During the last few weeks, I’ve been working a group of construction industry trainees who will enter the job market upon completion of their program. There is a labor shortage, and new government funding for infrastructure and “green renovation” projects. But the trainees need to market themselves for the jobs. They need to differentiate themselves from many others with similar credentials.
As a result, I have been collaborating with the trainees to produce resumes that will demonstrate each individual’s unique value to contractors and property owners. And most of the trainees have not had a professional-level resume before.
The steps I asked each trainee to take are the same as the steps any job candidate should take to create a resume for the first time. Specifically:
- Gather your data,
- Prepare a worksheet, and
- Engage in the writing process.
A resume is a short fact-based business report about a job seeker’s qualifications—education, skills, and experience. Your resume, like any report you prepare at a job, has to be customer-focused. Your customers are prospective employers and your network of industry and professional contacts. Keep the customers in mind as you gather and summarize data about your career.
Gather your data.
The data for your resume is information about your education, work experience, and professional skills or competencies. Assemble whatever documents you have such as school transcripts your military record, if any, and records of jobs, volunteer work, or internships. Scan the documents, download them form the issuing school or agency, or put them in a binder for easy access. This will save time later.
Performance reviews are especially valuable. Reviews provide reminders of accomplishments that managers and leaders valued. This is what your customers—prospective employers and industry contacts—need to know. It’s usually easy to reword accomplishments gleaned from these documents so you avoid disclosing proprietary information.
Next, you need to organize the data you have gathered.
Create a worksheet to organize your information.
An accepted approach for creating an accurate and complete report of any kind is to build it from a worksheet. Create worksheet sections for the major topics on your resume, such as education, skills, reverse-chronological experience, and accomplishments.
Record your educational information: The education section of your worksheet can be relatively short, despite the time, effort, and money you have invested in school and training. You should record the official title of your degree or diploma, any honors you received, and the award date for the degree.
Much of this information will appear on your official school transcripts. HR may request your transcripts when you start a job, so make certain you have them now.
Your education and training includes industry and government-issued certifications and licenses so be sure to gather and record this information, too.
This is also an opportunity to make sure you have key documents if you are an honorably discharged US Military veteran. These documents could include your DD214 and training transcripts. You’ll decide later whether your service will be included on the resume as a job, or you will only indicate that you are a vet.
Skills or core competencies: The skills section of your worksheet can be more challenging. You can create a 3-column table in MS-Word or a similar program, and then fill in “hard” core competencies as you think of them. Hard skills or core competencies are terms such as retail math, GAAP accounting, portfolio analysis, process improvement, legal research, etc. Employers search for candidates that have done portfolio analysis, for example, but they don’t necessarily search their database for people that say they have “great communications skills.”
We have covered the subject of hard skills and soft-skills in blog posts such as the article at this link.
Pro tip: Employers will want to know how you applied your core competencies in professional situations, so emphasize skills you used at jobs, internships, and volunteer projects instead of skills you studied in class and have not applied yet.
Work Experience: Next, prepare a reverse-chronological work history. Make certain you know the recognized names of places where you worked, completed internships, or performed volunteer service, and when you worked at each of these places.
For example, I worked at an employment program known as WeCARE. WeCARE was an acronym for a local welfare-to-work program. The employer that operated the program was a company called ResCare, so this was the employer name I used on resumes.
Accomplishments: The most important and detailed worksheet section is your accomplishment analysis. Create three-columns to describe each business problem or opportunity you were asked to address, the specific actions you took to address that opportunity, and the results you achieved.
You will find a more detailed discussion of problem, action, results, or PAR, analysis at this link.
A strong accomplishment analysis is important because employers know or can find your job descriptions. They do not know what you contributed.
Even brief internships, I’ve found, can provide quantifiable business accomplishments for your first resume. For example, I spoke with a college student that did a paid summer internship with a big box store. The interns walked the aisles and sold merchandise. He sold more merchandise than the other interns during the last week of the program, so he has at least one accomplishment bullet for this brief assignment.
Write your resume.
It will be easier to write the resume if you have taken the time to gather your data, and then summarize it on a worksheet. For example, your reverse-chronological work history can often be copied directly from the worksheet without additional research. Then, you can select the strongest problem-action-result items from your accomplishment analysis and consolidate them into bullet points under each employer entry.
You will also be able to concentrate on strategic choices, such as whether your work experience is strong enough to place above your education on the page even if you are a recent graduate. Take a look at our resume samples to see how everything fits together. Whether you choose to write a resume yourself, or ask a writer to work with you, you’ll save time and energy by doing your “homework” first.