The 3 Things Career Changers & College Students Must Do Before Even Thinking “Résumé”

When people hear I am a career coach who helps college students and professionals identify, prepare for and thrive in successful careers, invariably I’ll hear, “Oh, I would love to have a career I love. Can you help me with my resume?”

Now, yes, of course I can! I am obsessed with creating resumes that are exceptional and cutting edge. But in order to create one that is exceptional, cutting edge and effective, there are three absolutely critical things a college student or career changer must do first.

number 1

1) Discover You.

What do I really want, and what do I do best?

May sound simple, and for some people it is. Some people know from an early age they want to be a teacher, business owner or a firefighter and they make it happen. Others determine in college they want to make a good salary, major in business, and find a great job, and they are happy because their top goal is being achieved.

For others — especially university students who have lots of interests and talents but haven’t yet determined how to translate that into meaningful work or executives who have had a series of successful jobs but decide it’s time to go an entirely different direction — it’s not so straightforward.

Discovery is the first step in a successful career launch or career transformation. It centers on you discovering the type of issues you care about most, the type of activities and work you are excited to engage in, and the type of skills you have that you really enjoy using.

A big part of this step involves understanding what your personal mission, values and goals are. Perhaps most importantly, Discovery involves establishing a focused and positive mindset and examining what might be blocking your success and how to overcome these barriers.

This Discovery step is accomplished through self-assessments, introspection and deep reflection. Skipping this step, which so many students and professionals do, often results in settling for jobs or establishing careers that are not a great fit for their talents, personality and goals.

number 2

2) Research The Possibilities.

How do I translate what I’ve just discovered about myself into meaningful work?

Building on Step 1, now it’s time to learn as much as you can about different sectors, companies, organizations, types of jobs, specific jobs, locations, positions and market factors. What type of position and organization will be the best match for your mission, talents and goals, and what’s out there in terms of salaries, benefits, work style?

number 3

3) Position Yourself For Success.

What’s my brand and how do I convey it on my resume?

Well now we’re getting somewhere! Once you gain clarity on one or more directions that seem like the best match for your mission, goals, values and strengths, you are ready to position yourself and hone your personal brand.

Everyone already has a personal brand – roughly speaking, it’s a combination of what you’re putting out there and how others perceive you. While you can’t force people to see or think of you exactly as you wish, there are many things you can do to guide their opinions.

This step involves delving into a series of questions and exercises that reveal: What do you stand for and want to be known for? How are you communicating that? How do others see you? Are you showcasing your strengths and the value you, and uniquely you, will bring to a new organization? How?

Once you’ve done this work to refine your brand, your job is to communicate it clearly, consistently and in a compelling way across all the necessary job search tools, such as your LinkedIn profile, your appearance, voicemail message, email signature … and yes, your resume!

By spending the time to 1) Discover what you really want, 2) Research the possibilities and 3) Position yourself for success, you will be ready for a resume that will be a precise reflection of the value you and only you will bring to the work you really want in the career field that excites you.

For tips on exactly what your resume should look like and say to make sure it’s truly stellar and does the job of getting you the interviews you deserve and want, download my quick and dirty “Resume Success Cheatsheet.”

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