Add "Umph" to Your Resume

“I don’t like my resume. It doesn’t help me stand out.”

I hear this every single week.

Why do you feel that way? It’s probably the same reason most people do. When I look at a resume, most often I find that the resume does not show the strength of someone’s talent and ability. So of course you feel it’s blah.

There’s no strength to the resume because your strengths are not highlighted appropriately, so you won’t stand out.

How can that be remedied? I find there are three main culprits:

• Examples are not strong enough

• Words are not strong enough

• Accomplishments and awards are buried in job descriptions

Strengthen Your Examples

Most career profiles and job descriptions contain lists of responsibilities. Almost all the resumes they get will be people with similar qualifications, right? So they probably have the same or at least a very similar list of responsibilities on their resume. Who will stand out?

No one.

Not unless you use stronger examples. A lot of people think specific examples of work should be saved for a cover letter and/or interview. Don’t let this trap happen to you!

Examples with detail will demonstrate how you have performed your responsibilities. Use names of partners or clients (if it’s confidential, come up with vague descriptions). Include titles of people with whom you work. Incorporate numbers, such as numbers of attendees at a conference where you presented; how many people you trained or supervised; or the number of people in the organization you support as director of IT.

Most importantly, what outcomes did you achieve in each case, or aim to achieve if no result is yet evident (or if nothing came of it)? Don’t tell the employer you are results-oriented! Show them through these examples.

Isn’t it much more interesting to show what you’ve done than to have a laundry list of duties that mirrors everyone else’s?

YOU will feel better about your accomplishments when you present yourself this way, and in turn, you will stand out. If you stand out from the pack, the employer will want to talk to you.

Strengthen Your Words

When you write your bullets with specific examples, use strong language.

Use active voice. Start each bullet with a verb. You want to create a clear picture in the employer’s mind of what you did. Here are examples of some of my favorite verbs:

• Built

• Engaged

• Presented

• Selected

• Introduced

Extract Accomplishments and Awards

Too often I see achievements and awards buried in job descriptions. Pull them out!

Awards warrant a separate section of your resume because otherwise employers won’t see it.

You should write as if all of your job description bullets are achievements. Remember when I said to include the outcome or aim, if a result is not yet evident? These are all ahceivements. Forget about listing responsibilities first and bullets below labeled “accomplishments” or achievements.

Your resume is a story of your achievements, so strengthen your examples and your words to make it that way. That is how you will stand out.

My Career: What I Don't Want

I checked in with a former client who shared a major shift she went through career-wise. She gave up working in the private sector, took a significant pay cut, and traded a long commute for short one. She’s now working near her children’s school and has job security. She finally feels like she has a strong balance in her life, and feels happy and grateful.

The most striking part of her message was this:

“Once I figured what I didn't want, ironically everything fell into place.”

This sounds so incredibly obvious but it is something we shy away from in our culture. We’re always talking about desires, needs, wants, positivity. How about looking at things from another lens?

Sure, there are things you can’t avoid. You need to earn a living. But with the flexibility of options and work increasing, there are more ways to do so.

As Marie Kondo would say, “Does this bring you joy?”

 Here are 4 questions to get you started:

· What things am I doing at work each day that I do not enjoy?

· Are there companies and/or industries that I would never want to work for?

· What is the longest commute I’d be willing to make?

· What is the lowest salary I could take?

This will give you insight into what you don’t want, clearing the air to help you focus on finding what you DO want.

Re-Energize Your Summer Job Search

One of the last things you want to do over the summer is add something to your to-do list, especially a job search. But if it’s weighing on your mind, do these two simple things to get started and feel like you’re on your way to the next great thing.


Focus on your headline (maximum 120 characters), summary (maximum 2,000 characters), list of skills, and recommendations. Do not simply type your job title into the headline! This is your opportunity to exhibit your strengths and accomplishments. If you’ve won awards, you can be an “Award-winning marketing manager,” and then add a dash or marker to separate a few key skills like “corporate communications” or “healthcare.”

Get personal with your summary. What motivated you to get into your field, or how did you fall into it in the first place? Were there activities you participated in when young who have shaped the skills you use today, such as leadership or communication? Combine the professional and personal.

Update your list of skills. Look at key words and phrases from your current job description or those of interest to you and use the terms that align with your background. Don’t forget technical and language skills.

Ask for a few recommendations from current or former colleagues. You can do this right through LinkedIn, and often writing one for another person inspires them to return the favor. You can give them an idea of the skills you’d like them to focus on when writing it.


Use this time to think about companies, organizations, or industries in which you are interested. This is a lot easier than starting with searches by job titles which are not standard and vary greatly between companies. This will also help you focus your resume and cover letters when the time comes.

Sign up for talent communities online to receive job listing updates from the companies you want to target. Try to connect with people there and build relationships - either through contacts you already have (or 2nd degree LinkedIn connections) or alumni groups.