Having to revise your resume and writing cover letters for jobs is stressful. Especially if your savings are running low and the phone’s just not ringing. It’s easy to start getting down on yourself and letting negative thoughts take over.
But you know you can’t quit. You got bills. However, you probably need to take a break and allow yourself to do something fun, so you’ll have a clearer head to get back out there. So quit applying from jobs from a place of fear, anxiety and disbelief.
Trust me, you have to feel good about yourself and your abilities in order to convince someone to pay you to do stuff.
Whether you’ve had a steady job for 12 years and looking for a change, or you’ve been out of work for a few weeks or a few months, taking the time to revisit your work history can feel like it’s painful as spring cleaning, or as anxiety-inducing as being asked to jot down how many sexual partners you’ve had on a health form.
Sometimes, you just don’t want to go back. But in all of those scenarios, in order to move forward, you have to face it.
Working on your resume and cover letters is time-consuming. It just is. It’s a necessary evil. But instead of being filled with fear and anxiety, be comforted that in the age of technology, you can get a lot of help and find free resources to help you polish things up a bit.
Rule number one: Just because you snagged a job with your old resume doesn’t mean sticking with what you’ve got will continue to work.
I like to use my job-winning resume format as a foundation, but I continue to tweak.
Rule number two: Work on your resume while you have a job and can readily think of accomplishments and achievements and your duties while you are actually doing them.
Rule number three: Tailor, tailor, tailor. I write different cover letters for every position. Why? Practice makes perfect and I challenge myself to say what I have to say with fewer words. I think I hit a new record when I got my cover letter down to about 380 words. This means you are getting closer to matching your written elevator pitch and effectively getting to the point, which is an attractive attribute for any kind of candidate. This also saves the recruiter and hiring managers some time, which they appreciate. This is not to say that I don’t have a base letter that reminds me of my accomplishments or uses good phrases that describe my experience level and background, but I try to change it up. Besides, you don’t want the mistake of copying and pasting an entire letter with the wrong position title, or worse yet, wrong company. This is why no matter how tired you are, you have to review your work, and always run it through spell check. I also like the other features like word count, and the passive voice percentage checker. Web writers, you want to have 0% passive sentences.
Rule number four: Government jobs are a different beast. As with all applications, READ THE DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY. Usajobs.gov actually has tips and videos that go along with their job descriptions and applications to help you bone up on what they expect and how your resume should be presented. If they took the time to do this, take the time to watch. It actually means qualified folks probably got tossed because they didn’t follow the rules, so this time, the government is trying to do us a solid here. Doing this may separate you from the folks who blindly upload resumes that get tossed immediately and may give you a few more points to compete with the veterans who get special preference.
Rule number five: Actually follow the directions as given. This applies to all applications, but the government in particular is rather fond of eliminating people for not doing things exactly as they asked. Just ask anyone who’s applied for a grant. Folks who approve grants are always trying to catch folks slipping. It’s not because they are mean, it’s just that there are strict rules when it comes to handing out government funds. They can get in a lot of trouble if they skip steps or let sloppy paperwork slide. It’s a picky, picky process. Details do matter. “Slay, trick or get eliminated.”
Rule number six: Imagine your resume is a contestant on “The Voice.” No one knows what you look like. Your resume has to sing and capture the attention of the hiring manager in less than a minute. Like the judges, they know what to listen for. Is this person confident? Can they even sing? Are they breathing right? Are they on key? Do they have a unique voice they haven’t heard before? Can they take songs people have heard millions of times and make it stand out? Same rules apply to your resume.
Are you on key? Does the tone of your resume and cover letter fit the description? Do you meet all of the requirements? Do you have examples?
Do you have a unique voice? What do you bring to the table that your other competitors don’t?
Can you take songs people have heard millions of times and make it stand out? There are millions of lawyers and accountants and teachers and nurses, but if you are in any of those fields there’s still only one you. You specialize in something, you may have come from another field that makes you have a different perspective on how you’re doing what you do now. You may have volunteered in another country, or had to use your skills in other ways. Play that up.
Rule number seven: Did you really read the job description? Use similar terminology the job description uses in your resume and cover letter so the machines can pick up the terms and match them. Say exactly how you meet each requirement and give an example.
Rule number nine: Don’t waste your time on long shots. Don’t apply to positions that are way out of your league and don’t apply to junior positions if you have a lot of experience. You have to strike the right balance. Conserve your energy so you can concentrate on researching the company, rereading the job description so you can write an amazing cover letter and resume for jobs you have a real shot at getting.
Rule number nine: Don’t lie. This should be obvious, but do not lie or over embellish. There have been instances where people lied about credentials and were exposed several years later having to step down or being fired in shame. It’s never worth it. People also tend to lie about salary in hopes of getting a bump. It’s not worth it either. Report the truth, and ask for what you’re worth when it’s time to discuss the offer. If you can back it up, you’ll be surprised when companies step up.
Rule number 10: Say thank you.This goes back to kindergarten, but thank folks for their time and consideration. Don’t forget to include your contact information so someone can get back to you!
Bonus Rule: Have someone else look at your resume and give feedback. If you know someone who is an HR professional, that’s even better! Do you know writers or copy editors? Let them have a look too. They can provide some insight on things you should put more emphasis on, and things you can leave out.