The Best Career Advice I Ever Received

This post originally appeared on January 20, 2009.

Of all the career advice I’ve received, here is the most valuable:

Write your resume on your happiest days.

Think about it.  When do people update their resumes?  It’s when they’ve just found out they’re out of a job.  This is one of those tasks that people put off as long as possible.

Now, how do you feel about yourself and your career in the few days after you’ve lost your job (or think you might)?  You’re scared.  You’re depressed.  You feel like a loser.  Guess what sort of resume you’re going to put together under those circumstances?

A resume should show the reader what you look like on your best days.  It should reflect those days when you go home and say, “We did it!” or “I made it!” or “I love my job!”  That is the spirit you want to capture on your resume.

Here’s how you can make sure your resume reflects your best self:

Whenever you have a victory at work, or you finish a project, or you just come home feeling good about what you did that day…email yourself.  Don’t write something long—just a couple of sentences.  Now, file those emails away under “resume.”  No victory is too small.  If you’re doing it right (and don’t have a horrible job), you’ll probably have at least one per week.

In doing this, you’re building is a file that serves multiple purposes:

  • When you’re sitting in front of a blank screen after you lose your job, trying to remember what you accomplished in your years there, you’ll have a great list.
  • When you have to get ready for the big interview, you can review these emails and develop your narrative.
  • When you’re going through a rough patch at work, and you’re trying to figure out why you ever wanted to do this for a living in the first place, you’ll have a way to reflect on what brought you to this point.
  • When you’re at a bigger crossroads and you want to make a career change, but can’t figure out what to do next, you’ll have this to tell you what you liked and where you excelled. That’s a big help in figuring out where else you might be successful.

It’s really hard to remember your small victories after the fact.  If you do something huge, like landing a plane in the Hudson River and saving a bunch of people…well, that guy won’t have any trouble updating his resume when the time comes.  The rest of us, though, probably need a little help.

Keeping track of your accomplishments as they happen is the best insurance you can get in terms of getting your next job.  It will make everything so much easier if you find yourself in trouble later.

Photo by cogdogblog

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3 Responses

  1. Sharlyn Lauby 8 years ago
  2. Marcia Robinson 8 years ago
  3. Tim G 8 years ago