you won’t forget what the metrics are if you add them in as you achieve them. When a potential employer reads on a résumé, “Exceeded $100K sales quota by 25%,” he or she will be more likely to be impressed than if it read, “Exceeded sales quota.”Think about it: would you even remember your sales quota, or other important metric, a year from now if you didn’t write it down?
Update your résumé when you get new responsibilities
Along the same lines, when you add new responsibilities at work, this should also serve like an alarm for an update. Let’s say after a year at a position, you don’t only help produce a report, but you are asked by your supervisor to review and proof it. Be sure to add in the new responsibilities, showing how you gained progressively more challenging experience. Focus on how your superiors can count on you to do more, or accentuate how you are a team player.
As well, if you received awards, earned a certification, have a publication in your field, or add new skills, such as learning a new software program, make the changes on your résumé at the time these things happen. Many professionals use and update their LinkedIn or other social media accounts, and so think about updating your résumé the way you might update these other career tools. Make it a habit to update them all at the same time, as then all your tools can work together.Remember, when you are feeling fulfilled and strong about your company, job, and position, you may be able to look at your résumé with more critical eyes, refreshing not only content, but updating the look and feel of your résumé to better reflect who you are as a professional. Both the content and the presentation of your résumé are important. You’ll feel more energized about making the document look good when you feel proud of the content.
Use the resources at your disposal
If you are a student, use the resources on campus well in advance of looking for a job. Most colleges and universities have a career services center and/or a writing center where you can get help and feedback on your résumé. Often, these are resources already paid for through student fees, so be sure to take advantage of them.
Some of your coursework may include résumé writing and revising as part of a class. You may meet with professors during office hours or appointment to get extra assistance. If you belong to professional clubs on campus, consider organizing a “résumé swap” with other students in the club, where members can help each other improve their résumés. You might even ask recent grads, faculty advisors, or others to come in and talk to your group about how to best create and refresh your résumé.
Above all, don’t wait
Waiting to update your résumé puts more stress on you when you least want it. Trying to remember all the things that you did in a position, making sure to capture accurately all your experience, skills, promotions, awards, etc. in a compressed timeframe often leads to sloppy work and forgetting key points and information. You may be too concerned with getting your content refreshed, and your layout and design may suffer by comparison. Or, you might get sloppy with copyediting and proofreading. However, when you use the events of your professional life to help “sound the alarm” to refresh your résumé, you really help yourself be in the best position when it’s time to send it out. If you think of your résumé as a reflection of you, giving it regular TLC is important, just as taking time out to refresh and improve yourself is important. And, it has one final and significant benefit—it reminds you of all the ways you have grown professionally, as well as all you have done and accomplished.