Ask people how to write a good resume and you’re likely to get advice somewhere in the domains of: making sure your grammar and spelling are right, finding the balance between concision and clarity, highlighting your accomplishments, not just your duties, and other various good suggestions.
Google “how to write a good resume” and you’ll get this, this, this, this, and this. I can’t and won’t vouch for any of these sites, but from an initial glance they look reputable. You should check them out and maybe use one or more of them as a resource when you’re writing your resume.
In addition to all the good stuff you’re going to find in those resume writing sites, though, you must remember the main thing: your resume needs to tell the story of who you are and what you want to do in your next position. You can’t afford for it to be boring, formulaic, or too busy. Whoever is reading your resume needs to know in about ten seconds why she should care about you as a candidate.
So how do you make her care about you? You do it by clearly stating what you stand for, what you can’t help but do, and, most importantly, why you do what you do. Starting with the professional profile at the top, all the way through to your oldest position and your education at the bottom, you need to tie all your experiences together with a common theme.
When a hiring manager is done reading your resume, she needs to know more than just what you’ve done and how you’ve done it. Yes, those things matter, but they only matter if the person who is going to hire you and work with you for the foreseeable future is intrigued by your character and gets a strong sense of your personal and professional narrative. What drives you to do what you do? What’s your purpose? Your mission? Your reason for being?
Me? I have a background in teaching and communications, but those are just the realms of experience I’ve had. I’m much more than a teacher or a writer. What drove me to teach and write in the first place, and what drives me to do the work I’m doing now and the work I’m going to be doing moving forward, is a strong and clear vision for creating equitable and inclusive communities. In other words, teaching and writing (and related hard and soft skills) are what I’ve done, but they are not who I am.
Here’s my professional profile in my most recent resume:
Over 15 years of advocating for equity and social justice. Unalterable belief in radical inclusivity. Innate ability to make profound and genuine connections with people. Always visioning for a more just, compassionate, and thriving society. Teacher, writer, storyteller, speaker, program developer, technologist––strategic innovator collaborating with creative teams to turn ideas into solutions that change lives.
Whoever is reading this is going to understand immediately who I am and what I stand for. And, they’re either going to like it and want to meet me, or they’re going to be turned off and put me in the “no” pile. And that’s okay! In fact, it’s more than okay––it’s the whole point. Do you want to work with people who don’t share and appreciate what you stand for? I hope your answer is no. I hope you’re not that desperate.
The rest of my resume follows this theme. It’s an appropriate mix of skills and accomplishments, and heavily influenced by themes of social justice and inclusion. I have not labeled myself as “a teacher” or “a writer” because I’m so much more than that. I’ve positioned myself for a broader range of possibilities. I’ve started a discussion based on values and ideals that matter to me. If people reading my resume are interested in those same values and ideals, then we’re going to have a whole lot to talk about.
You get to choose your own narrative. Your resume should reflect the narrative you’ve chosen, and not default to a boring, formulaic misrepresentation of who you are. There are plenty of hijacked narratives out there, so don’t add to the tragedy by hijacking your own.