The Crucial First Step in Resume Writing - Establishing Your Focus by Michelle Dumas

" OBJECTIVE: A professional position with opportunities for advancement that will allow me to use the full range of my qualifications."

Wow! Could you imagine an objective that could be any less specific? But, as a professional resume writer, I can tell you that such a nebulous, non-specific resume objective is more common than it is not. This is one of the most frequent mistakes that I see people make on their resume.

Let me ask you: If you don't know what you want and where you are going, what makes you think a busy employer will take the time to figure it out for you?

Very frankly, they won't and they shouldn't!

While I hear it every day, I still cringe when I pick up the phone and prospective clients tell me that they "just want to find a job - any job."

Using this hit-or-miss, anything-will-do strategy, even if by some stroke of luck you land a position, the job you land would very likely be one that you would be miserable in! You may have the ability to do the job, but it wouldn't be in line with your interests, your values, and your passions.

When individuals come to me and are not able to express a focus, I tell them very frankly that until they are able to articulate a clear career target, hiring a professional resume writer will be a waste of their time and money.

If I am unable to assist them in narrowing down a focus, I will refer them to a career counselor and suggest that they spend some time defining a focus and setting career goals before we work together on the resume. And yet, so many people TRY to write a resume without a clear focus. Are YOU guilty of this?

Do you have a resume? If so, what I would like to request is that you pull it out and take a look at it with a fresh eye - try to look at it objectively as someone receiving it for the first time might look at it. Is your career focus immediately clear? Within seconds - because that is REALLY all you have - will the recipient come away with an understanding of your job target - of the level and type of position you are seeking - and of exactly where you would fit in their organization and add value?

Be honest with yourself? This is really important! If you have trouble being objective, it may help to ask a friend or acquaintance for their impressions after a ten second scan.

Assuming that you do need to refine the focus of your resume - as most people do - you may be wondering just how to do that.

Is an objective statement the best way to focus your resume? In the past you were probably taught that objective statements were an essential part of the resume. Happily, this is no longer true.

Today, profile or summary sections are used to set the tone and focus for most resumes. Why? Well, think about it: objectives tell the reader what you WANT from them. Profiles or summary sections tell the reader what you OFFER them. This is a subtle but really important difference.

Your resume needs to be employer-centered and focused on how you will meet the employer's needs, solve their problems, and add value to their organizations. Your resume must be focused, but the more modern way of doing this than an objective statement, is to create a headline statement that is incorporated as part of your summary or profile.

Are you having trouble envisioning what a headline statement is? Or, even what a resume profile or summary is? There are dozens and dozens of examples for you to review in the resume samples section of the Distinctive Documents website.

The best job target, of course, is the well-defined one. At the very least, you should be able to articulate and succinctly state the job function that you want to perform and the professional level you are targeting. But even these two criteria are quite broad.

To be really effective you should pair those criteria with one or more criteria. For example, other criteria might include the industry you plan to target, the company size or type you are interested in, or maybe the type of product or service developed or sold by the company.

You'll be using all of this information to create a really strong and focused headline statement and summary profile. But don't stop there. Your resume is a marketing document! It is not an autobiography. Your resume is, at its very core, an advertisement of the specific benefits you have to offer in relation to a specific type of position.

Every word and element in your resume should serve a purpose and should support your job target. If irrelevant or extraneous data that does not support and promote your job target is left in your resume, you will dilute your focus and will almost certainly confuse the reader.

Don't let that happen and don't make the mistake of thinking you need to include everything about yourself in your resume. Once you know your focus, carefully review the body of your resume and eliminate or reframe everything that doesn't serve your job target.

And, here is another really key tip: Remember that you are writing to the future in your resume, not about the past. Your resume content should be guided by who you want to be and how you want to be perceived. You need to know your goals and write from those perspectives. If you are involved in a career transition, you need to be absolutely honest and truthful while re-evaluating, re-weighting, and reframing past experience to bring the transferable qualifications to the forefront.

A well-defined target will guide you in your entire job search - in how you prioritize your skills and past experience as a focus for your resume and other job search documents, the people that you contact and network with, and the companies that you research and ultimately apply to.

So, go ahead. Take some time right now - today - to make certain that your resume is clearly, accurately, and immediately conveying your focus and your job target to the reader. This simple step will dramatically enhance your resume and the results it generates. And, as always, don't hesitate to ask for professional resume writing help if you need it.

Nationally certified resume writer, career marketing expert, and personal branding strategist, Michelle Dumas is the founder and executive director of Distinctive Career Services LLC. Through Distinctive Documents.

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