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The number one problem with resumes is they focus on a person’s past instead of their future.

This may sound counterintuitive—isn’t a resume supposed to describe what you’ve done?

Yes, and no.

Yes, you need to describe what you’ve accomplished, but ONLY in the context of what you want to do next in your career.

In other words, you must identify and highlight the projects you have worked on that you enjoyed, and leave off (as much as possible) the work that drained you.

In my view, a resume’s true purpose is to convey a clear picture of what you want to do in the future, backed up by concrete experience of how you have done that same thing in the past.

So, the historical information you share needs to support what you want to do next, and de-emphasize (or leave off altogether) the work you do not care to do again.

What might this look like? I suggest a new Skill Highlights section toward the top of page one, with a grouping of three or five skills that you most enjoy using displayed in order of importance to you. Each one is followed by two to three Proof Statements, which are phrases that exemplify your experience and success in that area.

Sound easy? It takes some thought and finesse. To write a successful resume, you need to be clear about what you want from your work.

Resume-writing is an art, not a science, and you will get a different answer from every person whom you ask as to what makes a good resume. I put forth my thoughts here based on my experience with hundreds of professionals who have retooled their resumes and have had great success when they have put them out in the world.

My team and I are here to help you update your resume. If this is something you’d like to explore, contact me. Your new career is waiting for you!

(originally published on Feb 1, 2011)

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