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Rock My Resume: Nicole Nelson Miller
July 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm #134866
I would like my resume reviewed to ensure it demonstrates that I am a competitive candidate. While I have been suited for many positions in the government, I'm interested in jumping to the private sector at some point--are the skills I've listed relevant and how should I craft a resume suitable for private industry rather than the government? I am currently employed by the government, but would like to seek opportunities in a new/different work environment, particularly a trade organization or university setting - any career suggestions would be appreciated. I'm afraid my resume is too long, but with all the government acronyms, I'm not sure how to shorten it while being able to articulate what I did/do. There is a job at one of my former employers that I would be interested in, but I am not able to move back at this time. It is, however, an example of what I'd be looking for outside the government: http://www.ohr.wisc.edu/pvl/pv_070842.html.
August 15, 2011 at 12:14 am #134869
Nicole, you have a really good resume already. You’ve done a good job of organizing your experiences appropriately and I like the way you emphasize the skills sets under each experience. You are right that you will need to adjust your resume for non-federal opportunities. Also, I think if we tightened up your resume writing style, that would help too. I’ll go through both of those thoughts. Your non-federal resume will need to be no more than 2 page, which means you will really need to decide what each employer really wants to see and what you can cut to save space. There will be times, however, when more than two pages is OK, especially when you are applying for more academic positions.
However, for the position at U of Wisconsin, you need to figure out if you should use something more akin to a CV. The position title is Assistant Dean but it is in a field that doesn’t look for more academic types, usually. If you can, find someone at the university who could give you a better idea of whether you should in fact use more of a CV (which is very similar to a federal resume).
Also, for public affairs positions like this one, you must really emphasize that you have experience initiating, planning, implementing, and managing long-term PR campaigns. Your resume now doesn’t show me much of that.
Let’s talk about the structure of your resume first:
As you can see from the document, I changed your margins and converted your tables to text. I generally don’t think it a good idea to use tables to organize your resume, because if you send a Word document to an employer, they can see the lines of the table. Also, I find it easier to do all of what you want without tables; in fact, I find tables really hard to use.
The layout you have is fine, but you are wasting a lot of good space on the left side of your document. I tried moving the bullet points to the margin in your current position to show you what I’m thinking.
For your non-federal positions (and future federal positions too), a summary statement would be a big help. You need to give the employer a frame through which you want them to view your resume. Your summary statement should be very similar to the thesis of your cover letter too, so they obviously connect. Your summary is only about 3-4 lines long and maybe two sentences. It needs to use their terms to describe what you bring to the table for their position and should only focus on those things relevant to their needs.
The organization at which you have worked the last 9+ years was difficult to identify, so I moved a few things around. As you can see, I set it up to show that you have moved up at USDA over the last 4 years. With this kind of layout you can then highlight your skills and accomplishments under those three positions in one place. This could be very helpful when it comes to applying to non-federal positions—instead of having to restate all the positions you’ve had at the same organization you can get them to focus on those skills and accomplishments that interest them the most in one place.
Another way to do this is very similar to the way you had it, with each individual position separated and containing their own skills sets. However, you would not repeat U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) every time because it would be at the very top.
For your writing style:
You should start your bullet points with a skill verb taken directly from the job description, but the word should be an active verb and it should convey what the employer wants. Try avoiding words like: Serve, represent, work, and, in some cases, prepare. You need to emphasize that your active involvement brought value to the organization.
Second, your descriptions need to contain more context, show how your worked affected the organization, and what you accomplished.
The bullet points under your “Program Management” skill don’t go into the depth that most employers would like to see. “Maintain current knowledge of all program activities” appears to mean that you just kept tabs on things, but I’m positive there is a LOT more to that activity. Same with consulting and advising senior leadership, working closely with senior leadership, and collecting program nominations.
Now that you are in positions that require you to have a much stronger grasp of the big picture, I find it useful to write these using a “project management” mindset. In other words, your bullet points should not be brief descriptions of individual activities, but they should show that you were involved in a much larger project.
For example, a recent client of mine was applying to a position that required a lot of partnerships and collaboration. After looking through his resume, I suggested that instead of this bullet point:
- Developed sustainable networks of members and volunteers
That he combine it with one or two other short bullet points into something like this:
- Partnership Building – Developed and implemented sustainable networks of members and volunteers to facilitate greater effectiveness of XXX’s programs addressing key areas of health, education and housing that increased the amount of day-to-day contact with stakeholders in the Midlands and North of England by 500%. Created community champions through one-to-one support and training, resulting in community led advocacy efforts which created positive change.
That kind of bullet point pulls together the skill sets he used (developing, implementing, creating), what/who/how/why he did these things, and his accomplishments. And it focuses the employer's attention on Partnership Building, one of their key needs. It also gives much more context to the employer and the sense that his work had a much broader impact.
You need to look at your descriptions from the perspective of the person reading your resume and ask yourself these questions: “So what? Is this what I need?” Most of what you have written now would not give them what they need.
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