A Good Resume Is About Your Future, Not Your Past

"A good resume is about your future, it's not about your past." This is the mantra I've repeated for more than 20 years as a professional resume writer. It's been my compass for writing God knows how many resumes and for answering a whole bunch more resume questions. It's also the basis for my book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume. So, it's no surprise it's come up in a job seeker's resume question. Here we go...

In your book you called a resume a "marketing piece, focused on the future, not on the past." What exactly do you mean by a marketing piece? Are you talking about hype, "salesy" words, colored paper?

A Good Resume Paints a Picture of Your Future, Not Your Past

Hello Luis,
Good question — one that hits at the heart of my resume philosophy. Many job seekers are surprised when I say a good resume is about your future. Since your resume talks about work history, you might assume it's about your past. But the secret to getting a new and exciting job is to write your resume as a marketing piece about your future — not a dry bio about your past.

So, before you even start writing your resume, you need to plan what kind of work you want to do next — that's your future. Then, on your resume, put only items that support that job objective. The result? A resume that works like a marketing piece for your future!

Here's a technique for using this "future" concept in your resume writing:

Imagine that you're an artist with an empty canvas (a piece of paper or your computer screen) in front of you. Your task is to paint a word-picture of yourself at your next job. Use any or all of the following tools to paint that picture:

  1. Experience (for example, former job titles, relevant volunteer work, personal activities, or school projects).
  2. Skills that you'll need at your new job (for example, management, interpersonal, or technical).
  3. Interests that relate to your job objective (for example, the environment, education, or the arts).
  4. Personality traits that make you a good fit for the job (for example, dependability, sense of humor, or ability to communicate).

Pick from these four tools wisely, being sure that each item you put on your resume helps paint the picture of you performing your job objective.

Your Resume, Your Marketing Piece

Here's how this future-focused type of resume works like a good marketing piece. When the employer first glances at your resume he might think he's reading about your past, but as he gets drawn into it, he'll find himself imagining you working for him. That's because when you wrote your resume, you used the four tools above, making sure that everything on your resume closely matches and supports what you want for your next job — your future. That's good marketing!

So, the marketing aspect of your resume is not a bunch of hype, "salesy" words, or slick looks. In fact, I suggest using a professional resume format that has a tasteful design but isn't so creative that it distracts from your good content. That way the resume focus will be on what you have to offer your future employer.

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