The Problem Of Having A Vague Objective
Writing an objective or career summary can be one of the hardest sections to write in a resume. Why? It is often the shortest part of your resume, so it shouldn’t be hard, right? Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for people because you have to briefly summarize why an employer should hire you. When it gets to the point that it is too difficult to write a tailored, specific summary, some people will give up and just write a vague or generalized one. While this is certainly an option for people, there are problems with it. Some of these include:

  • Confusing or Unclear: If your career summary is vague or generalized, it can become unclear to your potential employers what your focus actually is. You don’t want to make it harder for your potential employers to see what your goal is. They are looking through dozens (or hundreds!) of resumes, and if it is too hard for them to understand what you are saying, they probably won’t take the time to go through the rest of your resume.
  • Looks Lazy: Besides being unclear, a vague summary can look just plain lazy. It can look like you didn’t take time to research the position, and that can cause employers to feel like you don’t care about the role, or their time.

Now that you know some of the problems with having a vague objective, here are some ways that you can fix it so you have a specific, tailored objective that will impress employers.

  • Maintain a clear focus: Be very clear about what it is you want to do. Briefly add some tangible experiences that pertain to this role. Show your expertise and brand!
  • Research: Do some research on  the position so you know what you are talking about. Add similar qualities that you possess to the summary as it will help you stand out more.

That is it.  You just need to be willing to take the time and do the work and you will end up with an impressive focus and summary that will help keep potential employers reading and interested in your resume, and you.

LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn, as well as other forms of social networking and online branding, is a great tool for getting your name out there to employers. But in order for LinkedIn to work for you, then you need to make sure your profile is complete and written in a way that supports your career goals.

Here are a few things you need to ensure you include on your profile:

The first thing you can do is add a photo of yourself. It is very simple. Click on the square with a person in it on the left of your name and add a photo. Your profile photo should be clear and professional looking. Adding a photo will help potential employers see who you are as well as will help them to recognize you when you come in for an interview.

Next, upload the most relevant information from your resume. Include a brand statement, professional summary, specific jobs and achievements,and any significant career highlights. Don’t forget to add information to your “Skills” list. You can either use the LI format, or simply put your best areas of expertise with your professionaly summary. Finish up with your education credentials and any applicable certifications.

Finally, there is a button on the top right hand side of your profile that says, “Improve Profile.” Click on this button and you will be led step by step through sections that will make your profile look even more impressive. The sections range from courses you took in school to languages you speak.

These few steps will not only help you create a complete profile on LinkedIn, but it will also help you create a professional and impressive one.

Career Objective

If you were to ask career counselors if a career objective is worth merit, half of them would say yes. Those arguing against objectives will say they are too limiting and usually poorly constructed. Those in favor will say that employers want to be able to determine quickly what you can do for the company and what you’re good at. An objective can help meet that need. To some employers, the lack of an objective translates into a job seeker who doesn’t know what he or she wants. On the other hand, numerous employers say they rarely see a well-written objective.

There’s no doubt that many resume career objectives are poorly put together as they are usually vague and not job specific. This defeats the whole purpose of the objective in the first place.

Job seekers also tend to ignore the employer’s need to know what a potential employee can contribute and list everything that the job seeker wants. For example, a typical self-serving objective will say “To obtain a meaningful and challenging position which enables me to learn the accounting field and which allows for advancement.” If your career objective doesn’t match what the hiring manager has to offer, he or she is not likely to give serious consideration to other positions within the company that you might fit into.

In other words, don’t leave the career objective off of your resume. You can have several versions of your resume saved on your computer that each have a different objective. You could even come up with a specific, tailor-made objective on your resume for each job you apply for. With technology, resumes and objectives need not be “one size fits all.” However, if you go to a job fair where it’s impossible to tailor your objective as you move from booth to booth, or if you’re handing out resumes in a networking situation, it may make more sense to leave your objective off.

If you are still uncomfortable with committing yourself to an objective on your resume, you can use a cover letter to tailor a resume to specific jobs. The cover letter can help bring the resume into sharper focus by elaborating on what the job seeker wants to do and what he or she can specifically contribute to a particular job.

Employers are seeing more objectives being replaced with wording such as summary, skills summary, qualifications or profile. Keywords in these sections are very important if they are tailored to specific job skills.

Objectives should reflect the employer’s perspective, not the job seeker’s, and should tell what the job seeker can contribute. An objective should demonstrate the value the candidate will add to the organization. Objectives should be as concise as possible. Whether or not you choose to include an objective, you may wish to present a skills or qualifications section on your resume

In today’s competitive job market, you want to make your resume as appealing as possible to prospective employers. Most employers are looking for competent workers to fill key positions quickly, with the expectation that new workers will stay around for many years and become valuable assets to the company. Therefore, a big gap in work history could be viewed by some employers as a sign that you are not looking for a long term commitment to a job.

You need to be honest on your resume about any big gap in work history, but you can be creative in your explanation to present your history in the best light possible. If you have a gap of more than a few months in your work history, you can’t just skip over it on your resume and hope no one will notice. Even though you were not working during that time, you might have been doing something that would look good to an employer.

Having a big gap in work history should not negatively impact your chances of finding a job if you can make the gap look like it was not time wasted. If you had to leave work in order to take care of your ailing parents, or if you took two years off after the birth of your child, you can highlight the valuable experiences you gained during your time off.

If you took a year or two off from a “real” job and spent the time wandering around Europe, describe this period as a personal sabbatical for enhancing your education and understanding of the world.

 

List the time interval as though it was a period of employment, except that you didn’t get paid for it. If the other job descriptions on your resume take up six lines each, devote the same space to describing your “duties” during your time off.

It is better to be up front and honest with potential employers when describing your background. If you have one or more big gaps in employment that were due to circumstances that an employer might see as negative, it is better to explain those circumstances fully in your cover letter when applying for a job. If you spent time in prison or drug rehab, it is better for you to explain what valuable lessons you learned from the experience in your job application process, than it is to hide the truth and hope your potential employer doesn’t discover it in a background check.

Many employers will not view a gap in employment negatively. They recognize the value of continuing education, caring for others, and personal growth experiences. They will often seek out job candidates who have something unusual to offer. By explaining your big gap in work history in the proper light, you may show the boss that you are the exact type of creative and self-motivated individual the company needs for that job you have always dreamed of.

Time and technology changes everything, even how we write our resumes. The old fashioned chronological resume that worked so well even just five years ago may now land your resume in the trash can before it has even been looked at. If you want to stand out, you need a career summary. What’s more, readers of resumes love them. A properly written career summary can quickly and efficiently spell out to a prospective employer why you are most qualified for the position. Simply put, a career summary can be the difference between landing an interview and missing an opportunity.

The career summary typically is positioned beneath your contact information, directly above job experiences. It offers you a chance to quickly summarize all of your relevant experience in one place. By carefully selecting achievements and successes in your career summary, you are creating an effective picture of what you can offer a company. Use your career summary to easily point out what experiences from each of your previous jobs is applicable to the one you are seeking.

While a career summary is not mandatory, and is not suggested for people with little experience, most job seekers can benefit by including a summary in their resume. Writing an adequate summary takes a little bit of skill and should be done on a case by case basis.  If you are looking for a new position and would like to include a career summary on your updated resume, there are a few simple steps to take.

  1. Update your resume: update your resume with new experience and achievements as you normally would.
  2. Review positions: during your job search, carefully review each position you are interested in for their specific qualifications. For example, a particular position may require five or more year’s experience.
  3. Customize your summary: create a new career summary for each position you are apply for, utilizing the specifications discovered during your review.

By creating custom career summaries for each position you apply for you can easily tailor your resume for each position.

Formatting your career summary is easy as well. Most resume experts agree that a bullet point format is best for your career summary section. Try to include three to five bullet points, applicable to each specific job, in your career summary. The bullet points draw the eye and customized qualifications will guarantee further interest in you as a candidate.

Always remember that by not including a career summary with your resume most of your experience is likely to be overlooked. Most hiring professionals quickly scan initial resumes, focusing almost entirely on the last position held. They are unlikely to look at previous experience, meaning much of your experience will be unread and ineffectual. A career summary allows a hiring professional to understand how your entire career experience has molded you to be a perfect fit for their needs.

Writing a resume for yourself can be challenging, at best. That is why most people these days hire a professional to do it. It’s much easier for the professional because they aren’t you! It’s hard for people to figure out what information should stay or go. How many pages? What about this job or that job? What about if I went to several colleges? What if I didn’t graduate from college? Should I omit that job in ’03 because it was only a few months? How do I put this accomplishment into words? Functional? Chronological? I’m terrible at writing, what am I going to do?

It’s hard enough suddenly finding yourself unemployed, but now the task of writing a resume? Forget it!

Take a deep breath and relax, dear reader. Here is a brief synopsis that will help even the “worst writer in the world” overcome writer’s block and put the pen to paper. Keep in mind though that this really is ‘brief’ and you will probably want to discuss any finer points with a Certified Professional Resume Writer.

1.  When starting your resume, the first thing you need to do is put yourself in the mind of the reader. What do they want to see? What do they really want to hear? Are you in sales? Then it’s numbers. Operations? Then it’s process improvements or cost cuts. Business Development? New opportunities, revenue pipelines, partnerships and so on. Always keep your reader in mind. They want to know what you have done– and can you do it for them?

2. After you add your contact information, you need to determine your job objective. What is it that you really want to do? You need to have a clear understanding of your focus. You know what you have been doing, or what you are good at, but what do you really want to do? What is your brand? If you are uncertain, you need to dig deep within and explore your skills, core competencies and what inspires you. Fill your career summary with keyword action phrases and value-added snippets of what you do best. Summarize. Be bold and confident (not cocky) in your language.

3. Getting to the meat of the resume= your work history. It does not have to be a career obituary, “Here lies Erin. I did this, this, and this every day, all day. I did this all with boring bullet point after bullet point, and ended each job without a bang. Hire me?” You can talk about what you did at your job without putting the reader to sleep. Mix it up a bit.

You might add a mini-paragraph after the job title, as your narrative (what you were brought in to do). You don’t want your mini-paragraph to be too long, because the reader may skip right over it. Keep it brief and to the point. Follow it up with your accomplishments, or deliverables, in an action verb, bulleted format.

Show enthusiasm in your tone when writing about your accomplishments. Get the reader excited, create a story! Paint a picture of what was going on in the company when you were there. Were you brought in to clean up a neglected department? Had to put in new processes where none had been in years? Created synergy among a previously hostile union/management environment? That’s a lot of work and it should show on the resume. Bring it out and show it on the resume. Keep it interesting.

4. Education & Professional Development. If you are out of college, you don’t need to add your high school. Personally, unless you are IN college, I never put high school on a resume and sometimes even then I won’t.  Why? If you have a college degree it is a given you went to high school.

What if you went to several colleges? Add the one you graduated from and omit the rest, unless they were for more specialized courses. I’ve seen some resumes with 5 different colleges, no real majors and only a semester here or there. You don’t need to add those. It looks like you were/are wishy washy and can’t stay focused.

Add your professional development and training courses. They add credibility to your resume and show that you are always eager to learn and/or improve.

5.  Miscellaneous. Volunteering is a great thing– especially when it relates to your job or future job. Add it. Hobbies, interests, height, weight and zodiac sign? Omit it.

DO NOT add any political and religious affiliations.

As for your format, I would stick to a reverse chronological style. This is the most popular choice by recruiters and hiring managers. I also create a chrono/functional hybrid style depending on the clients situation.

These are some ideas to help you in the writing process.  Once you start writing, you may not be able to stop! Be confident, have fun and just do it.

CAREER SUMMARY


Take a look at your resume. What does it say at the top? Does it accurately describe your strengths and skills? Does it grab you? If you were the hiring person, would you read it and say, “Wow! Who is this person?”, or would you put the resume in the circular file?

The top half of your resume needs to be fantastic in order to catch the attention of a hiring manager. If they have 200 resumes to look at a week, they will put aside the dull and uninformative ones to get to the more eye-appealing and exciting ones.

If you are still using an objective, say for example: “To obtain a position where I can use my education and experience to achieve a high-paying position with room for advancement”… BEEP! Wrong answer. If your resume says that, crumple it up and throw it out. It’s not doing you any good, in fact it is hindering you from landing a great position.

Your career summary needs to have action words and action phrases, along with a keyword summary of some sort, to stand out and put yourself above the competition. It needs to have tangible statements of what you’ve done and what you can do for the company.

The quickest way to land an interview is having an effective resume, if you haven’t been getting calls, you should consider having it rewritten… and watch the calls come in!

————
Erin Kennedy