Resumés are often regarded as a kind of life history. It’s an intuitive enough position—after all, what’s a resumé if not a presentation of one’s history of employment and other such life experiences? Add in a little bit of reverse-chronological order, and you’ve got a recipe for a resumé that’s soundly about one thing: the past.
There’s only one problem with this proposition: your resumé ought to be influenced to a far greater extent by your future, not your past. Here’s why.
Your resumé is about where you want to go, not where you’ve been.
A well-written resumé says a whole lot more about what a person is capable of contributing than simply the tasks they’ve completed in the past. This makes a whole lot more sense with a subtle shift into the employer’s perspective. Resumé readers aren’t interested in knowing what you’ve done simply for the sake of knowing that you’ve done it. Instead, they want to know how what you’ve done illustrates what you are capable of doing in the future—for them.
Your resumé states an intention about what you want.
What kind of a message are you sending about what you really want if your resumé is all about the things that you decidedly do not want? A resumé that’s focused on the past is likely to lead a reader to believe that the applicant wants to do those things again. This is a particularly salient issue for career changers, but it’s a good idea for anyone to ask a few questions whenever updating a resumé:
• “Would I happily do all of the things I talked about on my resumé again?”
• “From reading this resumé, what does it seem like I want to do?”
• “If I were to summarize this resumé in one sentence, what would it say?”
Focusing on your future helps to target your resumé to the position.
There’s a very practical benefit to having a future-oriented resumé, as well. Just as generic resumés are likely to make a negative impression on readers, resumés that are specifically targeted to address the specific needs and skill areas of a job description are bound to draw lots of positive attention. The process of targeting a resumé to a specific position is necessarily future-based, as it requires applicants to envision themselves in the desired role. In order to determine what skills and experience will make the best impression on readers, applicants must think about what the job will require, before deciding how to discuss their past experiences.
So, does the word “history” appear on your current resumé? If so, it might be time to ditch your attachment to the past, and start thinking about your future.
You know, like your parents are always telling you to do?