As long as I’ve been an independent career coach (25 years) and career columnist (19 years), I’ve insisted that it’s not enough for a résumé to be great; it must also be current. It’s still true—more so than ever—for three reasons that have always been there and a fourth reason that’s becoming more compelling each day.
First, anything can happen at any time, including losing your job in an instant. Just ask the 22 million-plus Americans in March and April of 2020 alone. Therefore, you never know when you’ll need an up-to-date résumé in a New York minute. We happen to be in a great job market right now—in fact, the greatest in history—but one never knows.
Second, it’s part of proactive networking. The cardinal rule of networking—ABC (Always Be Connecting)—means being ready at any moment to follow up and follow through with an up-to-date résumé after a chance meeting that, all of a sudden, creates an opportunity.
Third, your memory isn’t as good as you think. Can you remember everything you did since the last time you updated your résumé? Every project, committee, accomplishment or result? Of course not! No one can. As time moves on, we tend to forget details first, bigger ideas soon after, and then we forget entire episodes that should be in the résumé.
Those three are plenty of justification for regular updates, but of late, here comes the fourth. With more and more jobs requiring new technology skills, chances are you’ve picked some of them up since the last time you updated—at least, if you’ve been diligent about your career development. And these new skills might well be what your next employer is looking for.
Yet with all that said, not one résumé I received since the pandemic began—not one!—was completely current when it landed in my inbox. I’m sure of that zero number because I always ask.
For the purpose of context, I use the pandemic timeframe because—if you remember March and April of 2020 alone—well, it happened in a heartbeat. And where were everyone’s résumésé Truth is, this condition of out-of-date résumés has always existed; it’s just that the pandemic magnified it.
But it hasn’t changed, and if you’d like to check me on that, pull up your own résumé. See?
That should be all the proof you need that your résumé needs a regular maintenance schedule, just like for your car, dental visits and changing your central AC’s filters. No one ever disagrees with that statement, but no one seems to practice what they preach either. So the question becomes: What does “regular” look like? The answer is every six months without fail.
Every time I write about this, I get a flurry of résumés to review. OK, that’s what I do. But then, inevitably, the first step is to ask for updated content, which leads to a prolonged process for reasons stated above—usually when time is of the essence and scarcer than what would be comfortable.
So, here are a few suggestions to make this easier and more automatic.
Keep a log. Take 15 minutes each week to jot down the things you’ve done. Surely it won’t be major, earth-shattering accomplishments every week, but that’s all the more reason to keep ongoing records. Eventually, that project is over or that committee finishes its work. The end result is important, but often some of the details embellish the story.
While you’re keeping that log, regularly review your emails and other correspondence. You’ll find nuggets in there, for sure.
Regularly review your goals and objectives. These are your accomplishments waiting to happen and things you get evaluated on. As you reach them, they’re really writing your résumé for you.
Every six months, critically examine your six-month-old résumé. Is that last bullet point on the job from 17 years ago still significant? Are the results from one of your most recent accomplishments still coming in? Has that client base you expanded to 200 clients grown to 250 since? Have revenues continued to climb since you were promoted out of that job a year ago? As time passes, things should naturally fall off your résumé as newer ones prevail.
Mark your calendar ahead of time with your update dates. Adhere to this schedule. Maintain your résumé like you service your car—regularly—so when you need it, it will be in good running condition. Inertia is a killer.
The idea is to keep great résumés great by keeping them current. It makes things a lot easier than having to go through the laborious ritual of hashing it all out at once.
A little of that has to happen by nature of the task. But this doesn’t have to be Sisyphean.
Career Coach Eli Amdur provides one-on-one coaching in job search, résumés and interviewing.
Reach him at [email protected] or 201-357-5844.