Resume-Writing Best Practices with Angela Ashurst-McGee

It can be intimidating to create, update, customize or simply work on improving your resume. But the best way to think of the resume is as one critical piece of a mosaic-like quilt that becomes your process of finding your next role. In other words, the resume is essential, but only one critical step in a process. As such, it must complement and lead naturally to, other step s in your career transition process. The intent is for it to serve as a hook to further the process. 

The following article summarizes some of the key takeaways from an interactive discussion with Angela Ashurst-McGee, hosted by The Operators’ Career Transition Council.

It all starts with your value proposition, your story 

While you may want to be industry agnostic, or avoid limiting yourself to specific role, or you may want to appear relevant for any situation or challenge the employer is trying to solve for, it makes more sense in the long run to be very clear about where you are the best fit. Make a claim of how you help improve the operations of companies you have worked in. Create a case for what your value proposition is or what challenges you solve for employers (saving money, improving efficiency, facilitating growth, accelerating deployments, etc.) Then, provide some metrics as proof points. Save the entire story of “how this was accomplished” for the interview.

While you want “meat on the bone,” the resume is generally a high-level two-page snapshot 

At the stage of career that Operators are typically in, there is often a lot of detail to be shared. You might feel tempted to cite every company you have worked with and every role you have held, focus only on the roles that lend credence to your value proposition. Err on the side of more detail, not less, but two pages is a maximum length to strive for. To keep the resume to two pages, you may simply cite role, challenge to be solved, and outcomes.

 

A complementary document: The one-page executive bio in narrative form 

This is a shorter version of a resume that may serve as a handout after an informational interview or networking event. It may also serve as an add-on to an interview; the one-page bio may help serve as another proof point in conveying the story of how you accomplished what you did, where the company was when you started there and how you left the company in a better place as a result of your improvements.

Another complementary document: The PowerPoint may improve your delivery of the “story” 

It can be helpful for hiring decision makers to see the story visually with Challenge/Action/Benefit or a “StoryBrand” Hero type of story depiction. You may wish to start with a Word version of the storyline, and then winnow the content down to a picture, recognizing that “a picture is worth 1,000 words.”

 

Stay in touch with recruiters and hiring decision makers 

The onus is on the job seeker to stay in touch and remain relevant. One way to do this without “checking in” or “following up,” which can sound self-serving and perhaps needy, is to add new information, content or descriptions of value or proof points with every touch point. Sending out the PowerPoint after an interview can be a good means not only to echo the value proposiotion in visual graphic form, but to remain top of mind in a relevant and value-add context.

 

Personalize resumes and cover letters for the specific job you are applying for 

You can get away with simply tweaking certain aspects of the resume to fit specific job requirements: the summary context or how you describe your accomplishments to meet the needs of the job. For example, if the opportunity you are applying for is international, mention all relevant international experiences. If the opportunity involves M&A, be sure to mention all M&A impacts and experiences.

However, the cover letter is designed to accomplish this more directly – to explain and connect the dots between the company, the role and your resume. The cover letter must be succinct, though, so get to the point quickly about explaining what cannot or should not be stated in the resume.

 

While the format is fairly staid and traditional, your personality can shine through 

We are all familiar with the reverse chronology structure of a resume — listing of roles in a traditional template or format, with a summary of accomplishments, skills sections, etc. However, there are two ways to stand out:

  1. Make the value proposition clear. Explain clearly what types of challenges you are a perfect fit to solve.
  2. Your personality can shine through in the words you choose to describe your value proposition. Depending on your personality, the job or role you are applying for, the company culture and so forth, you may wish to provide summary catch phrases to help convey what type of problem solver you are. The resume should be a reflection of your personality, and stating, for example, that you are an “ideal company co-pilot” or a “silo buster” or “leaper of tall challenges” may serve to help you stand out from the pack.


The resume is one arrow in your quiver, one tool at your disposal, but you muyst put your best foot forward. In summary, be brief, clear, and provide metrics to demonstrate how you solve the challenges that your personal brand promises.

To learn more, contact Kit Lisle at The Operators or Anghela Ashurst McGee….

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