Try Using the “Reverse Graffiti” Approach to Resumes
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Have you heard of reverse graffiti? It’s an entirely new approach to street art in which the artist removes the grime on city buildings to create images instead of using spray paint.
So what does this have to do with your resume? Think about how hard you have to look for the hidden masterpieces of achievement in your documents to give yourself a clue about the connection.
Take a moment to consider how most people approach the onerous task of resume revision – it usually involves adding more recent information, job experiences, or training to the same old document. Is that your approach too? Unfortunately, the additive approach to revising your resume is very similar to the accumulation of years of grime on those cityscapes that street artists take as their canvas. Borrowing the technique of removing layers of grime to showcase your talents is a much more successful approach to revising your resume.
In order to “find” your strengths, you need to start cutting the content of your resume. But getting rid of the grime can feel impossible because it becomes an emotional task. See if these statements sound familiar:
“But I was the youngest project manager across 3 states.”
“I won Rookie of the Year at my first job.”
Of course these are important accomplishments to you because they are part of your personal job history. These early accomplishments probably gave you the confidence to succeed at the next level. However, as you advance in your career, your resume should no long include your professional “baby pictures.”
To avoid the temptation to include all of your work history in your resume, archive one version that is comprehensive. Maintain this comprehensive resume with all of the details that are important to you personally – and then set that version aside. Next, start fresh. To create an effective resume, cut, cut, cut the content until you are including only the last ten to fifteen years of your career.
This advice may seem surprising, but consider this: including too many successes from early in your career may make the hiring manager wonder if your best years are behind you. You can’t risk that impression because you are feeling nostalgic about your early career! Get rid of the grime by deleting early career highlights.
Just as an artist approaches a painting with an outline sketch, you need to take a deliberate approach to your resume. What is the impression or picture that you want the hiring manager to have of you after reading your resume? A good outline for your resume will help you create a compelling story by painting a picture of your experiences.
Use descriptions of each company where you worked to provide the background for your accomplishments. Then include an interesting narrative of your job duties. Daily tasks of your job are the midpoint in the painting (that is your resume). Finally describe the important details of your achievements in the foreground where they will receive the greatest attention from the reader. The background, midpoint, and foreground approach to your outline paints a cohesive picture of your skills and qualifications by removing unnecessary grime.
Remember to follow your outline in describing all 3 levels to maintain the focus on the qualifications that matter to the potential employer. Including too many details will obscure your achievements. Even presenting all the information in your resume in the same way, such as including bullet points for everything, will make your achievements harder to pick out. Create a pleasant picture with your resume and the hiring manager is likely to spend more time reviewing your documents.
When making your outline, you may also need to consult references for the details, just as an artist might look for additional information about architecture or nature to complete their masterpiece. For your resume, review job descriptions to gain a sense of key qualifications for the opening and to make certain your resume demonstrates those skills. You may also be able to highlight industry key words by reviewing such descriptions, and strategically placing those terms in your documents to get the right attention from hiring managers and search engines.
Borrow a new perspective to discover what strengths are hidden behind years of old work experience and accomplishments in your resume. Chances are that your resume includes information that no longer reflects your current level of skill. Clear away the grime from your resume and show the hiring manager the masterpiece of unique accomplishments you have to offer!
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