I made a big mistake early in my career. I forgot to dust off my crystal ball.
When I put together my first post-MSW resume in 2007, it was pretty simple and straightforward. But if there’s one thing we can count on in life it’s change, and the resume is not immune. What would my crystal ball have revealed about the changing face of the resume?
Listing accomplishments is taking on greater importance.
No longer is it the case that recruiters and HR-types are satisfied with descriptions of your skill sets, or thinly veiled lines pulled from a current or prior job description. They want to know what you’ve accomplished, concretely, in your prior (or current) role. In other words, how well you did what you were asked to do.
Here, then, is my advice to all newly minted social workers.
Track, in detail, not only your personal accomplishments in any given role,
but accomplishments that were achieved as part of any team effort.
For example, it is nearly always the case that we have funder-mandated goals to achieve. Did your program meet those goals? What? Five years in a row!
“I was selected to represent my department on a five-member interdisciplinary team whose efforts led to our program surpassing contracted goals five years in a row.”
On an individual level:
“For two successive years I had the highest number of permanent placements for residents in our transitional housing program.”
In an interview, be prepared to back that statement up with the numbers you jotted down, back when.
I would be remiss, though, to suggest that this would be beneficial only to new social workers, though the beginning is always the best place to start. No matter where you are in your career, it’s a great idea to make detailed notes about your achievements. Memorializing these milestones can be critical, because memory is fragile and fleeting—if you’re anything like me, you may not remember a heck of a lot of detail five or six years later. Take notes and jot down brief stories with talking points throughout your career, for those interviews-of-the-future. Careerrealism.com, a helpful job search site, reminds us that “…every job is temporary.” This is real and true, and you want to be ready with stories and achievements and skill set descriptions whenever that time may come to make your next career move—whether you initiate it, or not.
A word on that top-of-the-resume “Objective”
I think by now we’ve all pretty much done away with the “Objective” at the top of our resume. “I am seeking a position with a great organization committed to outstanding service delivery to their clients.” “Oh, so you want a job? I wasn’t sure why you were sending me a resume” says my imagined HR professional. As things go, the classic “Objective” is obsolete and it’s not likely to come back anytime soon.
However, if the organization you are applying to asks for a statement on your professional career goal or goals you need to respond, and it’s best to be prepared. In writing this personal mission statement, be specific and tie your career goals to the mission statement of the organization you are applying to. This will help the recruiter or Human Resources staffer understand that “What I seek for myself aligns with what your organization does—we are a good fit.” Then, the resume you’ve prepared will demonstrate concretely that you have the skill set(s) they are looking for, and your cover letter will describe, in narrative form, how you will add value to the program and organization. It’s all got to fit—together, each of these elements (cover letter, resume with accomplishments, personal mission statement) will be greater than the sum of its parts and move you that much closer to winning the position you’re competing for.