the secret to writing unique, professional, and intriguing resume bullets

Let me guess … you don’t like resume writing. And I wouldn’t blame you.

There’s a lot riding on crafting resume content. To elaborate on why this is so important, your resume content gives employers information about your self-esteem, what you get offered in the way of renumeration should you receive a job offer, in addition to providing clues about what you might be like to meet or work with in person. And let’s not ignore the fact that it needs compelling enough copy for someone that feels overwhelmed or busy to make time to meet you in person. And a lot of the times, this task isn’t their most favorite thing in the world.

Yeah. Who would really be enticed to write under those conditions? Not me. And probably not you either.

So when you sit down to write your resume content, you need to forget about all of that. I did. Which is probably why I got to thinking about what frame of mind I could be in in order to write the very best content I could and helped other people to do the same.

I started to think about if not for all that stuff that I’ve already mentioned, was there anything else standing in the way of writing content for my resume that was unique, professional, and intriguing? And here’s what I came up with …

What you may not have considered is that part of the reason you put pressure on yourself for such a significant task is because you don’t feel like you really know what you’re doing.

Conventional teaching expects us to “get the hang” of writing resume content by looking at samples.

Writing resume content isn’t like writing about something objective that you have perspective on. It’s writing about you doing something (working) which, by its very nature, is something that you have almost no perspective on. This is because we pay more attention to the responses and reactions others have to us than we do to the responses and reactions we have to ourselves in the course of living our day-to-day lives and working in our day-to-day careers.

Just watch yourself as you think about writing a shopping list compared to writing a resume. The contrasting emotional response should tell you that writing resume content is a big deal.

It’s scary stuff because your ability to survive and thrive in the world is riding on your ability to see your career path with clarity and explain how it’s a fit with who you are with equal clarity.

You have complete freedom for the task ahead of you, which is limited only by the bounds of resume creation, to decide how to stir the mutual desire in someone you’ve never met, to meet for an interview.

(Yes .. it totally feels like the dating scene.)

When creating resume content doesn’t go well, it’s because the content that you agonized over or rushed through (or a combination of both) falls into one or more of three categories:

:: One is where the bullets read like a laundry list of all the things that you were responsible for or took part in at work. It doesn’t say how or why.

This kind of writing tells the reader that you see them as someone just looking for “a bum in a seat” who “ticks all the boxes” for employment. And sometimes an employer is looking for that, but if they can get better than that, you know they’ll take it.

:: Another kind of content is the direct opposite of the sparsely worded resume. It’s the resume that’s “chock a block” full of text. And if you look closely within this category the abundance of content falls into two sub-categories –

Lots of words that don’t actually say anything specific. It’s flowery, flowing and probably reads as (ahem) padded; or

Is very specific about nothing that you actually want to spend your day doing because the content is written for the opposite of the job that you actually want.

This second category “happens” when your unacknowledged thoughts and secret motivations direct you to feel bad in the jobs you’ve had. In earlier articles, you examined that these were likely derived from parts of your childhood that socialized your understanding of acceptable vs. unacceptable thoughts/behavior/attitudes.

Also, perhaps you didn’t have parents that looked like they much enjoyed their work. And so what you ended up doing in adulthood was unconsciously maintain these mental patterns that control your outward behavior in an effort to create a sense of predictability and acceptability leftover from childhood.

In our families of origin it was shameful to name things that we saw or questioned in childhood, so realizing any of this is part of the “inner work” needed to value how you spend your time whether at work or not.

When it comes to struggling with resume content, you may be battling in the background a secret judgment you have that says “loving your work” isn’t really possible, which is the same as thinking that “loving yourself isn’t really possible.” This historical part of you probably believes that loving your work is a “new age idea” or “fashionable thing to say” that doesn’t have a place in “reality.” And because you think, “Nobody really wants to work if they didn’t have to. Everyone’s in denial,” you unwittingly do yourself the disservice of making sure that’s true for you and it shows up in your resume.

You’ll notice that reading the content of a resume is boring or flat or uninspiring because it’s trying to hide a low sense of self-worth. You leave it up to the employer to see the forest from the trees, as they say. As a result, you might be trying to be non-offensive in your resume, which ends up being non-descript.

Whereas in my resume writing methodology, I am advocating that you foster a strong sense of preference in the reader by being more definitive. Either the reader really knows that they want to meet you OR really knows that they don’t.

Sound scary? It did to me too once, but cultivating strong preferences in ourselves and others is how we end up liking what we do for work. And trying to be non-descript and interchangeable with others is how we end up not liking what we do for work.

Through the process of definition you will become more effective and joyous because you are no longer wasting your most valuable asset that’s completely irreplaceable: Time.

:: The third kind of resume content is one that blends lists with longer bullets in which the reader is left trying to make sense of the “data” they’ve been presented with. This presentation of your writing says that you’re trying to be all things to all people or that you don’t really know what you want and would like someone else to figure that out for you. Chances are too that your writing styles and information are conflicting – for example, statements like, “loves being on team” and “enjoys working alone” appear on the same page – which is it when and why? The resume has all the latest “right things to say and do” on it, and in essence, that’s what makes reading it feel strange and contrived.

Having said all that let me be perfectly clear before we move on: If your resume contains writing reflecting any of these descriptors or evokes any of the sentiments I’ve mentioned, I’m not saying that what you are doing is wrong.

You’ve worked and you’ve gotten work with your resume. So acknowledge that. You’re reading this and entertaining what I’m presenting here and doing what I’ve outlined because you’re re-visioning the whole concept of what a resume is as part of the Resume Project because you want something different. To be more self-determining in how you approach the work that you procure for yourself. You want your time in this life to feel like it matters. In fact, part of you is starting to insist on that.

Finding work and doing work that is congruent with your being that you also get paid for is something that you play a very crucial role in. And like it or not, a lot of people would still prefer to read about you before they see you.

A resume – yes, a piece of paper that you author and give to people to decide whether or not they’d like to meet you in person – has a lot of authority. That’s nothing to take for granted.

A second thing I’d like to be perfectly clear about is: This doesn’t mean that you need to be a brilliant writer to have a resume that you feel pleased and peaceful about offering to people. What this does mean is that you need to regard resume creation as a skill. It’s not something that you are born knowing how to do, nor should you “just know.” It’s something that is learned but isn’t very well taught most of the time.

So if you don’t like your own resume content, how it’s written, what it says about you, how you feel about it (and whatever else) … I can’t blame you. So you shouldn’t either. But it’s entirely your call.

Remember, I’ve done this 300 times and counting. I’ve learned some stuff. Figured out some stuff and I’m going to explain a process to you that not only gets your best resume bullets to show themselves to you, but that also simultaneously prepares you for any interview (whether it’s a networking, information, or job interview) and, and, and … it also helps you learn how to navigate the world of job postings and work opportunities. I strongly believe in using your energy very wisely.

In subsequent articles I will be more specific about how to use your resume created from pure clarity for the latter purposes, I just thought you might be interested to know that bit of information up front.

Resume bullet writing is not easy. And there’s a perfectly good reason for that. You will notice that resume bullet content isn’t written like a normal sentence.
Am I right?

In your resume, you don’t write “you” or “I”, for example. And there are innumerably more nuances that differ resume writing from any other kind of writing.

Resume writing is not like writing an essay, or a letter, or a report, a script, or a shopping list, or a tweet, or a press release, or a newsletter, or even a blog. In fact, if you have ever engaged in any of the aforementioned “types” of writing, you can probably bring to mind things about them that make them distinct from each other.

Writing resume bullets is … (ready?!) almost like learning to write poetry (but not the kind that rhymes … obviously … that would be weird).

Let’s look at how and why first before you think what I think you’re thinking (which is: “Is she mad?” Well, yes. Sort of. I’m freely and willingly writing about something that most people would rather stick needles in their eyes than do, so yes, I am sort of mad):

Poetry, in the words of one of my favorite poets, David Whyte, is a language without defenses.

Resume bullets need to have that same quality in order to be truly effective. What this means is that resume bullets ultimately need to say what is essential and nothing more. So poetry, like resume content, places high value on word economy and vocabulary resonance.

Poetry is poetry because of the precise wording (both in terms of placement and choice).

Resume bullets are given the same kind of painstaking and time-consuming consideration as each word in a poem (if the process is not first abandoned during the inner struggle unfolding in the face of a looming deadline).

Considerations like: Which jobs to include? How should the jobs be categorized? What should the job titles be? What word choice(s) best represent me and are the word choices right for the intended reader (especially if you’re looking for work in a new field)? All of these decisions are nothing short of what it takes to successfully communicate in a resume and strongly reminiscent of poetry.

Poetry takes something that seems “every day” and changes your perception so that what you took for granted is now infused with significance and meaning.

Poetry takes a small, tiny, or even miniscule aspect of “being alive” or “noticing” and blows ever so softly on the embers of a faint impression or memory in an effort to bring something into the realm of the known and appreciated. This is why a poem that resonates with you can so effortlessly draw you into stillness.

Resume bullets ask you to give attention to what you do and to precisely articulate how you do it (it’s highly likely that you’ve been taking “your special how” completely for granted). Resume bullets read as a “reflection in action” that invites the reader into a way of perceiving, seeing, and interacting with the world that is specifically you.

You’re drawing attention to a detail and creating connections and references to it in the way that a trembling leaf in the morning light speaks to someone about a lost memory, a loved one, or a realization about existence.

Without acknowledging and accepting what a resume is asking of you, it makes it hard to write something that has so much influence over what you do with most of your time during the week, your quality of living, and your level of peace within.

But before you get any ideas here, the reason I use poetry as the metaphor for resume bullet writing isn’t to scare or intimidate or even lure, or excite you. I wanted to convey that this is a reflective process more than it is a writing process. And that most of the resume writing that you will do has to do with your ability to make peace with the act of reflecting:

– Taking the time to be discerning;

– Releasing your impatience with being alive; and

– Understanding that to talk about and represent yourself on a piece of paper is something of value in this world – both literally and figuratively.

Our discomfort around the resume’s significance drives us away from the task of writing it or finds us doing it through a wall of resistance (making it both exhausting and producing results that distort ourselves to both the world and us).

It’s time to stop fighting your existence and instead get to know it better than anyone else by turning toward it. You’ll know you’ve done this when your existence doesn’t feel like a painful thing to get through, but rather something that is worth your time, energy, and resources.

I am grateful to be the one writing this for you more so than I can ever relate to you. And I do want you to do well and be happy. And I know that if you’re reading this, it’s because you know you want to do a bit better in that department too.

[So here’s (yet another) aside because I’d be thinking it if you’re not already:

If you’re the cynical type like I was, you’re wondering why – why would she do this? It’s because I know that very few people are willing to pay for resume help. They get their help from generic resume services and/or consult a resume book (which they will buy, borrow, or steal from friends). And sometimes you get the help you need from those resources. And sometimes when you’re ready to evolve from who you have been up to this moment, the help that you got before doesn’t seem adequate anymore.

And to my knowledge there’s no one explaining resumes how I’m explaining resumes. And basically if I didn’t share this knowledge and insight in this way, how else would I be able to ask you to believe that what I had to say was anything different from what’s already been written? I mean, do you have any idea how many people “pat my head” with their comments when I tell them I’ve got a thing for resumes? They think we’re talking about the same thing and I maintain that we’re not even though we’re using the same word. So I’ve stopped telling people. Instead, this is my way of showing you.

I never want to forget the agony that I felt in how I approached my work. And I trace that agony back to making myself write my resume while not liking myself and definitely not wanting to admit it. I really hated how I felt and I knew that I already knew more than what other people knew about writing resumes. So I was done with mainstream help. It would have felt at least hopeful to know that there was a new way to orient to resume content before I had taken a career tumble. But my tumble (that made me respect my existence more than anything else before) resulted in a new way of approaching something that a lot of career help professionals question whether or not we need anymore. And for that I’m grateful because very few processes help people talk about themselves in a way that feels professional + authentic.)

I also want you to know that, it’s really important to me that you do not feel stupid or silly about what your resume content may look or feel like now. That’s not helpful. Hopefully you’ve been able to have some compassion for why you have written as you have if you’ve been reading and actively participating in the Resume Project. There’s no reason to feel that having a resume that you like that gets you results that you want is beyond your ability from where you are now.]

And I didn’t tell you about the poetry thing because you’re going to learn how to write poetry for your resume. What you are going to do is recognize the shards of poetry that make good resume bullet writing (through some refining techniques) by engaging in a human process as old as human kind itself … story-telling.

In the sections that follow on the art and science of creating unique resume bullets, I’m going to teach you about career story-telling. I will explain exactly what I have done with my clients to help them create resume bullets that make them feel like they are living pieces of poetry at work in the world.

Stay tuned …

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