5 Reasons to Update Your Resume Regularly – And 7 Mistakes to Avoid

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Not having a job is terrifying and stressful. It can be draining to worry if you will get a return call from your most recent interview or if you will be able to keep the lights on next month. You polish your resume time and time again, targeting it toward specific jobs and writing up…

Not having a job is terrifying and stressful. It can be draining to worry if you will get a return call from your most recent interview or if you will be able to keep the lights on next month. You polish your resume time and time again, targeting it toward specific jobs and writing up cover letters for each application.

Then you finally land the new job. All is well in the world.

After getting a job and jumping out of the ranks of the unemployed, it is easy to ignore your resume. You just got this great new job. Your bills are paid and you have income coming in.

You don’t need it now, right?

Exactly! At least, if you like being back in the unemployment line. If not, read on.

5 Reasons You Need to Consistently Update Your Resume

4 reasons to update your resume regularly

Don’t think you need to update your resume after you get a job or have been employed for many years? Think again. Layoffs, mergers, realignments, and other causes of job loss are always a possibility. The last thing you want to do is be out on the street before you can figure out what happened – or what to do. These tips can help you avoid that mistake, and others.

1. Avoid Panic During Job Loss

The absolutely worst time to update your resume is the day you get laid off from your job. You are on an emotional roller coaster of panic, fear, and anxiety. You’re right back where you were the last time you were unemployed and you will not be prepared.

In this emotional frenzy it is unlikely you will remember what you did on a day to day basis and what achievements were met on your watch. Looking back every 6 months or so will help you remember some of the critical impacts you had for your employer during that time.

2. Remember Major Projects

Likewise, it can be easy to forget about major projects just a few years removed from them. Sure, you might remember the overall idea of the project that saved the company. But specific details that a hiring manager might want to hear about? Not likely. This is especially true if you stay with the same employer for a significant length of time. You’ll be surprised how much you actually do in a given year when you start to document it. Take credit for your work!

3. Connect with Other Professionals

This tip is more helpful for LinkedIn profiles and digital resumes than a traditional paper resume, but updating your major projects and the work you are doing will give you more opportunity to network, connect, and collaborate with other professionals in your field. Having vague details won’t attract anyone to want to learn more about your work, details will.

4. Find Your Next Job

Of course a resume helps you find your next job; you probably just used it to get your last job.

There’s a key difference here, though. It’s critical: the best time to find your next job is while you still have your old job.

Period.

Employers want to hire employed people. Employed individuals’ skills are fresh and another company appears to value them, so as a prospective employer we should be interested in hiring that person, too. They are at least worth an interview.

Contrast that with the person who has been unemployed for 14 months and is struggling to get by. Hiring managers start to wonder why no one else has hired this candidate. They presume the candidate’s skills are out of date even if they got job training of some kind since their last job.

It’s just not as easy when you’re unemployed. So be proactive, keep your resume updated, and find the next job when you are the most desirable: as someone else’s employee.

5. You will always be ready for the next opportunity

Many job recruiters reach out when they have immediate job openings. You may already have a job, but it never hurts to shop around. You may find an opportunity that offers you a better situation, such as increased pay and benefits, a shorter commute, a more challenging job, better promotion potential or growth opportunities, etc. Having an up to date resume ensures you are ready to explore this opportunity at a moment’s notice, rather than respond with a vague reply of, “sure, I’ll send my resume over as soon as I dig it up…”

7 Common Resume Mistakes to Avoid When Updating Your Resume

Your resume is one of the first things a potential employer sees from you. Many employers make judgments about whether or not to have you come in and interview based on what they see in your resume. (It’s also important to have a good cover letter and to have a personal statement.)

As a result, your resume should be easy to read, and it should emphasize the the skills and experience that fit you for the job. As you prepare your resume, avoid the following 7 mistakes:

1. Lack of Professional Email Contact

Let’s be honest. The email address [email protected] is not going to win you cheerleaders in the company. Another issue is college email addresses. What happens when you graduate and the address expires? It’s a good idea to come up with a professional email address (perhaps incorporating your name) at a permanent mail provider. Something permanent and professional will mean you can be reached, and it will indicate that you are ready to enter the professional world.

2. Long Resume

Employers just want a taste of you. A resume that goes beyond one or two pages is too long. Don’t confuse a resume with your curriculum vitae, which is supposed to be long. If you are running out of room, carefully consider what to leave in. (Hint: It should be items that highlight what makes you great for the job.)

3. Lack of Customization

Customize your resume for the job. A generic resume is easy for hiring managers to spot. Instead, read the description and highlight items that show your fitness for the job. Make sure to include keywords in your resume, and move things around. If the job is skills-heavy, move that section to the top. If you are applying for a teaching job, list that experience before other jobs.

4. Typos

Proofread your resume before you send it out. Look for typos, misspellings and other issues. Make sure your formatting is consistent so that your resume is easy to read. Also check for grammar issues like its vs. it’s, their vs. they’re and your vs. you’re.

5. Listing Your References

Don’t list your references on your resume. You should have references available on another sheet, but you don’t need to put them on the resume. It is assumed that if the employer wants references, you will be asked. Listing references takes up valuable space.

6. Highlighting Duties over Accomplishments

One of the biggest mistakes is turning a resume into a laundry list of duties you have performed. Instead of creating a boring list, consider highlighting what you have accomplished. This will show potential employers that you have done something, and make them more interested in interviewing you. Use action-based words to help employers visualize what you have done:

  • Improved efficiency
  • Saved money
  • Built relationships
  • Solved problems
  • Attracted new clients
  • Helped students develop skills
  • Increased sales by x% or x dollars

7. Resume is Poorly Organized

Take some time to think of the way your resume is organized. Try to avoid templates, since many of those resumes are hard to edit — and they look the same. Think of how you can show individuality while still maintaining a logical organization that is clean and easy to read. Avoid cluttering up the resume with a border and images.



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About Kevin Mulligan

Kevin is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and build wealth for retirement. He’s building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for RothIRA.com, Good Financial Cents, Moolanomy, and many others.

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  1. Money Beagle says

    I’ve heard that for a professional with a lot of experience (senior level ___ / manager or above) that a two page resume is acceptable. For someone out of college or with limited experience, then anything over one page is overkill.

  2. Miranda says

    An interesting point. I heard that one page was still the rule from the two professionals I spoke with. I guess it’s largely a matter of personal preference. I suppose if you have enough relevant experience to warrant two pages it would work. I guess the rule would be: Don’t just list stuff to list stuff. Make sure it’s meaningful and highlights your skills. Keep it as brief as you can.

  3. Dr. Timothy Lawler says

    Great advice Miranda. I completely agree with the typos/grammar part. I have looked over so many resumes and evaluations in the past, and I get extremely distracted by poor attention to detail in those two areas. To me, it just goes to show that they didn’t care enough to take the time and go over it with a fine tooth comb. Please keep up the great articles!

  4. Phila Cheerio says

    I just marked 20 years from high school, and I’m on my second career. There is no way I can include all of my relevant work and volunteer experience, plus my professional degree, in one single page. Young people should have a one-page resume, but not necessarily people who are “of a certain age.”

    There’s a happy medium there, too. I don’t include *all* of my jobs or all of the post-secondary education I have had. I keep it to the more interesting and relevant items.

    Otherwise, solid resume advice.

  5. Carl Lassegue says

    Very interesting point: “The best time to find your next job is while you still have your old job.” It seems like it becomes a snow ball. The longer you stay unemployed, the more you suffer financially and your chances of finding employment decrease.

    How often would you recommend people to update their resume? Do you have a specific time period in mind?

  6. Rob says

    This is probably good advice but does not help you after you all ready have been unemployed for some quite some time. It is much easier landing a new job when you all ready have a job. You confidence is higher and you have a easier time negotiating. But if you all ready out of a job and maybe have been out of work six months or maybe a year or longer it becomes harder. The longer your out the harder it is to find a job. The job gaps become a bad subject that the interviewers always have to ask about. It puts you in a bad position.

  7. Elizabeth @ Simple Finance says

    I work freelance for multiple contractors, and I do often update my resume – but I find that, with so many contractors, that it starts to look harried. Any tips to streamline it?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Elizabeth, I recommend reading this article on how to write a resume. It covers resume writing for a variety of circumstances. In your case, it would probably be best to maintain a list of skills and services you provide, then customize your resume for each client. This way you can give them an up to date resume that highlights your strengths as it applies to the job they need accomplished.

      To make this easier, it is a good idea to keep a master resume that tracks everything applicable that you have done, then you can cut out the items which don’t apply to the current situation. It may also be a good idea to maintain a portfolio or online resume for similar reasons.

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