Do IT: Breaking In – The Resume Method

In any career your resume is important. In IT it is more important than most because you will spend a greater portion of your career job hunting than in a more traditional field. This is not necessarily a bad thing and should not cause panic. IT often rewards broad experience garnered from different types and sizes of organizations, promotes quickly through job changes and utilizes a high percentages of contractors and consultants all leading to the need for constant resume submittal. Because of this the need for an always ready, polished, professional resume is important.

An important rule to remember about IT resumes is that they are not like resumes in other fields and you should not be taking resume writing advice from non-IT pros. Other fields have completely different resume requirements than IT. IT requires your resume to hold long lists of specific technologies that can be searched by keyword, IT professionals tend to work many short term jobs meaning that more jobs exist on your resume than on a traditional resume, IT professionals tend to have more certifications than any other career – possibly by orders of magnitude, IT professionals will often have as much high education as almost any other field, etc. Hiring manages worth their weight are not looking for short one page resumes with highlights of your career but are looking for useful details that will set you apart from other candidates. So begin by ignoring your high school guidance counselor’s requirement that your resume not go over one page. I have been told by many senior hiring managers that five to seven pages is perfect as long as it is filled with relevant information. Don’t fill with fluff, don’t add giant margins or use big fonts but don’t start cutting important information in an attempt to keep your resume short either.

One of the first things that most experienced IT pros seem to agree that needs to be changed is the traditional concept of the “Objective” in a resume. Just drop it. Forget about it. Objectives are for fast food workers who want to be considered someday for a shift manager position not for deskside support contractors. No one is hiring your for your “career goal” – they are looking to see if you can fill the role that they need now. That’s it. Period. Cut the objective and never think of it again. It looks amateur and isn’t going to help and it looks like you are trying to fill space. You can only get away with using one as long as your resume doesn’t spill to a second page.

Your resume should be ready at all times. Start working on it early even if it is mostly just a blank piece of paper. The first time that someone asks you for your resume you shouldn’t have to hesitate or run to whip something up. Have it ready. Have it updated. Have it available in Doc, ODF and PDF formats. Be prepared to print it out or email it at a moments notice. I suggest getting a web site to host it on as well so that if you are driving somewhere and someone wants you resume right that second you can just point them to your resume’s website and they can download it in whatever format they want. Be a boyscout – be prepared. By having your resume always ready ahead of time you will also have plenty of time to make sure that nothing is missing and that nothing is misspelled and that the formatting is flawless. You might even want to keep a paper copy or two around for emergencies. Maybe even a copy in your car.

What should you include on your sparse entry-level resume? Your name, a professional email address – I use one with the same domain as my online resume but you can get a good, professional one from Yahoo or GMail as well but custom just has that extra something to it, a breakdown of any previous work experience, certifications, educational experience – if you have no degree but some classes whether high school, college or other include them briefly, volunteer experience, your home network – keep it brief and buried but let people find it if they are interested, contact phone number – but probably not on the online available version, a list of technologies and tools with which you are familiar and locational information – the town(s) that you are based out of or available from without relocation and possibly relocation information.

The “Resume Method”, as I like to call it, is a method of encouraging ongoing learning while developing a complete and impressive resume. This is a method that I used myself and have promoted over the years. This is something that I picked up from my days as a role-play gamers in high school. Basically your resume represents where you are in your career. This is true with anyone’s resume not just in IT but in most careers the only thing that can go on your resume are jobs (and most people only change ever several years at most) and education (and most people get only one or two degrees at most) so their resumes are short, unchanging and mostly forgotten about between jobs requiring a complete rewrite with every potential job change. IT professionals’ resumes are ever changing and can be added to rapidly – especially during formative career years.

The key to the “Resume Method” is to use your resume as a guide to learning new technologies or skills and to getting certifications and other forms of recognition. In IT it is easy to look at a blank resume and decide to start filling it out. Anyone entering the field should have one or two basic technologies that they have a good understanding of such as Windows XP, OpenOffice, Word, Excel, etc. Start by putting these on your resume. Then you will notice that there is a gap in your certifications so it is probably time to get to work getting a CompTIA A+ or other such introductory certifications. This will take several weeks but while working on the A+ you will have opportunities to work with a few new technologies such as, perhaps, Windows 2000 Professional which you may then work with enough to feel confident adding to your resume. As a breather from your A+ studies maybe you want to work with Access or some other light technology that you can get comfortable with in a few days and add to your resume as well.

Filling resume gaps will be a key motivator for quite some time. Search for jobs online and discover resume line items that are highly sought after and that fall within an obtainable range for you and you can probably target them to get them to a point where you can add them in as well. Once you have two or three traditional certifications it can be well worth investing in a subscription to Brainbench and beginning to work on adding online certifications as well to back up your independent studies. Brainbench offers traditionally targeted IT certifications as well as highly specific technology certs that do not exist from other vendors and non-IT skill certs that can be used to demonstrate “soft” skills such as customer service or telephone etiquette which you will eventually want to drop from your resume but can demonstrate not just skills but a dedication to learning not just with the IT technical disciplines. Caring enough to spend time and money obtaining certifications in customer service can be a differentiator compared to job candidates hoping to progress through skills alone.

Every additional line that is added to your resume represents an opportunity for an employer to find you in a search or to pick you out from the crowd. You don’t always know what on your resume will catch the eye of a hiring manager but you don’t want to leave out a critical piece of information because you are attempting to keep your resume too short nor do you want to bury potentially beneficial information in a sea of spin and verbiage. Keep job descriptions short and to the point. Verbosity is not rewarded in resumes.

Work on your resume on a regular basis. Make it simple but attractive. Easy to follow and keep the reading down. Your resume will spend a lot more time being scanned than being read. You need to optimize it for this process.

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