You already know how important your resume is to your job search. But pulling together and organizing all the information you need can be really intimidating. That’s why we’ve created a tool that will make writing your resume easier and more straightforward: a resume worksheet.
“One of the things I realized after working with so many job seekers is a lot of people feel like they don’t know how to articulate what they’ve done,” says Muse career coach Emily Liou, founder of Cultivitae. That’s why she frequently sends her clients a resume worksheet to fill out as a first step in the resume writing process. “Digging into your background and work history takes some deeper reflection,” she says, and it can be crucial to have prompts to guide you.
Going through the exercise of completing a detailed resume worksheet can do more than just help you write a standout resume. All that time spent thinking about what you’ve accomplished and what you’re proud of is “really helpful for you to build your confidence during your job search,” Liou says. Plus, having it all fresh in your mind also primes you to answer common interview questions that ask you to speak to specific situations and examples.
To get your job search off to a good start, download The Muse’s resume worksheet here and read on for advice on how to use it effectively.
Who Should Use a Resume Worksheet?
The truth is that anybody could benefit from starting over with a resume worksheet. When you sit down with an existing document, it can be hard to see clearly how you can make significant changes. You might be tied to the format, sections, and bullets you already have, Liou says, and it’s so easy to overlook what might be missing entirely. If you’re looking to refresh or revamp your resume for any reason, even if it’s just because it hasn’t been getting you the results you’re looking for, it might be worth stepping away from what you have and filling out a resume worksheet to help you get some new perspective.
However, a resume worksheet can be particularly helpful for:
- Students, new grads, or anyone making their first resume: If you simply don’t have a resume because you’ve never had to make one before, the process can seem overwhelming. You might not be sure what goes on a resume in the first place or how to begin writing it out. A resume worksheet can help steer you in the right direction.
- Anyone who hasn’t made a new resume in years: If you’ve been at the same job or company for a long time or otherwise have a dusty resume that’s years behind your career, it can help to start with a worksheet.
- Folks returning to work after a gap: If you’ve taken time away from the workforce—whether you did it to raise children, care for a loved one, or for any other reason—starting with a worksheet can help give you the prompts you need to jog your memory and help you write your resume upon your return.
- Career changers: If you’re looking to make a pivot into a new kind of role or a different industry, your old resume may have been great at getting you your current job, but might not be very helpful getting you your next one. A resume worksheet can help you make a new, relevant resume that highlights your transferable skills and sets you up to land the role you want next.
- Job seekers relocating or returning from another country: If you’re moving to the U.S. from another country and have only ever made a CV (or curriculum vitae) or otherwise never had an American resume, a resume worksheet can help you get started writing a resume to land you a job in the U.S.
11 Tips for Using Our Resume Worksheet
Downloading the worksheet is easy enough. Here are 11 quick tips to ensure you’re getting the most out of it:
1. Decide How You’re Using This Worksheet
Do you know what kind of job you want? If the answer is yes, keep those jobs in mind as you think back and try to identify and describe relevant experiences and accomplishments. If you’re not quite sure yet what you want to do next, that’s OK! You can get started anyway filling out the resume worksheet with anything and everything you can think of—make it your “kitchen sink” worksheet, as Muse career coach Heidi Ravis says, and you can pick and choose what to transfer to your actual resume later.
2. Do Some Research
Before you start filling out your resume worksheet, you might find it helpful to do a little research. If you’re not familiar with resumes at all, start by reading our basic guide on how to make one (or our advice on college resumes, career changer resumes, or any other situation that’s specific to you).
If you already know what kind of roles you’re interested in, pull up some sample job descriptions to get a feel for what companies are looking for, because it’s “good to write a resume for the job you want rather than the job you have,” says Ravis.
We’ve also included links throughout the worksheet that you can use to read up on particular resume sections or elements and see examples of what they might look like in practice, to help you understand what you’re filling in and why.
3. Set Aside Time and Space
Make sure you give yourself some uninterrupted time and space to tackle the worksheet, Liou says. She recommends setting aside at least 50 minutes in an environment that’s conducive to concentration and deep thinking for you. That might mean going to a coffee shop or just sitting in your favorite chair at home with your favorite music playing in the background.
“Often we have so many other distractions or thoughts we tend to say, ‘I don’t know, I’ll come back to this later,’” Liou says. “When we can give ourselves our intentional space and time, I personally think that’s where the gold comes from. We get into our groove.” So make this your top priority for an hour and get as far as you can, she says. If you have to stop after that, schedule another session for yourself later.
4. Don’t Overthink It
“People get paralyzed by perfection,” says Liou. “Don’t overanalyze or overthink it, just start.” As you’re filling out your worksheet, don’t worry if it’s messy or if there are typos or if you’re not sure what and how you’ll end up saying on your actual resume. For now, just try to get something down on paper. You can always revise or refine it.
5. Warm Yourself Up
You can start by filling in basic information—like your name and contact information and the details of your past jobs, education, volunteer experience, and more. “Do the easy parts first, just the factual stuff,” Ravis says. It’s usually less daunting to start there, though you might have to pull up some records to confirm dates and other details. “What’s harder is going back and figuring out what it all means and where to take it.”
6. Really Dig Into Accomplishments
“Most employers aren’t interested in having a list of what you did. They want to know what kind of difference you made,” Ravis says. While it’s important to include some information about your responsibilities and day-to-day tasks, you should make sure to focus your time and attention on your accomplishments and impact as you fill out your worksheet. Ravis recommends thinking through questions like: “What did people comment on when I was there? Did I win awards? Did I turn things around in some way? Did I meet or exceed my goals every quarter I was there? Did I develop something new?”
7. Talk It Through With Someone
You don’t have to go through the resume-writing process all by yourself. “If you can talk through some of the stuff with another person that can be really helpful,” Ravis says. For example, if you’re really struggling to identify what your accomplishments were in a certain role, you can reach out to a former supervisor or colleague you keep in touch with and talk to them about it. Ask them questions like, “What were your impressions of my contributions to this project?”
You can also chat with a friend or family member; sometimes just talking about something out loud with another person can help you find your momentum.
8. Remember It’s Easier to Trim and Finesse Later
Even if you’re not sure what exactly you want to do or what’s important to include on your eventual resume, you want to have something to work on, Ravis says. “Start with getting all the info out there, just writing it all down,” she says. “The first part is just a data dump. The next part is shaping.”
The great thing about a resume worksheet is that you can feel free to write down everything you think of without worrying about whether it will fit on one or two pages. “It’s easier to work with more and whittle it down,” Liou says. If you write down a paragraph now describing a certain project you worked on, you can always come back to it later and ask yourself, “How do I state this with a power verb and make this one sentence?” she says. “Sometimes it takes a few iterations. That’s OK.”
9. Skip Any Section That Doesn’t Apply to You
This worksheet includes several optional sections, like professional affiliations or volunteer experience, that can help you if they’re relevant—but it won’t hurt you to skip them, either. In other words, don’t feel like something’s wrong if you don’t have anything to fill in there. As Ravis often finds herself telling her clients, “If it doesn’t apply to you don’t worry. Only fill in the things that have to do with you.”
10. Find the Right Template or Format to Plug Your Content Into
Your resume worksheet will help you assemble all the information you need for your resume. Once you have all the material, you should start thinking about how you want to present it. What resume format makes the most sense for you, your background, and your next step? If you’d prefer to use a resume template instead of starting from a blank document, which template would help you showcase your most important skills and experiences?
11. Use the Worksheet to Help You Tailor Every Resume
Even if you went into this exercise with a good sense of the kinds of roles you’re targeting—and filled it out with those in mind—you’ll probably end up with a lot more material recorded in your worksheet than you can comfortably fit on a resume. That’s not a bad thing. Keep your worksheet handy whenever you’re ready to apply for a new job and pull the most relevant information to tailor your resume to that particular position and organization. It’ll be way easier than starting from scratch every single time.