Let’s start with the good news: You just bumped into a well-connected person and impressed the heck out of her. So much so, in fact, that she asked you to follow up with your resume, because she knows someone who’s hiring.
You’re feeling pretty great. But before you decide which dancing animal GIF accurately sums up your networking victory, you have some work to do. Because, the last time you even thought about your resume was before you got your recent job or started your side gig, and it’s seriously out of date.
Well, it’s time to open that old document, save it under a new name, and get typing. Here’s how to update your resume—fast.
Minutes 1 Through 10: Add New Content
Where did you leave off? Think about your current job, as well as related extracurriculars—such as a blog, side gig, or volunteer work. A good starting point is to remember how you were just pitching yourself to person you impressed. If the discussion centered around your interest in design, the last thing you’d want to do is leave that off just so that you can list every single bullet point of your first gig out of college.
Remember, that when it comes to your position now, you don’t need to go through your daily to-do list and write every little task down. Instead, think about what you do each day through a few different lenses. Are there things people wouldn’t know from your job title? Are there tasks specific to what you want to do moving forward? Is there some impressive company initiative you were a part of? Don’t forget to quantify as many bullet points as possible.
Instead of spending this time trying to write the most elegant bullet points possible (because, yes, this is only supposed to take 10 minutes), just write out what you think you should add. Try to get it all down. Don’t second-guess if you start to run a little over a page or if you’re starting every line with “assisted.” Write first, edit later.
Minutes 10 Through 20: Restructure
Is it organized in a way that makes sense? For example, if the resume you’ve been adding to is the one you submitted right after graduation, you may have your education listed at the top. But now that you have some post-grad experience, you’re going to want to lead with your professional history and most recent job. Along similar lines, if you’ve changed fields (or want to), you’ll also be doing some cutting and pasting to put the most relevant information—which might not be your current role—at the top of the page.
Or, it might be that the overall order and flow makes sense, but now you have one too many positions to fit on a page. You squeezed and cut all you could to get your resume down the last time—and now you’re trying to add more information! In this case, drill down to what you’re trying to emphasize. In other words, if you want to be seen as a people-oriented marketer, you’ll keep jobs that relate to PR and connecting with others. But consider cutting that bullet about tracking inventory or that job you worked in a lab back in college.
For example, when I was in school, I interned for a prestigious political figure. And if I wanted to work inside the beltway, I would absolutely include it on my resume to this day. But many years later, applying to editorial jobs, that’s valuable real estate better spent discussing writing experience. By asking myself, “Does this relate?” I can keep working through my old job history and decide to cut marketing for a small business to make room to discuss recent freelance work.
Minutes 20 Through 30: Edit
Remember that proper spelling and grammar go a long way. Start by running spellcheck. Then, read it out loud to make sure you’re not missing any words. After that, look for what Muse career expert Lily Zhang calls, “little inconsistencies.” In “5 Common Resume Mistakes That You Can Fix All by Yourself,” she suggests, “…getting into the nitty-gritty details and deciding whether or not you’re going to have periods at the end of your bullets or how you’re going to format various elements. Yep, that means not switching back and forth between dates that feature months, just years, or seasons.” Little fixes like this will make your resume more impressive and hide the fact that you just pulled it together.
Oh, and if it’s still over one page, now’s the time to cut it down. Simply remove the last position on there. If it’s at the bottom, it’s the least important to the story you’re trying to tell.
Bonus: Make it Shine
Have a few extra minutes? Then now is the time to make your resume shine! First, let’s look at the words you chose: If they all start with the same verb, check this out. While you don’t need to come off like a professional writer, you should make sure that there’s a little variety.
Have the rest of the afternoon? Hop on over to LinkedIn and make sure your profile there is also updated. Then, do a quick check over all of your social media profiles that there is consistent messaging and appropriate content. If that’s not the case, and you don’t have time to censor anything, make sure your privacy settings are correctly set up.
While you should strive to keep an updated resume on hand, there’s no need to panic if you’re caught off guard. Use the steps above to get your resume up to speed right now—and maybe check back in on it every couple of months so you’ll be more prepared next time.