By Alesia Benedict , CPRW, JCTC
Are you a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker? It's very rare to be one of those people who are equally qualified in numerous, vastly different professions. If you are one of these uncommon folks, you'll certainly need more than one version of your resume. You're an unusual bird with experience all over the map.
But chances are, you -- along with the rest of us in the human race -- need just one resume.
We All Have Just One Past!
Let's face it -- we all have just one history. Sure, we may have different goals in mind, but no one has Life A, Life B, and Life C running concurrently. Most people have had different types of jobs and have worked in different industries, but can distill their resume into just one "past".
In the same vein, we have just one future. And the next step in your career is finite -- you can only take one step at a time, right? If you tried to take three different steps in three different directions at once, you'd end up with tangled feet, an inevitable fall, and a definite loss in time.
If you think you need more than one version of your resume, it most likely means you're not fully committed to your next career step. Many people say they are "open to several directions" but, when questioned, they're really uncertain which direction they want to take. While they think they're open to everything, their mindset is closer to "I'll take anything" -- not a smart way to manage your career, especially at the executive level.
Defining Your Future
So how do you know which step is the right, next step? Simple -- look at your last career step, or maybe your last series of steps. Uncertain job seekers should always look at their past experience and education, since it's this experience that will lead them to the next position.
Let me give you an example - say you're a sales management pro, who started out in inside sales. Over time, you've changed employers and worked in different types of sales (B2B, B2C, Retail, Outside Sales, Territory Management, etc.) in different types of industries. Now you're ready to take that next career step into executive management. You test the waters and find several different positions that pique your interest: a national sales director for a technology company, a national business development manager for a specific product line within a luxury consumer product group, and a vice president of sales for a smaller company that is an OEM for a niche product.
Do you need three different resumes? No. Why not? Because you have just one background to present to all three employers and the focus is the same for all three jobs -- national sales management.
A lot of job seekers in this position would want to create a few "resume versions" by rearranging some content in the summary, changing a few keywords, and calling it a different file name.
But here's the thing - most of the time, these different "versions" show minimal and barely detectable changes. They make no real impact on the reader and no difference in terms of winning the interview. In fact, sometimes a different "version" might actually be weaker than the parent resume that solidly presents the qualifications and experience in a focused manner.
Using Cover Letters to Target Applications
So, how do you attack different positions that have different aspects to them? Easy -- with the cover letter!
A cover letter is the marketing tool you should use to zero-in on the position that's advertised and show the reader how your specific qualifications match their specific requirements. Because a cover letter is in a narrative, conversational format, you can "speak" to the reader directly and, in essence, say,
"You are looking for someone with experience in the development of sales teams within the heavy equipment industry. I have developed fourteen, record-breaking sales teams in my career and worked in the heavy equipment industry for twelve years for Caterpillar. When can we meet?"
A statement like this is so much more effective than just rearranging your resume's core competencies to start with "heavy equipment" or "sales team development".
By creating one, strong resume, and using the cover letter to personalize your application, you won't drive yourself crazy trying to keep track of all the variations of your resume and/or trying to remember which version you sent to which potential employer. Job searching is stressful enough - no need to add any more, unnecessary complications!
Remember, there's always a logical next step in your career whether that next step is a short, easy one or one that requires one, long stride. Either way, your resume represents where you stand now, the path you have taken to get to your present location, and where you want to go. Use the cover letter to illustrate more specific points about your career, and draw the reader in the right direction.
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