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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

How to Update Your Resume Based on What You've Done and Where You Want to Go

Out with the old, in with the new is a great approach when you’re cleaning out your fridge, but it doesn’t always work when you’re updating your resume.


Cutting old jobs and adding recent positions keeps your career timeline fresh, but it doesn’t allow you to shape your career story in light of where you’re headed right now.

So, if you’re ready to revamp your resume based on how much experience you have—and what you’d like to be doing next—try these edits on for size:

1. Entry Level (1-2 Years)

As someone entering the career world, you probably don’t have much to pare down. Unlike a seasoned professional, you’ll want let your academic life do some of the talking for you, so it’s fine to include categories like relevant coursework. But even with all that, paired with internships and volunteer experiences, you might feel like filling an entire page is a challenge.

Still—resist the temptation to fill your resume with fluff!

By fluff, I mean overly elegant language, or information that’s just there for the sake of being “more.” If you can’t quantify your accomplishments, don’t. In place of meaningless add-ons (like any information from high school), paint a clear picture of what you walked away with, because even jobs like babysitting and hostessing have taught you something. Demonstrating the skills you’ve honed can be as simple as including bullets like this one:

“Contributed to three social media marketing campaigns, assisting with SEO and SEM initiatives and gaining experience with Superfast, Sprinkler, and Google Analytics.”

2. Professional (3-6 Years)

You’ve already moved your education section to the end of your resume, and you’ve probably also trimmed your graduation dates and details about your GPA and extracurriculars. Terrific! You’re well on your way to allowing your experiences—rather than your academics—to do the talking for you.

To seal the deal, dedicate some page space to outlining moments when you’ve had any autonomy, like training someone new, taking on a solo side project, or jumping on a critical problem that you spotted before anyone else. Choose a few a highlights that explain that you’re not a just task rabbit, but a pure go-getter with a bias toward action.

You may not be to point to deliverables that turned the company on its head (yet), but you still have cool stuff to talk about. #TrueStory

For bonus points: List any professional development coursework, or on-the-job training you’ve completed. I mention it because of the whole “I love learning and pushing my perspectives” spiel rattled off during interview after interview.

It’s one thing to say it. It’s absolutely another to embody it.

Oh, and if you spent the first couple years of your career in one sector and then hopped to another, check out this advice.

3. Mid-Career (7-15 Years)

It’s time to make an important shift in your branding.

To beat out your competitors, you’ll have to do more than just highlight your leadership ability or the specialized skill set you’ve honed: You have to deliver clear-cut stories about your accomplishments.

If there were a time to brag, it’s now.

Step beyond merely outlining the responsibilities you’ve fulfilled and give details on the change and results you’ve delivered. Identifying your contributions is as easy as falling off a log. Just ask yourself:

  • Where did I create new systems or processes?
  • How have I generated new business?
  • Did I launch a new product or process?
  • Did I help the company avoid costs, red tape, or other headaches?

Whenever possible, these stories should incorporate metrics that illustrate the value of what you did. But don’t let a lack of metrics hold you back from talking about awards, current projects that haven’t yet been measured, or relationships and strategic partnerships that benefited your team. If it’s something you’d want to share in depth during an interview, get it on the page.

4. C-level, VP, or Director (15+ Years)

At this point in your career, you might find that you’re forced to consider how to handle roles that, although they occurred early on, include notable achievements that are important to your brand.

You’re faced with the choice of keeping these roles on your document and spilling onto a third page, or cutting the details altogether.

It’s conundrum city, unless you add a Career Highlights section.

A Career Highlights section allows you to retain key points from your early career roles by boiling them down to one and two-sentence statements. You’re able to trim dozens of lines of content from your resume while re-capturing details that make you shine. Most candidates place this section just after their resume summary and include a couple of recent wins alongside their older accomplishments. Here’s an example of what it might look like:

Career Highlights

  • Currently shaping supplier relations and business development strategy for the rollout of Tesla’s 2017 Model 3
  • Developed 15 patented automotive / mechanical and hydraulic control systems designs—10 patents were used in international markets, and five are still in production
  • Delphi Hall of Fame member and recognized with numerous Chevrolet Innovation awards

Be selective as you fill this section. Think of it as a greatest hits album or box of keepsakes. The idea is to include stuff that’s truly remarkable and sets you apart as a candidate, limiting what you share to three or four bullets at the most.

Related: 4 Must-Do Resume Tips for Senior Level Jobs

Your career isn’t static, so your resume shouldn’t be either. As you grow and change as a professional, make sure you’re showing off all you’ve achieved and learned.

Photo of person on computer courtesy of Jetta Productions/Getty Images.