As Master Resume Writer, I am approached daily by job seekers who recognize that their resume fails to capture or convey their career story. But just what is your career story and does it really matter if your resume also fails to express yours?
Your career story is the biography of your work life. More than that, though, it is also the arc of your overall career, or the sum total of all of your work experiences, achievements, credentials, and capabilities. Your career story details your movement through and between different employers, but it also connects the dots of your experience for those who are trying to grasp who you are, what you have done in the past, and what you are capable of doing in the future.
Put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter for a moment. How can they quickly digest your experience without getting caught up in the nitty gritty details so they can rapidly discern whether yours is the resume they read thoroughly? Most recruiters don’t read resumes straight through the way you and I do. While each has their own process for consuming your resume’s content, many will:
- Review your employment history to identify gaps, promotion patterns, and the tenure you’ve achieved in each role.
- Read just the first few words of each bullet in your work history section to see if your achievements have been more tactical or strategic in tone.
- Verify that you have the credentials or education the hiring manager is expecting.
- Validate that you appear to possess the key skills the role demands.
Note that this rapid review takes place in mere seconds – often just 4-5 seconds. If your resume passes muster, the recruiter may then read it more thoroughly before deciding whether to interview you. If your document does not pass the rapid review phase, however, your candidacy is dead in the water as far as this job prospect goes.
You can begin to see why learning how to tell your career story in your resume is so important:
- Your career story helps convey your brand. If your career story is vague and undefined, your brand will be hidden or generic. If you want to stand out as a candidate, you must define your career story clearly in print, online, and verbally in networking meetings and interviews.
- Your career story helps separate your candidacy from your peers. Like a well-defined brand, your career story distinguishes you from the other candidates seeking the same roles. If your candidacy blends into the woodwork, you can expect to receive fewer invites for interviews, fewer connections on LinkedIn, and fewer referrals to employers, open positions, and key influencers throughout your search.
- Your career story helps your resume’s readers to rapidly assimilate what you can do for them. In an environment where everyone is overwhelmed by information and constantly barraged by more, it is imperative that you find a way for your resume and LinkedIn profile readers to quickly hone in on what you can do for them. This is your Why-Buy-ROI: Why should the employer buy (or hire) you and what’s in it for them?
- Your career story captures interest in your candidacy and makes readers want to know more. Wallflower resumes are boring to read, but story-driven resumes succeed in drawing readers into their flow. This style of resume provokes curiosity and makes your readers want to read more, just like a well-written novel teases you to read one more chapter.
- Without a clear career story, your resume and candidacy will languish. If your resume doesn’t convey your career story clearly – or at all – then your readers will fail to grasp who you really are and why your skillset should be relevant and important to them. You will find yourself applying for open positions for which you are exceedingly well qualified, but you will repeatedly fail to land an interview. Your job search will fall flat or you will find yourself with so few prospects that it will appear that no one wants to hire you. This isn’t hype – it’s a natural consequence of undervaluing and underexpressing your own career story.
I invite you to join my LinkedIn Weekly Challenge Group for mid-career to senior executives. Each week you’ll be presented with a brief way to improve your profile or your LinkedIn reach, influence, and thought leadership.