6 Resume Errors That Changed My Life

My first layoff was devastating. I was confused, frustrated, and embarrassed. I could not understand how I (using my British accent), Dr. Johnette Ruffner-Ceaser, could be experiencing this type of rejection. After all, I had done everything right. I had been a good student, earned three degrees, served as a National Director for the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the nation, I worked at several highly respected organizations, and everyone told me that once I completed my doctorate, I would have no problem securing gainful employment.

Well, it took 18 months to get another job. During that time, I discovered six resume errors that delayed my resurrection from the unemployment abyss and changed my life.

Error #1: I immediately dusted off my resume and applied for jobs. To most, this is not a mistake. It is an appropriate step for any responsible adult. However, I discovered that using your resume too quickly after a layoff can extend the demoralizing, weekly filing of unemployment claims and it can exhaust the number of creative ways to express to Navient, “I can’t pay!”

Error #2: My resume was a relic. I had not utilized it, to secure a job, in over a decade. My resume had been used to take up space in the HR filing cabinet of my employer. It was only updated to reflect my current position after each promotion. Little did I know the workforce had changed over the last 10-15 years due to technology and the influx of millennials, named Ethan, who now serve as hiring managers. The rules of engagement had changed, and I was out of the loop. (Note: I have nothing against millennials or anyone named Ethan.)

Error #3: My pain from the layoff was too fresh. I discovered that resumes are living documents. They take on the spirit of their creator. Just like books and music take on the spirit its author possessed at the time they were written or composed. The spirit of any creation gives the reader/listener/observer an emotional response (i.e. boredom, excitement, comfort).

My pain went into the resume. I believe hiring managers could sense despair, as my primary focus was to get a job and to get one fast. So, like anyone faced with a potentially desperate partner, hiring managers fled like turkeys on Thanksgiving and rejected my attempts to establish a professional relationship.

Error #4: I was revising my resume for a potential employer and not for myself. I realized my resume is primarily for me; not a potential employer. My resume details and reflects my unique brand. Before I can sell it, I must be the first person to believe and understand it. If I did not like or know what I am promoting, how did I expect anyone else to connect with it?

Error #5: I was only using my resume to get a job. I failed to see that my resume could be used to create my professional brand, to see progression or the lack thereof, to discover my diverse experience, to understand my transferable skills and talents, and to uncover hidden opportunities. I, unfortunately, had a limited view of my resume’s power and worth.

Error #6: I left “me” out of my resuME. I was so focused on appealing to a hiring manager; I failed to consider who I was and what I wanted. The layoff was my golden opportunity to bridge the gap between years of professional emptiness to professional freedom and purpose. It was time for me to reflect and assess my wants, my needs, and my worth.

The layoff experience was painful. However, it was a priceless opportunity that challenged everything I thought I knew about myself. It forced me to change my perspective on many things, but specifically my approach to work, it helped me to redefine what it means to be a professional and a leader, and it helped me to use my resume to build a pathway to professional freedom by fulfilling my dream of entrepreneurship.

If you are unemployed, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on where you are and what’s happening in this season of your career before you start seeking employment. Dig into your resume and absorb the power that resides within it. Don’t give away the opportunity to rebuild, reinvent, and re-purpose yourself. Choose liberation so you can freely and confidently demonstrate your unique value and purpose in your resume, in the workplace, and beyond.

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