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Keep Your Portfolio Up-to-Date At All Times

I have a never-expiring calendar reminder for myself to update my portfolio. Otherwise I just won’t do it.

Make Yourself Do It

 

But it is surprisingly hard to make yourself do it even with a calendar reminder constantly dinging you. And unfortunately you only ever realize that you needed to do it – and didn’t – when you need your resume to be up to date when you are ready (or worse: when you aren’t ready) to move to the next gig.

resu1This added pressure means that you are now going to be under the gun to send out your resume in a not quite up to date form, or you will struggle to remember all the cool new things you have done in the past many months.

It won’t be your best showing. You won’t likely have all the detail you once had. And ultimately you are doing a disservice to yourself when thinking about this late in the game.

Use LinkedIn As Your Source of Truth

A long time ago I stopped maintaining a resume in document form.

Before there was a LinkedIn it made sense to constantly toil over the formatting of my resume. And it made since to keep a copy and several backups.

I needed a consistent place to go to for the source of truth for my work history as there wasn’t one clear winner on the internet for such things.  Back then I would keep a digital resume on Monster and various other job boards. It was a real hassle to keep them all up to date.

But now a days it is easy to keep your information in LinkedIn. It is now my source of truth.

I try to go there at least once a month to enter at least one cool thing I did that month. It might be something simple like solving a customer’s problem. Or something more complex like learning a new thing in a pinch prior to a sales call or speaking engagement.

sour1Similar to blogging, if you don’t pay attention to the every day details of your day job you will miss the really important parts that you can use later to sell yourself.

Additionally you are missing the opportunity of someone looking for that special talent that you just picked up. You may make good money doing a bang-up job with that 80% thing you do. You run up against some new fancy way of doing things. And that becomes your new norm.

But you never update your resume.

As far as recruiters and other hiring managers know you are only really good at that 80% thing. There is no mention of your new go-to-favorite skill – which is what they really need right now and can’t find anywhere.

This is a missed opportunity for you in a couple of ways. The recruiter won’t contact you to let you know that your new skill is in high demand. Which means you miss out on the possibility of shifting to a new gig. Or, if you really like your job, but want to earn more, you might miss the opportunity to bargain around your newly found skill. Either way, this is your loss in the here and now.

So what sorts of things might you keep track of on LinkedIn? When you have a job, you can use LinkedIn as a running log of interesting facts. When you don’t have a job you can scour through your profile and clean out the things that aren’t really relevant any more. Let’s look at what sorts of things are hand to keep track of:

Title and Responsibility Changes

There are a couple ways of tracking when your title changes and when your responsibility changes. The first is the easiest and doesn’t require much thought. Keep one entry per company you work at. Update the title. List the existing responsibilities.

promo1This is a great way to keep a short resume. And it is a great way to not tell your hiring manager about your history. This is where the difference between a traditional resume and a CV/Portfolio come in. When I am in the hiring manager role I like to see where a person has been and all the things at a high level they have done while at a company.

If you were a developer, then a team lead, then the architect, then the engineering director – list those out. They are very different jobs. They will have very different responsibilities. And being able to show that you have done them all is important to many hiring managers. It shows you are experienced.

We have interns at my current company. One of which we have had back three separate times. For a person like this it is very important to distinctly show that you came back at three different times. And detail out what you did on each occasion. This paints a different picture than someone who just worked somewhere with no timeline. It doesn’t show that we liked you so much that we kept hiring your back.

Business Goals Achieved

Business people, hiring managers, etc. – they don’t generally care that you learned the latest version of HTML. What they do care is that because of your mastery of this new version of HTML you were able to up the sales conversion of your check out process because more customers are able to complete the check out process on their phone and tablets.

roi1Geeks really care that you were able to write a mail sending tool in 100 lines of unreadable code. But business folks care that your tool took into account the bounce rate of certain domains and the rules around how you stay off of black lists so that your email penetration goes up 30% which effectively increased their over all penetration resulting in X number of new dollars for the month.

Now, don’t get me wrong. You need to swizzle this in a manner that you salt and pepper your business swizzle with some tech babble so that all audiences are made happy. If you just deliver the business numbers uber geeks may find your resume wanting. Add appropriate tech talk to sell that you know what you are talking about.

Use the Right Voice to Tell the Right Story

Equally important to what you did is how you tell the story. It is very off-putting to read about a guy that is singing the me-me-me-me-me-me-meeeee song! It is ok for you to say “I used tech X to achieve business Y” now and then. But equally important is how you enabled the team to achieve a goal. Or how you pulled bugs for a week to get to zero defects (sacrificed your enjoyment for the team). Tell a story of being a valuable team member.

If you are in a leadership role tell the story of how you are a shit-umbrella vs. a shit-funnel.  Give concrete examples of how you help you team get stuff done.

Bottom line: keep your portfolio up-to-date at all times. And LinkedIn is a great place to use for it.

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Writing Resumes That Work

Writing a resume is not an easy thing. Putting one together can be nerve-racking and cause us to question ourselves at every step. Should I include all of my work history? Should I include a section on skill set? What shouldn’t I include? How long is too long. All of these question are valid and can be difficult to answer.

When I first put together my resume, a really long time ago, I really didn’t put too much effort into it. I simply spewed out all of my work experience on paper. I was fortunate that this was during the dot com boom and employers were hiring up just about anyone that was available.

In fact, a lot of times, the interviewers didn’t even get my resume until I gave it to them…DURING THE INTERVIEW. This meant that I had the opportunity to speak to them in person about my qualifications and overcome the obvious holes and lack of focus in my resume.

– Miguel

In my nearly 20 years as a professional, I’ve interviewed for dozens of jobs. I’ve also interviewed somewhere close to 150 people. That means that I’ve reading through several hundred resumes. As you might imagine, I’ve come across some doozies, but I have seen some really good ones as well.

My experience writing and reading through resumes has helped me come up with a few pointers for creating a resume that is engaging, informative and get results. Unlike others, I’m not going to throw statistics or cite scientific research on the subject. These guidelines are based on my experience and the observations I’ve made when interviewing myself and interviewing others.

Consider Your Objective

First of all, you should consider what the purpose of writing a resume is. This isn’t always the same. There are a lot of different reasons for putting together a resume and each one of them can affect how you write it and what you include.

A resume’s sole purpose is for selling myself to a potential employer, right? Well, sometimes…OK, most of the time.

You might be thinking that I am a little off my rocker right now. A resume’s sole purpose is for selling myself to a potential employer, right? Well, sometimes…OK, most of the time. There are a few other use cases though. Are you selling yourself to a particular employer? Are you targeting a industry? Maybe you’re focused on a particular role. Are you writing a general purpose resume that you will be submitting to multiple, different, positions? Or are you writing a resume to serve as proof that you’ve been there, done that?

All of these reasons for writing a resume can, and should, affect how you write it and what you decide to include in it. So before you begin, take a few minutes to consider what the intent for putting the resume together. This will be valuable information that will guide you as you flesh out the details

Tailor It To the Audience

In addition to knowing the purpose of the resume, you should also be cognizant of the resume’s audience. This should have some impact on how you write your resume, what you include in it and what you highlight (more on this later).

research-researchIn most cases, you’ll want to target the resume to the particular job that you are applying for. Whenever possible, you should include information about other places that you have worked where you had the same role, were in the same industry, developed a similar product or worked with the same type or size of data. All of these things will help create a connection with the reader and can potentially make you stand out from the rest of the candidates.

I know there have been several cases where I read someone’s resume and it made an immediate impact because that person had either worked on a similar product, with the same technologies, or in the same industry. Every time, it had a positive impact on whether I would consider this person further. This is exactly what you want. You want to make a connection with the reader and provided them with reasons to continue considering you as they whittle down the group of people that they are looking at for the job.

…research will help you target your resume to the employer and help it seem more relevant to the reader, the company and the position.

In a previous post, I wrote about how researching the potential employer is one of the keys to a good interview. Well, that also applies writing a resume. All of that research will help you target your resume to the employer and help it seem more relevant to the reader, the company and the position. With a little effort, you can make a HUGE impact on the effectiveness of your resume and help increase your chances of getting the job.

Include “Enough” Information

resume-bookThere is a lot of debate about how much information you should include in a resume. There are some people that will tell you to keep it short and others that will urge to write a book. I tend to lean towards the longer resume myself, with one caveat:

Make sure to highlight things that are important in a way that can be easily interpreted by the reader.

My current resume is around 8 pages long. Yeah, I know, that’s pretty long. I’m OK with that though. I would rather include more information than less. That being said, I try to highlight important things at the top of my resume and throughout my work history. I start off with a clear objective and follow it with a list of the programming languages, tools, and process that I have worked with. Then, for every position, I include a list of the programming languages, tools, and process that I used while I was there. This is at the top of each entry in my employment history and is highlighted so that I stands out visually.

I do all of these things to make my resumes easy to skim through while still providing some detail for every company that I have worked for. This way, the reader can easily get a feel for the diversity of my experience, the things that I have worked on recently and can still dig a little deeper into each of them if they want to get some more details.

Highlight Your Strengths

Your resume is your first opportunity to wow a potential employer. You have a small window of opportunity to make an impact and stand out from the rest of the pack. Remember, the person reading your resume will probably be reading a ton of resumes all at once. You need to make sure that yours makes some sort of connection.

One way to do this is to really highlight your strengths. If you’ve been doing this for a while, you’ve probably identified what it is you are really good at. Your previous companies, managers, and peers have recognized you for being good at a handful of things. Showcase these things you’re awesome at in your resume. Make sure to sprinkle it thoughtout your work history, skill sets, and other sections of your resume.

If you’re awesome at something and everywhere you’ve been everyone has told you that you are, then let your potential employer in on the secret.

For example, if you’ve been told that you are great at leading teams of developers, you should include examples of how you’ve done that at your previous positions. If you’ve been told that you’re technically awesome, then make sure to highlight all of the languages, tools and processes that you’ve worked with.

If you’re awesome at something and everywhere you’ve been everyone has told you that you are, then let your potential employer in on the secret. Just be careful not to come across as arrogant or cocky. Always employ the right amount of humility when bragging about your awesome-sauce. That being said, I’ve always argued that a resume is one of the only cases where you should try to sell yourself…and maybe even brag a little. Just tread lightly.

Always Be Truthful

resume-liarThis last pointer is super freaking easy to do and extremely important…never, ever, ever, ever lie or embellish in your resume. You should only ever include things that you are 100% sure of. A quick rule of thumb for writing your resume is…If there is any doubt, leave it out. You want to make sure that you can speak intelligently, and without hesitation, to anything that is in your resume.

A quick rule of thumb for writing your resume is…If there is any doubt, leave it out.

You should also not to take credit for other people’s work. It really isn’t worth it. Our community is a small and tightly connected one. The odds that someone at the potential employer will know someone else that you have worked with in the past are really high. Being called out for something that you’ve claimed to have done but didn’t really do can be a deal breaker for an employer. Don’t be that guy. Don’t take that chance. Don’t do it.

You should also be careful about calling yourself an expert on anything. I’ve always been super sensitive to this issue. I never call myself an expert on anything…ever. You should leave that for others to judge. I know that the times I’ve come across resumes where the candidate calls themselves an expert on something I’ve always gone away questioning there sincerity and/or cockiness. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth so I avoid it and I would suggest that you do as well.

The key takeaway from all of this is that you should really pay close attention to how you write your resume and what you include in it. I know it can be a little stressful, but if you follow the four guidelines that I’ve described here you’ll be off to a great start. Remember, a resume is a living document. You should expect to tweak it as you go. In addition to adding new skills and work experience, you’ll find things that work well and other that don’t and want to adjust your resume accordingly. Treat it as your personal billboard. You have a short amount of time and will be one of many so make it count, make it relevant and make an impact.

Need Professional Advice?

Still unsure about how to make your resume put your best foot forward?

For $300, the Developer Springboard team will review your resume, ask you questions, and suggest or make edits to ensure your resume is presenting you and your skills in the most compelling possible light.

Your resume can mean the difference between getting the first interview versus getting passed over. It can mean the difference between finding a job at an amazing company where you level up quickly versus stagnating at a company with poor culture and even poorer pay.

We programmers have a way of down-playing our strengths and not wanting to sound like we’re bragging. We will help you accurately communicate your accomplishments and skills without coming off arrogantly.

Let Andrew, Miguel, and Devin make your resume stand out from the crowd and make you look as good as you really are.

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