Righting Your Resume

Invited to speak on the topic of attracting and retaining top talent, I stood in front of 15 successful key executives and posed the question: Who has a current resume? No hands went up.

I repeated the question the next day (different town, different group). Of those 14, one put up a hand. “Why not?” I asked the groups. The answers were honest and forthright — too busy, too secure in my job, no need right now, guilt, and an oldie: “Never needed one.”

Never having needed a resume is no longer a valid excuse.

As a pivotal executive in your organization, the decisions you make affect the lives of many people. Through an annual resume analysis, you can assure yourself that the actions and choices you make in your career are contributing to the organization, as well as to your personal and professional development. My argument for you “righting” your resume —righting, as in updating data in modern-day language — isn’t for the purpose of finding a new job. If you’re performing well, that’s the least of your concerns.

Having read over 35,000 resumes and witnessed the rise and fall of superstar executives over the past 19 years, I have 11 reasons why you should right your resume now, in order to check your value to your organization and retain your enthusiasm in your current role.

1. Document your successes and progress. What have you done in the past year that’s great, better or different? One day someone’s going to tap your shoulder and ask you to justify your worth. Were numbers up because of your efforts, or down because of a challenging economy? Did you tell the emperor he was naked in time to make an adjustment or didn’t you?

2. Promotion is always a possibility. Maybe the boss is thinking of a new successor to the throne and you’re in line. Wouldn’t it be great to give her a copy of your accomplishments? The people in charge forget a lot of things, including what key executives have done to keep them successful. Facts are timeless.

3. Have you peaked? What if you discover you haven’t grown in the past two years? It might be time to consider a change or at least a resurgence of effort to right your career track. What experience are you lacking that you need to get to whatever big show you have in mind?

4. Self-analysis. Writing and righting your resume shows you — on paper — what you think is important in your job. This reflective exercise can get to the heart of addressing what purple elephants you’ve been walking around, believing everything was just fine.

5. How’s your paycheck? Does your compensation match your documentation? Are you worth keeping or could you be replaced with cheaper labor? Has your tenure left you complacent? It’s challenging to negotiate for a better compensation plan when you’re way behind. If your resume is right, you’ll have the ammunition to justify a raise.

6. Testing the BS factor. Second opinion time: Get someone you trust to give you fierce feedback. Does your resume hold up to public scrutiny and debate? Can you prove what you say? If you’re the slightest bit embarrassed or tentative to have someone read it, you may not truly believe what you’ve written.

7. Honing your BS-o-meter. Righting your resume tunes you into the thought process and temptations of glorifying and exaggerating responsibilities and accomplishments. You’ll be better prepared to flush out the fluff in other people’s resumes.

8. Pat-yourself-on-the-back time. Writing of battles won, customers cultivated and employees you’ve hired who have become superstars is great inspiration and motivation to excel. Put it on paper and celebrate your smart work!

9. Show and tell. Have your staff write their resume, too. You’ll find out who’s doing what. Maybe they a need fresh perspective, too. What better ways to instill confidence and renewed vigor in your team than by helping them identify their skills and accomplishments? What’s the worst that’ll happen? If they’re already looking for a new job, you’re too late anyway. If a person is contemplating a jump, your sincere involvement may save a superstar.

10. Something better may come along. You love what you do. You bleed the company colors. But one day the phone rings. An even better opportunity appears. (It’s been known to happen.) We all should have a righted resume on a disk for that chance in a lifetime. (Your boss is thinking the same thing, by the way.)

11. Just in case a pink slip arrives. If you work on the last 10 ideas, you’ll be too valuable to be fired. However, in the event of an emergency, your dynamic, righted resume can be used as a flotation device to assure your rescue from the unemployment waters.

Update your resume yearly. Repeat more often until condition improves.

Vistage Associate Russ Riendeau, Ph.D., is president/senior partner of the East Wing Search Group, a sales, management and marketing search firm based in Barrington, Ill.

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