Let’s explore the important theme of truth and how truth is related to an effective resume and cover letter. It sounds simple, but actually there are some not-so-obvious layers of meaning that you need to master.
What does the truth-theme have to do with your resumes and cover letters?
Your resume is an extension and representation of your professional self. Of course, you put your best foot forward when you craft your resume. But, in essence, your resume represents what you have done and what you can do. Truthfully.
If your resume is a representation of your professional self, then truth should be your guiding light in terms of telling the story of what you have done and what you are ready to do next.
There is simply no point in portraying yourself as something you are not. Even if you were to get past the interview stage, which is unlikely, a) you would be miserable as you struggled to live up to the expectations you set, and b) you would be found out very quickly once on the job.
At a basic, but important level is factual truth. You must not misrepresent the facts about your qualifications or work history on your resume. Period. End-of-story. This subject gets a lot of press and justifiably so. I encourage you to simply avoid the temptation, if there is any, to either directly lie or even stretch the truth when it comes to developing your resume. The reasons why are obvious.
You also want to steer clear of misrepresenting the truth when it comes to less “factual” and concrete resume areas like your responsibilities, the projects you worked on, and what you have achieved.
So, I have covered what not to do. But, there is another side to the truth-based career management theme, a side that can be a powerful lever. You see, one of your jobs as you manage your career, and the sooner the better, is to figure out what you are really, really good at. What drives you and gives you energy. Where you fit. And, how you work.
If you look carefully, you will likely find that the times in your life when you really did a great job, and had fun doing it, were the times when you were in your zone on the above topics. Strengths. Interests. Fit. Drive.
This is the truth about your professional self.
And, this is what needs to find itself onto your resume.
And cover letters.
Hopefully, culminating in a hand-in-glove fit with your next job.
This is an opportunity, therefore, to tell the truth about who you are and what you can do for your prospective employer. But, it requires some work on your part. When you write your resume or update it, you will likely start with what I call level 1, which is describing the job responsibilities you have held and your qualifications. That part is easy.
Then, you need to get to level 2, which is what did you actually achieve. What difference did you make? Remember that magic formula of Challenge – Action – Result. This is where the formula comes in. Go back to that level one data and figure out what you actually achieved.
Level 3 is where you add information about the context, or environment of the experiences you have had. You see, context is a hidden gem in your professional history.
Let me illustrate: Are all accounting manager jobs equal? No, of course not. Industries are different. Public vs. private companies are different. Profit vs. not-for-profit is relevant. The size of the company makes a big difference. Even beyond this, there can be other differences. A team of 1, or many? Is the company growing, shrinking, or steady-state? Is the department going through significant change? And, what is the situation with the accounting manager’s boss? I could go on.
You see, every role exists in a context, and when you performed that job, you operated in that context. That is part of the truth that you need to squeeze out of your resume development.
You still need to dig down one level to level 4 and think about what all of this means. When you look at your professional background, what are your strengths? What capabilities do you possess? Where and how do you want to apply these next in your career? What evidence do you have to back up these assertions? This is where you engage in messaging. Selectively rewording, adding and culling so that your resume elegantly portrays you as a unique individual in the job market.
There you have how to develop a truth-inspired resume.
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