Incorporate a Powerful Career Narrative in Resume Building
By Lori Jazvac.
The best resumes are crafted with a career narrative. They convey career stories that enrich the reader’s understanding of the candidate’s background and offerings.
As career professionals, we need to help clients view the resume as more than a document outlining skills and responsibilities so that they can effectively communicate why and how they stand out. By coaching our clients to view the resume as a brand marketing tool, we can help them articulate their unique promise of value, the milestones they have achieved, and the challenges they have successfully overcome.
The first page of the resume needs to immediately capture the essence of the career narrative – starting from the brand statement to the summary and onward to professional experience and achievements. The reader with a scrutinizing eye will appreciate a career narrative that is purposefully, yet creatively designed with the following elements.
Leveraging a Career Narrative in Today’s Competitive Labour Market
A powerful career narrative will help a client to stand out in a crowded labour market. While content is key, presentation, style, layout, and design are also relevant. (Keep in mind that as clients gain more experience, and progress through their careers, their career narratives will evolve, too.)
Here are 10 strategies for creating an engaging career narrative:
- Incorporate a robust strategy. Be selective with word choices (keywords), format, and structure. Meaningfully link past successes to your client’s short- and long-term goals. Identify a clear focus to ensure the narrative flows through the resume.
- Tell the story in your client’s voice. The words we choose to exclude or include impact presentation as well as the candidate’s perception of their overall brand. Words also impact how the candidate’s expertise and value are perceived by the employer. Incorporate the client’s personal motto. Use simple but clear words that align with your client’s brand and personal values, for example, “Driving business growth with innovation.”
- Show the progression in your client’s career. Feature a leadership snapshot or highlights at the beginning so the reader can quickly see your client’s specialties and milestones. In each role, briefly include whether your client was recruited, hired, or promoted. What was he/she challenged to do in a specific role? What led to the promotion?
- Balance both qualitative (descriptive) and quantitative (measurable) achievements. Use the Challenge-Action-Result Method to flesh out achievements. Well-written achievements tell stories that engage the reader.
- Include context. Integrate the scope of the role and organization along with the situation and strategies that present the big picture. The career narrative must be both authentic and compelling rather than rhyming off successes without any context. How many people did s/he supervise, what budgets and project goals were met, and by how much? What were the specific challenges met (e.g. tight project deadlines, company merger, low team morale, or others)? Use the SMART approach to define statements––specific, measurable, action-driven, realistic, and timely.
- Highlight numbers using dollars, points, or percentages to quantify results. Discuss with your client measurable results and year-over-year progress.
- Lead with metrics for maximum impact. Instead of saying, “Championed several environmentally friendly initiatives that produced $1M savings in 1 year.”… consider saying: “Produced $1M savings in 1 year by championing several environmentally friendly initiatives.”
- Feature achievements with creative visuals. Visuals such as charts, graphs, or symbolic images can show correlations and progressive results that will influence the reader.
- Include testimonials that demonstrate performance. Identify and include endorsements that enhance your client’s credibility.
- Include successes through various types of experiences. These may include academic projects, community leadership or volunteering initiatives, and board governance roles.
Your client’s career narrative extends beyond the resume to brand marketing collateral such as a professional biography or networking resume. For more information about writing stellar career narratives, challenge yourself with CPC’s courses. Work towards your Certified Resume Strategist (CRS) or Certified Career Strategist (CCS) designation, or enrol in the Advanced Resume Development Program.
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