This article provides resume advice from a recruiter and is the first part of a…
As 2021 draws to a close, it’s a good time to reflect and ask questions about your professional year in review: What challenges have you faced? How have you grown as a professional? What career management strategies did you use? What are your goals and aspirations moving forward?
No matter where you are now on your career path, it’s important to know where you want to be—and to have a plan to get there. In my 2021 blog posts, I provide strategies for navigating 10 challenges and situations that job seekers, career changers, and other professionals regularly encounter.
In case you missed any of these articles, I’ve gathered highlights and takeaways in the list below. I hope these strategies will help you get where you want to go in 2022.
#1: Create a Standout LinkedIn Profile
The challenge: I have a LinkedIn profile, but I don’t know what to do with it.
The strategy: Ask yourself four key questions to determine your goals for using this platform, and let those goals guide your strategy.
Quick tip: Be intentional. Many people have profiles on LinkedIn only because they know they are supposed to, but this is not adequate.
Read How to Build an Outstanding LinkedIn Profile for my four strategy discovery questions and to learn how to enhance the visual appeal of your profile and other valuable LinkedIn tips.
#2: Design an Eye-Catching Resume
The challenge: How do I create a resume that’s ATS-friendly and is aesthetically pleasing to human readers, too?
The strategy: Make deliberate, consistent formatting choices to direct your reader’s eyes where you want them to go. Ensure there is a hierarchical structure to your design—in other words, “a method to your madness”—to optimize readability.
Quick tip:. Sometimes less is more; one or two formatting features may enhance, three or more may not. Make sure your resume’s formatting serves to engage readers, not distract them.
Quickly add visual appeal to your resume by referring to my tips in Make Your Resume Pop Using MS Word’s Formatting Tools.
#3: Shore Up Your Videoconferencing Skills
The challenge: How do I avoid video conferencing goofs during professional conversations?
The strategy: Follow good video conferencing etiquette to cover all your bases—from how to dress and configure lighting to having a plan B—and to set yourself apart.
Quick tip: People’s comfort and familiarity with video conferencing has grown exponentially since the pandemic, but don’t get complacent. Each platform is unique, so familiarize yourself with the one you need to use before an important meeting.
Brush up your skills by reading Set Yourself Apart by Videoconferencing Like a Pro.
#4: Share (Valuable) Content on LinkedIn
The challenge: What should I share on LinkedIn? I don’t “do” social media.
The strategy: Reframe “what should I post?” to “what will my network value?” and “what will support my connections and demonstrate my expertise?” Approach your LinkedIn content sharing strategy with a mindset of giving rather than receiving.
Quick tip: If you equate LinkedIn content sharing with the social networking people do on Facebook, I encourage you to reconsider and view LinkedIn as a professional tool instead.
My tips in 7 LinkedIn Content Sharing Ideas for Reluctant Users will help you boost your visibility and demonstrate your value through sharing content on this powerful platform.
#5: Decode Job Postings
The challenge: How can I tell by looking at a job posting if applying for that particular role is a good use of my time?
The strategy: Follow my three steps for reading job descriptions to parse and leverage the information to your advantage—and possibly accelerate your search.
Quick tip: Do not make the mistake of missing opportunities because you don’t have 100% of what the employer is looking for. However, don’t waste your time applying if you are missing the most basic qualification the employer is seeking.
In Learn How to Read Job Descriptions Strategically, my three-step process will help you determine if you are a good fit for the role and tailor your application materials accordingly.
#6: Have Productive Coffee Meetings
The challenge: I have a coffee networking meeting coming up. What are the “rules” and how can I make sure the meeting is beneficial?
The strategy: Consider the logistics in advance—what to wear, who will pay, how to manage the clock—so you can focus on the exchange of information.
Quick tip: Before your meeting, proactively think about how you want the conversation to go. During the meeting, be a mindful timekeeper to honor the time commitment and ensure the agenda is covered.
See my seven tips in Brush Up on Coffee Meeting Etiquette to help you plan for and facilitate your next coffee meeting.
#7: Research Potential Employers
The challenge: I hear the advice “research companies before applying for jobs” often. I’m sure it’s important, but it’s also vague. How do I go about it?
The strategy: Sleuth out potential employers in a variety of ways: research their websites, social media, financials—even their competitors! Build your network to include people at companies that interest you to get an inside perspective.
Quick tip: Researching companies proactively before applying allows you to focus on those that truly interest you and align with your values. Researching reactively after an interview has been secured will help you be more informed and able to position yourself as a good fit.
For my recommended company research best practices, check out How to Research a Company You Want to Work For.
#8: Ask Compelling Questions to Write a Strong Resume
The challenge: How do I make sure my accomplishments and results come across in my resume? My current resume doesn’t really capture all that I have to offer.
The strategy: Ensure that your value and achievements are clearly and effectively expressed by asking yourself thought-provoking questions. Use precise language that includes context to strengthen the quality of your resume.
Quick tip: If your resume is only a list of responsibilities and basic tasks you’ve completed, your contributions and value to a company are open to interpretation. Think in terms of quantification and specific results.
Learn how to make your value crystal clear in your resume by reading 6 Questions to Ask When Writing Your Resume.
#9: Determine the Importance of Cover Letters
The challenge: How do I know if or when a cover letter is necessary? I’ve heard that recruiters and hiring managers often don’t even read them.
The strategy: Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the cover letter question. Thankfully, you can consider several key factors to make a more informed determination about submitting one.
Quick tip: Your application can rise to the top if you have a well-written letter that thoughtfully expresses why you’re interested in the company. Entice reviewers to read all your application materials by ensuring they are typo-free and demonstrate fit—especially your resume. Reviewers often read resumes first, so if your resume contains errors or shoddy content, the reviewer may disregard your application before even looking at your letter.
Demystify cover letters further with my insights and tips in How Important Is a Cover Letter?
#10: Crack Open a Book
The challenge: It’s time for some professional development and to sharpen my skills. What are some good resources for writers, job seekers, and entrepreneurs?
The strategy: I’ve curated a list of 20+ career management books (along with my own brief takeaways) that I can vouch for! The advice in these books has informed my own work as a writer and guided my decisions as a small-business owner.
Quick tip: Strunk & White’s tip to “omit needless words” is one of my favorite pieces of writing advice—and it applies to all types of writing.
Pick a title or two from my reading list in From My Nightstand to Yours: Reading Recommendations from authors including Jay Block, William Zinsser, Stephen King, Dorie Clark, and Dr. Ivan Misner.