How to Write a Resume: 6 Steps to Take Before You Write

Last Updated Feb 3, 2011 11:18 AM EST

There is a lot of advice out there about how long a resume should be (depends on the job), whether you should mention short term jobs (depends on the job) and if you should proofread and use spell check (yes). But before you can sort out what to include and begin to write your resume, you have to assemble a complete picture of everything you've done, all your accomplishments, skills and experiences.

Getting started can be the hardest part. Here is a list of things you need to gather before you write your resume.
  1. Locate a copy of your latest resume. The organized among us are saying, "Duh. It's on my computer labeled Resume2011." But there are some out there who haven't looked for their resume since they were hired in their current job in 2002. If you look, look, look and still can't find it, ask the HR department, very nicely, if they will open your personnel file and make you a copy of your own resume. Worried that your boss could be notified of your request and become convinced (and agitated) that you're leaving? In large companies, it's doubtful the HR records keepers ever talk to your boss. They won't care why you want it. But, if you work in a smaller office, and think that your request might cause problems, don't do it.
  2. List every position you've held since you wrote your last resume. Remember that you can have many different jobs within the same company. Promotions, lateral transfers, random title changes--write them all down. Don't forget the temporary jobs, the consulting and the volunteering, either.
  3. Compile a list of the tasks you handled. You changed the toilet paper in the bathroom? Write that down. At this point, you shouldn't try to filter out the "unimportant." What you want to do is write it all down because that may help jog your memory of the critical assignments you handled.
  4. Scour your performance reviews. Keep an eye out for numbers. Profits, budget dollars, number of employees supervised, all this data should be added to your list. The achievements that you or your manager cited also likely will become key points in your resume. If you didn't keep them, your boss should have copies.
  5. Gather your education/certifications/licenses. Everyone knows they need to mention their college degree on their resume, but have you taken continuing ed classes? A class in flower arranging that was just for fun? Jot that down--it may prove helpful later.
  6. Brainstorm a list of your technical skills. Computer programs, machine operations, etc. If you can do it write it down.
Once you have all the information gathered together, writing the resume becomes the easy part.

Related: Photo by Yemisi Blake, Flickr cc 2.0

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