If your job is communications, then resume writing should be a piece of cake, right? So how come it’s so hard?
Of course communicating on behalf of someone else is much easier than doing it for yourself. I am just the same. Writing a resume for someone else is easy for me, but it’s much harder when I’m asked to write a bio about myself.
But I have some tips that should make writing your resume easier.
1. Develop a Strategy
Develop a communications strategy for your resume just as you would for any other communications piece. You would never recommend writing a press release, or creating copy for a website until you knew the target audience and the same applies to your resume.
Figure out who will be reading your resume and what their concerns are. Are you interested in smaller companies? Then you may want to show you can work successfully within small budgets, and handle lots of responsibilities. If you’re an executive targeting smaller companies, you’ll need to show that you’re able to both direct others and roll up your sleeves to do the work.
In larger companies, the opposite will apply. Have you managed large budgets? Handled crisis communications? Led big teams? Worked on international projects?
Perhaps you’re interested in a specific industry. In this case, you’ll want to show knowledge of that field or at least transferable skills.
So before you start writing, make some notes on your target companies and what they’re looking for. (Not sure? Check out job postings online for clues).
2. Think About the Structure
Don’t just follow a resume structure you saw someone else use. Think about your strategy and the story you want to tell, and then determine the best structure to tell that story.
For example, someone who has decided to emphasize the impact his web copy had on sales may choose to have a ‘selected sales results’ section where he highlights his top successes.
Someone who has decided to emphasize that she handles PR for high-profile clients could do this in a ‘selected clients’ section.
On the other hand, if your strongest selling point is the experience you gained in your most recent position, adding extra sections like this may draw the reader’s attention away from that experience. In that case it may be best to follow a short introduction with your career chronology.
You can see that writing a great resume isn’t just about cataloging your career history. It’s a strategic and thoughtful process that takes into account lots of variables.
3. Use Third-party Validation
Nothing you say about yourself is ever as powerful as things other people say about you, and that’s what I mean by the phrase ‘third-party validation.’
If your work has ever been praised by others, consider including some of those comments in your resume (for example, thank you letters, performance reviews or LinkedIn testimonials are all useful).
If you have written something that has been reviewed, you might be able to excerpt some of the reviews on your resume.
And of course, awards are excellent third-party validation. If you have lots of them, make them prominent on the first page of your resume.
4. Quantify Your Impact Where Possible
Media and communications isn’t like sales. You can’t always quantify your successes. But you should try wherever possible. The more numbers and facts you can include in your resume, the more impressive it will be.
And don’t shy away from quantifying just because your actions were only one aspect of the success. If you worked on a successful product service or strategy, but were not solely responsible, you can still take the credit you deserve. Simply say:
• Key member of the team that …
• Played integral role in ….
5. If You Can’t Quantify, Focus on Impact
If you can’t find actual numbers for media impressions or readership of an article you wrote, look for other ways to describe your impact.
Why did you do what you did? What was the business reason behind your decision to write white papers for your company’s website? Why did you decide to add that new feature to your company’s newsletter? Include your reasoning when talking about your accomplishments. Let me give you an example:
A PR manager devises and manages a crisis management campaign for her employer, a restaurant chain, after salmonella sickens hundreds of customers around the country.
She cannot quantify how many people were impacted by her campaign, but she can talk about why she did it (to mitigate damage to the brand) and she can describe what she did. Here’s the bullet point she could write:
Minimized damage to brand after national food poisoning incident. Developed crisis management strategy that included interviews with major media and a proactive role in pushing Congress for new food safety legislation.
Let’s look at one more example. A cable news producer comes up with a new format for a regular newscast. His show isn’t a ratings success and is cancelled within a few months. But inspired by his idea, the network decides to try something else and the new show shoots to the top of its timeslot among the desired demographic. Here’s a possible bullet point for that situation:
Challenged stagnant format of long-time news show, developing kernel of idea that ultimately became [show name], the #-rated show among the all-important 25-54 demographic.
As a communications professional, you have an advantage over most job seekers. You already have the skills you need to write an excellent resume. All you need to do now is put them into action!