As a Human Resources major for both my undergraduate and graduate program, working on resumes was something we did often. We worked on resumes throughout the semesters and even worked on the resumes of our peers. By the end of my six year school journey, I had a resume that had been through various professors and classmates. I also had the most unique resume of all my peers. As a military spouse, employment gaps, volunteering and online freelance work was all on my resume. It wasn’t until graduation that I understood the importance of my varied experience and just how the new skill of resume writing I had acquired would carry me through the rest of my working life.
Your resume is the single most important professional document you own. It determines your earning potential, so it’s important to spend the proper time on your resume. As military spouses we can be easily overwhelmed and confused when it comes to creating our resumes. What do we include? Is it ok that we have so many employment gaps? Will being a military spouse help me get employed? We also might realize, a little too late, that the career we studied for may be of no use in military life and we end up settling for less.
There are ways to get noticed, and your resume is one of the most important ways. Here are four ways to elevate your resume.
Keep it plain and simple - Recruiters who are looking at your resume do not want to read a short story. Do not use crazy fancy words, use words that keep it short and get to the point. Recruiters scan through these resumes and search for keywords, so the easier and shorter the resume, the better. When it comes to length, this topic is always up for debate. Rule of thumb is to not be longer than one page. I will explain below how to get your resume one page long, but if you need to, staying at two pages max is fine.
Target your resume - Remember how I mentioned above about keeping your resume at one page? With a targeted resume, this is exactly how you can make this happen. A targeted resume should only focus on the job you are applying to or same job family. This resume will focus on the skills and experiences of that particular job. Once you send your resume in, it is almost as if you are bidding for this job hundreds are applying, and you are in a way proving that you are the best of all. By writing a targeted resume, you are highlighting why you are qualified for the position. This will also give you the ability to delete unnecessary roles from your resume and keep it simple and short. Targeting your resume also applies to your education. Some people add their GPA, but there generally isn’t a use for adding this you’re your resume. While you may have exceeded in your studies, this won’t pertain to the job you are applying for . Be sure to also add vocational training you may have taken (i.e.: cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu in NYC), but make sure when applying for the job that the vocation makes sense for that job (i.e. delete your vocation at Le Cordon Bleu if you are applying as a banker).
Overall, writing a targeted resume is where you are going to have to use the “copy, paste & delete” mechanism. Some recruiters appreciate the experience, but try to keep your resume and employment history relevant to the position and no older than 10 years old.
Quick Resume Tip: Don’t know what to include in your targeted resume? Take a careful look at the job description and skills in the job announcement. Make sure to utilize the keywords they have listed . For instance, if you are applying for a marketing assistant position look back at other roles you have had where some of the experience may match.
Remove the months when listing job gaps - As a military spouse or service member, you may have job gaps. There is nothing wrong with explaining those gaps; one great way to do this is by using dates. When listing employment dates on your resume you don't need to list the month/year if you were in a position for over a year.
For example, use this format: 2014 - 2016 (rather than June, 2014 - October, 2016) which would also serve as a way to give you some room to cover the gaps:
Project Manager, ABC Company 2014 – 2016
Marketing Assistant, XYZ Company 2012 – 2014
As you can see, the resume doesn't specifically say when you started or ended a position, which can easily cover the gap on the resume. Don’t use this as a way to lie about dates; recruiters verify employment so always be honest when explaining gaps.
Quick Resume Tip: When you have any employment gaps, you can use the cover letter to explain the gap. Very briefly explain why, you don’t need to go into excessive detail or bring it to the recruiter’s attention verbally unless asked details about it.
Don’t skip over volunteer work - According to the 2016 Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey, military families volunteer at rates three times higher than the general US population. Why are military spouses not putting volunteer experience on their resumes? Volunteer work is just as valuable as working for an employer and a LinkedIn research study found that one in five hiring managers consider volunteer work experience a valuable asset when considering candidates. As a volunteer you are providing services to an individual or organization. If you haven’t volunteered yet, find an organization in your field of interest and find out if you can volunteer your time for work experience.
Working on your resume should take some effort, and making the time to do so, you are showing that you are indeed the best person for the job.
Do you have something to add? Share with us in the comments below?
About the blogger: Angela Caban is an Army National Guard spouse, published author and branding expert. In 2010, she founded the Homefront United Network, a military spouse and family support blog created to assist spouses who do not live near an installation, but also focusing on bridging the gap between National Guard, Reserve and Active Duty spouses. She has an extensive background in Human Resources and Communications, with her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Human Resources. Angela resides in the beautiful Garden State of New Jersey with her husband and two children.