A common ambition which my clients tell me about almost every day is: “I want to secure an interview for a job opportunity that’s somewhat above my current level of experience.”
First, a disclaimer: there are no magic solutions. Not even a professionally written resume or most clever resume ideas can magically substitute real-world experience. If you’re freshly minted team leader, for example, you will not skyrocket into a VP role overnight by reading my resume tips.
However, if you’re a few whisks away from where you want to be, there are some things you can do to your resume in order to help you bridge that gap.
(By the way, to further improve your resume writing skills, check out my library of advanced resume writing guides here).
Let’s say you’re a CFO and you feel that you’re ready for a CEO role. Or you’re a talented supply chain team leader with aspirations of becoming a manager.
It may not surprise you to hear that the most challenging and frustrating part of “moving up” is not the interview process; it is getting your resume noticed by the right person.
Since I’ve consistently had success in helping people reach their desired level, I want to share a few ideas with you that you can apply to your resume.
1. What Do They Want?
Closely examine and understand the key criteria expected of you in your future dream job. For example, most mid- to senior roles will require you to demonstrate the following competencies:
- Ability to think strategically.
- Ability to lead and inspire people.
Your first reaction might be “those are not my strengths” or “I don’t have enough results to back that up”. That’s a perfectly normal reaction, however you might be surprised at what you can uncover if you flesh out your day-to-day responsibilities.
2. What Do You Have To Offer?
If you’re like most people, there are often times when you’re “acting” above your current level of responsibility. Your main goal, then, is to make your resume “act” above your current position.
By no means am I suggesting the addition of duties beyond your capabilities or remit.
I’m talking about viewing your experience with the same lens that a great tax accountant views your bank statements – that is, looking for opportunities to “claim” every bit of relevant experience and ensure that every result which you mention jumps off the page to make you look like a high performer.
A. Your PM Experience.
90% of people have project management experience, but I rarely see it on a resume (unless talking to a bona fide PM).
Being a good project manager requires advanced leadership skill, yet I see it shrugged off, as “just part of my job”.
Successfully defining requirements, creating solutions, planning, costing and most importantly, getting a team of people to deliver, on time, makes you a leader.
It also requires you to think big picture. Projects come with many different purposes, but generally they all require you to deliver a solution to a business problem. And to prescribe a remedy, you must first diagnose the patient. Then you must plan their recovery.
Project management requires you to take a view of the total business to figure out not only what will work, but that it won’t have an adverse effect elsewhere, and that it contributes to the overarching business vision.
Likewise, participating in working groups, even if not chairing or leading them, requires meaningful, insightful and considered input, generally on wider subjects than just the day-to-day.
If you’ve been part of a change committee, a best practice panel or a strategic working group, you’ve had an impact on strategy, so state it.
B. Your Management Experience.
Likewise, management is often severely under-reported on resumes.
Let’s look at the stick and the carrot. The stick is where we tell people to do it (because they should). The carrot is where people follow you (because they believe, and want, the result you offer).
The golden carrot is where you’ve inspired a change in a working culture, a team or an individual AND have delivered a tangible result by doing so. The best thing about it is that you probably have an example of such a time (and it’s not on your resume).
Perhaps you were assigned an under-performing team to mentor and, as a result, they turned around their performance in 3 months? The critical part is demonstrating on your resume how you did this.
- Did you develop an incentive plan to motivate them?
- Did you identifying a training gap?
- Did you communicating high-level strategy to make them feel involved?
If you find that you indeed haven’t had any people management responsibility you can demonstrate your success in customer leadership or internal stakeholder management.
Cajoling people who aren’t in your team and who are busy with their own workloads and reporting lines to follow your agenda is hard; doing so demonstrates a critical set of leadership skills including the abilities to influence, persuade, communicate and of course, inspire.
C. Your Achievements.
My bugbear. Pointing to the fact that you were successful in your role just won’t cut it. If I had a cent for every time I’ve seen sentences like this..
“Successful in retaining and growing customer base year on year.”
…I’d be quite rich!
Instead of stating generic platitudes, boast about the detail. Be as empirically specific as you possibly can:
- What exactly did you do?
- How did you do it?
- What was the exact outcome (with quantifiable numbers, either $ or %, where at all possible)?
Start with writing the achievement first, for impact:
“Achieved a 20% uplift in corporate account revenue for FY14 following delivery of a customer growth initiative, targeting customers who hadn’t had a face-to-face account review in 6 months.”
Has a punch, doesn’t it?
By doing this, you’ve shown not only that you get results, but also that you have a high-level business awareness, an ability to think beyond the day to day, and that – crucially – you can attribute actions to outcomes, as well as vice versa.
Now go get that promotion!