I've seen a lot of "fluffy" resumes in my years as a manager. Most of this stems from people who have yet to enter or have been out of the workforce for some time. They say things like, “I have nothing to put on my resume,” or “I don’t know what to put on a LinkedIn profile,” even though they have been using their time and energy in all kinds of ways that could be meaningfully translated to employers.
Many people just don’t know how to translate their skills into the kind of “proof” that hiring managers recognize. A lot of people are doing a lot of things -- on campus and off, but they struggle to make it meaningful on a resume.
In a competitive job market, people use every buzzword possible to make sure their resume makes it through the digital software programs that filter out people who don’t appear to have the requisite skills or experience.
Erin Greenwald wrote a great post about the “10 Words Recruiters Hate Seeing on Your Resume (and 10 they love),” and I laughed out loud at how many times at how I too have seen “results-driven,” and “team player” on a resume and found it pretty meaningless.
I think the most powerful way you can build your confidence on the job market is to make your achievements visible. We all respond to facts, to proof, and to evidence. Showing the evidence of what you know builds confidence and allows you to demonstrate what you’re really capable of contributing to an organization. It’s how you separate your authentic knowledge and experience from the meaningless jargon.
My best advice to job-seekers, new and experienced, is to use portfolios to showcase your best work. It’s one of the most effective ways you can break through the resume-jargon, and put your work where your mouth is.
You say you are an excellent writer?
Drop in a writing sample for me to quickly read. (Hint: your best class paper)
Are you really an effective communicator?
Put a one or two minute clip of you giving a talk in your portfolio so I can see it for myself. (Hint: a class presentation)
Know how to write a marketing plan?
How about showing me a few sample pages that reflect one you’ve written. (Hint: be sure to redact information you shouldn’t share from your previous employer. That let’s me know you’ve got integrity and can keep confidential information private).
Recently, a colleague told me that in the “old days” before we had beautiful ePortfolios to showcase our work. She always did research on the company before an interview, and would customize a short full-color, paper-based portfolio based on the job description. Her paper portfolio had evidence of her previous work experience, which she would walk through with a hiring manager. She always left an interview feeling confident that even if she didn’t get the job, she had shown off her very best skills. In her fifteen-year career in marketing, she was always offered a job after an interview using that strategy.
The world has changed a lot since the old days of paper resumes and portfolios.
That same friend, if she were a new entrant to the job market in today’s world, said she would do so many more things with a beautiful digital portfolio. She would include:
- Videos, flyers and press releases about a protest or event she helped organize on campus or in the community.
- Letters of recommendation that have been written for her for various awards, scholarships, and applications.
- Photos of herself working an after school job
- Photos of herself working in a team to build solar panels, or designing and executing a class project.
- Code for a computer game she made.
- Videos of her running and swimming with her dog, and her volunteer work at the SPCA;
- A video of herself leading a student interest group.
- A secure copy of her transcript, along with a note about how she earned an A+ in a really hard class, Microeconomics, a class that she thought she'd barely pass;
- Photos and video of her travel to another country, and her passion, appreciation and respect for other cultures;
All of these rich experiences communicate passion, grit, empathy, hard work, an ability to work in diverse environments, and a host of skills and attributes that employers are looking for -- even when you don’t have years of work experience.
But one key to building her confidence on the job market includes giving herself credit for all she has done. She can get an incredible boost of confidence from reading her recommendations, seeing evidence of her work, and recognizing for herself how valuable she is to her community.
We could all benefit from these kinds of boosts. We need reminders of our greatness, and we need to see where the gaps are so we can improve ourselves, our experience, and our impact in simple but meaningful ways.
All of this equally applies to people who have been out of the paid workforce, but have been working on projects, volunteering in their communities, or are caring full time for others. You too can translate your organizational skills, time management, and attention to detail in creative ways.
Every day, week, and month we have new wins in life. I cannot stress enough how critical it is to save your best work, projects, and volunteerism in a portfolio you can easily link to from your resume.
I promise you, when you begin to see the evidence of your amazing skills and experience, you will have the confidence you need to apply for (and get) jobs, knowing you were more than just a “synergistic” “go-getter” who could “think outside the box” on “various projects.”