Ask three people to look over your resume, and you’ll get three different perspectives on what should and shouldn’t be on there.
Yet, somehow, pretty much everyone agrees that objective statements are out of fashion. In their place, you’ve probably heard, should be a resume summary statement. Or, since you need to keep it all to one page anyway, just save the space and dive right into your relevant experience.
And that’s true, generally. But there’s one occasion when your resume should, in fact, return to the objective statement: when you’re making a huge career change.
Think about it. If you have, say, five years of experience in business development and you’re now interested in marketing, your resume probably isn’t selling you as the best candidate for the gigs you’re applying to.
In this case, you could definitely benefit from having an objective statement to clearly explain that you’re making the switch and show how your skill set aligns with this new career path. It might even be confusing if you don’t use an objective statement if your experience doesn’t line up cleanly with the position you’re applying for.
That said, it’s very easy to get resume objective statements wrong. That’s probably why they’ve gotten such a bad reputation—people just write them poorly. Something like “Objective: To obtain a position as a public relations specialist at an innovative and impactful company that utilizes my skills and experience” is literally just wasting space—every single company in the world likes to think of itself as “innovative and impactful,” and it’s not clear what “skills and experience” this person brings to the job. The top of your resume is prime real estate, so you don’t squander it by using vague filler material.
A better approach is to be as specific as possible about your goal and plainly state how you intend to bring your skills and strengths to a position—something like this: “Objective: To leverage my 10+ years of client-facing experience, public speaking skills, and expertise in the tech industry in a public relations role at a growing educational technology startup.” Like a summary statement, it shows off your skills, but it also explains exactly how you plan to transition them in a new role.
While you’ll often hear that the resume objective statement is dead, it’s important to note that, really, there just aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to resume writing. (In fact, the only resume advice that really matters is to do what it takes to get the interview.) Focus on what works for your experience, not what works for the masses.
And if that means including a resume objective statement, go for it.
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author