What makes your resume a great resume? To start with, think of it as a career snapshot, not your life story!
This might sound harsh to some, but I’ll bet no one in the companies you’re targeting with your resume cares about what you did 35 years ago. No matter how proud you are of those long-ago accomplishments, you need to accept that they’re all but useless in the eyes of prospective employers.
Career Snapshot—What It Is and Isn’t
The word “snapshot” might suggest something small and very brief, which doesn’t always have to be the case with your resume. However, the concept of brevity remains valid. You want to impress prospective employers with what you can do for them, but you don’t want to share more than they ever wanted to know about you.
Conciseness is the key—both the right words and the right amount of words. When a colleague was once asked how long a resume should be, he replied, “Long enough to do the job and no longer.” That might sound like a cop-out, but it’s not. Right on target, not underdone or overkill—that’s what you want to strive for.
Career Stories That Show, Not Tell
Unless you want a four-page resume (or longer), you need to exercise discipline about what you include in your professional resume. That’s only one of several good reasons for limiting the “life story” element of your content.
At some point, what you did many years ago will lose much if not all of its importance to the “now” in which you’re conducting your job search. If you haven’t racked up a lot of noteworthy career contributions in the years since then, you have a different problem that this article can’t cover!
So start thinking in terms of what you’ve done over the last, say, 10-15 years that has made a positive difference to the company(ies) you worked for. Why was it important that you did whatever it was? What problems did it help the organization overcome? Can you quantify/measure the outcome in a meaningful way?
Turn those situations into success stories that add impact to your resume and go a long way to make it a great resume—one that excites employers and makes them eager to pick up the phone and call you!
P.S. Sometimes a way-back story can prove relevant during an in-person interview and help make you more memorable, so don’t throw them all out permanently. Keep the best ones in your “back pocket” in case a good opportunity comes up to share one.