A few years ago, I started a cute little side business editing resumes and cover letters. It came about like this: I looked at my Google Drive one day and saw it was full of resumes from friends, family, and people who were pretty much strangers who had all asked an overly accommodating gal they knew who really liked writing (that’s me!) to edit them.
As I thought about all of the hours of unpaid labor I had put into resume editing over the years, and all of the student loan debt I still had to pay off, I wondered, “What would happen if I set up a website and charged people for this…?” And thus, my resume editing side business was born.
I’ve edited a ton of resumes over the last few years from all kinds of people. Teachers and Harvard alum and actresses who appeared on a few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy who were becoming life coaches (one of my favorite clients). Medical equipment salespeople and photographers and aspiring doctors.
I have edited very many, very different resumes. And the one piece I give to pretty much everybody is this:
A great resume doesn’t just tell people what you did — it articulates the impact you made.
To Do List vs. Fact Sheet
A lot of resumes read like a very high level to do list. Sort of like this:
Marketing Manager, Good Company
- Lead all marketing activities from strategy to implementation
- Edit our company blog, write segmented emails, and schedule social media posts
- Oversee strategic events and workshops designed to bring in leads
That’s all fine I guess. But check out how much more interesting the job sounds if you tell it like this:
Marketing Manager, Good Company
- Built marketing department from the ground up, catalyzing marketing activities that helped achieve company’s $6 MM revenue goal in 2018
- Increased blog traffic by 250% through weekly posts; increased email open rates by 20%; achieved 300K social media impressions over 12 month period
- Managed 10 events/workshops that directly resulted in $25K in net new business
I’m really leaning into the impact thing here. I would not necessarily say that your whole resume should read like a fact sheet. But in my experience, most resumes are way too much “to do list” and not nearly enough “fact sheet.”
You can see that my first example is way more about WHAT YOU DID and the second one is way more about WHY IT MATTERS.
Tips for Working Impact Into Your Resume
There are two tips I give to my clients when trying to help them figure out how to show the impact of their work on their resumes:
1. Share results
Showing the results of your work is the surest way to demonstrate impact. This includes numbers like % change in a metric that’s meaningful to your role or a total amount that shows off your ability to meet goals.
Employers don’t do a particularly good job of helping employees make sense of how their individual work can be traced up to the organization achieving critical goals. But no matter what your job is, the straightest line between your individual contribution and the organization’s success is usually the answer to this question:
How do I help my organization make money?
(Ugh I know what a gross question but someone else picked this capitalist society I don’t make the rules.)
Work in nonprofits? How does your job help bring in donations which = money?
Work in marketing? How does your job help bring in leads which become prospects which become clients which = money?
Work at an agency? How does the way you do your job help increase your billable time which = money?
Make a product? How do you help reduce manufacturing costs and/or increase sales which = money?
Are you a teacher? How do you create a curriculum that helps students thrive and also achieve excellent test scores which helps your school get funding which = money?
Following the trail of this question will almost always help you get to a metric that will show the impact you made at your job in a clear and meaningful way.
You can really show off your impact by tracking this metric over time. So please for the love of Pete Davidson collect some baseline metrics when you start at your new job! Or collect some right now if you haven’t already!! Get a sense of where your organization is currently at so you can grab those same numbers when it’s time to apply for a new job 3 months, 6 months, or several years later so you can show your potential employer how lucky they would be to have you because you were able to increase (whatever metric matters to you) by X% over Y period of time.
2. Use any numbers you’ve got
Are you doing what a lot of my past resume editing clients have done and saying to yourself, “But Bridgett, my job is special in some way and so I cannot possibly think of how to communicate impact the way you have asked me to above / I did not collect baseline metrics and have no idea what numbers I could attach to my resume to clearly demonstrate my success??????”
I have met many people just like you, my friend! And you are in luck. I have another tip for you. And it’s basically just to find numbers — any numbers — and scatter them throughout your resume.
Numbers stand out in the sea of words that is your resume. While numbers don’t tell the whole story, they can quickly communicate the breadth of your work and show how much responsibility your prior jobs have trusted you with. Knowing you oversaw a $25,000 budget or managed 5 direct reports or worked with over 20 clients gives hiring managers a better sense of the scope of your experience. Numbers sound kind of like impact, even though they’re really just adding some quantitative context to a mostly qualitative document.
If you work impact into your resume, my anecdotal evidence shows that you will be outshining about 90% of your competition in a job interview. Being able to show the connections between your work and an organization accomplishing its goals will set you apart from other candidates, and will show off your strengths as a strategic thinker.
Now go get your dream job, kiddo!