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Executive Resumes: Avoid the Jack of all Trades Dilemma

Seasoned executives with 20+ years of experience across various industries and functions frequently face the dilemma of having done way more in their career than you can sensibly present on a 2- or 3-page resume.

So, what to do? Obviously, you must filter, tweak, summarize, and ideally, laser-focus in on your most relevant qualities and experiences.

I) The risk of “dumping” everything on the reader

The question then quickly arises about what to include and what to omit on the resume?

Letting go is a difficult process for most human beings, so a lot of times, the resume process ends in an attempt to squeeze in as much information as you possibly can.

Everything seems somehow relevant and you have worked so hard for those achievements, titles, and projects, right?

Fair points, but the problem of not tweaking and laser-focusing in on one topic and common theme, but instead narrating everything you have ever done, bears the risk that you end up looking like a jack of all trades. And looking like a jack of all trades rarely sets you apart in a global executive and C-level market.

II) How to narrow it down

Of course, you want to showcase that you have experience in various angles and aspects of leading and empowering a company, particularly if you are targeting opportunities that require a broad skill set, e.g. general management or COO positions, but the bottom line is not to overwhelm the reader.

So, start by asking yourself what you really want to achieve with sending out your resume?

Are you targeting a new corporate role comparable to your most recent position or do you intend to change industries or are you possibly even considering changing into the not-for-profit world?

Clearly answering those questions before you go to the drawing board is paramount.

The skill set and abilities you will have to include and highlight might be quite different in each case (and yes, this means that you might have to develop different resume versions if you intend to pursue all opportunities listed in our example above).

Once you have determined a clear target for your resume, look at your current resume and see which information is not of use any longer for this target. Delete it! Yes, delete it.

The complex and impressive transportation project you spearheaded as a Director of Engineering 20 years ago, is not going to be a strong asset in targeting a top executive position with an education not-for-profit organization.

The, utilize the freed-up whitespace to communicate what’s relevant to your target only: for targeting the educational not-for-profit organization, for example, you want to communicate your expertise in fundraising, marketing, and community outreach as well as your experience in board of directors communication.

III) The Takeaway

Simply collecting everything you have ever done and “dumping” it on your reader might be tempting but it puts your resume at a strategic disadvantage compared to fellow executives who took the time to determine a specific resume target with laser-focused emphasis on relevant information.

The good news: you now know what to do!

1 thought on “Executive Resumes: Avoid the Jack of all Trades Dilemma”

  1. This advice is applicable for anyone who has a varied background. I work with military vets, and they face the same problem.

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