When drafting your resume, it is easy to fall into the habit of focusing on the past. After all, much of your resume will consist of a list of things you’ve done—from positions you’ve held to special awards you’ve received to degrees you’ve attained. A resume is, in fact, a compilation of your professional and, in some cases, personal history. Therefore, admittedly, much of your resume will have sentences and clauses that are in the past tense.
And yet, a resume should also be a forward-looking document. In other words, it should not simply indicate where you’ve been—it should also inform a potential employer about where you’re headed. As a result, in order to craft a truly effective resume, you must be somewhat futuristic in your thinking. This means clearly articulating your career goals within the text of your resume.
First Step: Define Your Goals
Placing your career goals on your resume can be quite a challenge if you do not have a clear idea of what those goals are. If you are in this position, you’re certainly not alone. Many of us have difficulty visualizing where we would like to be five or ten years down our career path. In a number of cases, this may be the result of selling ourselves short, thinking that the highest levels of achievement in our chosen field are closed to us because we are lacking in some area—interpersonal communication, written communication, decision-making ability, or other job skills which are critically important for managers.
However, if you talk with someone who has made significant progress in his or her career, you might be surprised to learn that this individual also faced feelings of inadequacy or believed that he or she was ill prepared for the job now held. Even sons and daughters of business owners often have to start out in entry-level jobs before they master the skills and expertise needed to run a company. In other words, it would be wrong to assume that a corporate executive is inherently more talented or more intelligent than you are.
Through research—interviewing executives, reading business magazines, and talking to members of professional organizations that you belong to—you should be able to develop a clearer idea of what your career goals are. Perhaps you would like to secure a managerial position…maybe you’d like to teach at the college level…or perhaps you would like to own your own company some day. Jot both immediate and long-term goals down on paper so you have some idea what kind of information you’d like to convey on your resume.
Showcase Your Goals
Once you have defined your career goals, it is important that you showcase them on your resume. Of course, there are various schools of thought about how to highlight career goals most effectively. Which approach you ultimately decide to take depends on a number of factors: what your colleagues and mentors consider to be most effective; what you yourself are comfortable with; and what is the most appropriate approach for the position you’re attempting to pursue.
One effective means of spotlighting your career goals is by placing them under a “Career Objective” category in your resume. This category affords you the opportunity to clearly articulate the direction in which you’d like your career path to go. If you have more than one career goal to list, it’s perhaps most effective to list your goals in bullet-point format.
But there are also some other creative ways you can indicate your career goals on your resume. For instance, in the supplemental information you provide for each position you’ve held, you can indicate how that particular job—or the duties that came with it—helped to move you toward your career goal. As with all the other text in your resume, this information should be stated clearly and succinctly. A simple phrase can inform a prospective employer about how a position aided you in developing the skills needed for achieving your career goals.
Avoid the Temptation of Omitting Critical Information
Unfortunately, some job seekers become so focused on their career goals that they feel that they have to radically alter their resumes in order to demonstrate their dedication to their goals. Such an approach is sure to backfire because it creates a resume that is misleading. When an employer discovers that you have omitted key information, he or she may be understandably reluctant to hire you.
For instance, consider the following scenario: You’ve just learned about a position that is available at a highly-respected company known for its fantastic promotion policies, benefit packages, and other perks. This is exactly the type of job you’d like to have—not only because of the opportunities it presents, but also because it would help you immensely in accomplishing your long-term career goals.
You decide that a resume re-draft is absolutely essential. However, when you begin the re-writing process, you decide to give a major makeover to the “Experience” section of your resume. You eliminate every job that does not directly relate to your career goal. By “streamlining” your resume, you hope to increase your chances of securing the position you desire.
Unfortunately, things in the business world are not that simple. By omitting references to certain jobs in your resume, you are doing a disservice to your employer—and to yourself. You are making it appear as if you’ve been headed in the same direction throughout your career when, in fact, your career might have taken a number of twists and turns. In addition, your streamlining has resulted in the appearance of serious gaps in your work history. If a would-be employer believes that you were unemployed for long periods of time, he or she may simply place your resume in the reject pile.
Recognize that your career goals can change throughout your employment. As a result, you may need to tinker with the career goals text in your resume every so often. This is not an admission of defeat—rather, it is simply an indication that, as your work experience broadens, your ultimate objectives may evolve, taking you along paths you never dreamed possible.
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