Make It Work: Update Your Resume, Please

Updating your resume is on par with doing your taxes and cleaning your bathroom — a task that is unpleasant and irritatingly time-consuming, but absolutely necessary every once in a while. Chances are, your resume hasn’t been updated since the last time you were looking for work. I should update my resume, you think to yourself. Real adults have updated resumes, regularly wash their sheets and leave a set of spare keys with a responsible friend. But, you probably haven’t done it yet, because the thought of sitting down to redo this ridiculous document is the last thing you actually want to do. That’s fine! I get it. It’s horrible. But if you regularly update it, you will feel like an accomplished adult who is always ready to apply for her dream job at a moment’s notice. When you finally bite the bullet and decide to give that outdated, musty thing a refresher, here are some things to keep in mind.

1. You don’t have to list EVERY job you’ve ever had. Trust me.

I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life. For a while, they were all on my resume, the font getting progressively smaller and smaller, until I realized that there was absolutely no way I could cram everything I’ve done professionally onto one page. And you should never have a multi-page resume. Unless you’re in academia, and 3-4 page CVs are the norm, try and keep your resume to one tight, short, page. The next time I have to undertake a job search, I’m removing the first three jobs I’ve ever had from my resume to save space and maintain relevancy. I’ve managed to wiggle my way out of one career and into another, so half of my resume is irrelevant to the work that I’m currently doing. Sitting in an interview and having to explain away my three years working in online advertising sales isn’t fun and also distracts from the fact that I’m qualified to do other stuff— the stuff that I am ostensibly being interviewed for. If a lot of the work that you’ve done or jobs that you’ve held aren’t relevant to your current career goals, get rid of them. For a while, I dragged those jobs around on my resume, copying and pasting them from one form to the next, thinking to myself that I would be asked on the spot to explain what would’ve looked like a three-year gap in my work life. That has never happened.

2. Use regular English to describe what it is you did.

I think it’s tempting to use the horrible business vocabulary that we use every day at work on resumes, in an attempt to prove that you are actually qualified for the job, but don’t be swayed. If you do happen to get whatever job you’re applying for, they’re probably not going to hire you because you were able to use “incentivize” in a sentence. Also, business-speak is the devil. If you managed people, say that. If you spent a lot of time in meetings and brainstorms, say that, too. You will inevitably find yourself falling into the trap of reaching for the low-hanging fruit when you ideate on some turnkey activations once you get the job, so preserve your dignity and the English language by speaking clearly on your resume. Remember, every part of your job application is up for examination.

3. Keep it simple, stupid.

So, you could stand out with fancy paper, some flashy graphic, or a subtle leopard print motif that runs throughout each section. Or, you could just make your resume as plain as possible. Either is fine, but I recommend striking a balance between the two. Now is not the time to experiment with that swirly serif font you bought one day when you thought you were going to become a graphic designer or to teach yourself how to use Adobe Illustrator. If you’re at a complete loss for how to make your resume look good, look for a template online and fancy it up, but don’t go insane. Just make it look clean and simple. The person looking at it just wants to see the information it contains, not your burgeoning design aesthetic.

4. Spellcheck, for the love of god.

Yes, maybe you’re really good at eyeballing things and making sure there are no errors, but just use the tools given to you by technology and USE SPELLCHECK. No excuses.

5. Make sure that everything you’ve written is accurate — and/or be ready to back it up.

The truth can be flexible, but if you stretch it well beyond its boundaries, it will snap and break, like the elastic on your saddest, most depressing period underwear. There’s a fine line between massaging the truth so it feels a little more impressive and outright making shit up. You can lie if you want to, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a deep pocket of trusted confidantes willing to back up whatever you just lied about. And even then, you’ll probably get caught eventually.

6. Update it regularly and often, or just have it at the ready.

I have a friend who treats updating her resume like it is a day-long activity, fraught with nerves, anxiety and endless self-reflection. It’s not that serious! If you keep it updated when you think of it, you won’t have to sit down and overhaul it completely the next time you want to apply for a job. Just update your resume when relevant and you’ll always be ready to go for whatever dream opportunity might come your way.