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Don’t Update Your Resume. Start Doing This Instead

Don't Update Your Resume: Do This Instead | Red Cape Revolution

Laid off, furloughed, or just knowing it’s time to look for what’s next?  Just promise me one thing.

Don’t update your resume.

I know, I know. That’s the FIRST thing most people think they’re supposed to do, right?

And unfortunately, it’s still the advice too many well-meaning but out-of-date career counselors offer.

But it’s the wrong place to start.

Yes, sure at some point as you work on what’s next for you, you’ll probably need a resume. But when it’s the first thing you do, it’s a trap.

In this article, I’ll share why it’s a terrible idea to update your resume when you’re starting to think about career change, and what you should do NOW instead.

History Lesson: When “Update Your Resume” Was Good Advice

To understand how we got the bad advice to “update your resume,” let’s look back.

And we’re not talking about totally prehistoric days, but even a time like the 1990s, when most of us were still looking for pay phones at airports and the internet was fresh and new for most of us.


In that era, a successful person’s typical career change process went something like this:

Hmm. . . I’m ready for a change. So I guess I should update my resume.

(Brief work occurs to add the most current role and accomplishments.)

Okay. Done.

Now, let me look at the newspaper (which comes to my home or office each day) and see who is hiring in professions like mine.

Oh! Here are a few ads for companies in my area. I will send my resume and a short cover letter through the postal mail so that they know who I am and what I can do.

(A week goes by.)

(You arrive home and hear this message on your answering machine:) Hello, this is Company X and we’d like to schedule you for an interview.

Scheduling ensues, your suit is ready, and the interview commences.

(A few days go by.)

Company X calls. They say either A: We’d like to hire you, and here’s the offer, OR B.) I’m sorry, but we’ve chosen someone else.

(You either start a new job or go back to sending out resumes. Eventually, you find something new.)

Now, flash forward to today for the same successful professional  . . .

Hmm. . . I’m ready for a change. So I guess I should update my resume.

(Hours of work occurs to tweek your resume to research and include keywords in your industry, to create versions for different jobs, and to try out hundreds of different formats and designs. )

(Days–maybe months–later.)

Okay. Done.

Now, let me look at the internet and see who is hiring in professions like mine.

Uh-oh! There’s A LOT on the internet—but what’s real, and what’s not? What’s right for me? There are jobs here I could do—but should I? And there are jobs where I’m qualified for a few of their skills, but not the whole list—what do I do then?

I’ll guess I’ll just start uploading my resume to every single job and odds are that ONE of them will want me.

(You spend hours stripping your well-crafted resume into a format-free mess in order for it to upload. You re-write the same info that’s on your resume into multiple company job applications. You press submit.)

(Months go by. No interviews. No suit. No communication.)

Hmm. . . . Something must be wrong with my resume.

(So you go back and spend hours and hours and hours reworking it. Maybe you decide you have to pay money to have someone else “fix” yours.)

(And you start the process all over again. And get the same results.)

Hmm. . .  this is not working. Something must be wrong with ME.

(And you feel crappy, frustrated, and exhausted, so you stay stuck.)

Whew. Deep breath.

THAT is what happens—what IS happening—when you follow the bad, outdated, and truly harmful advice that you should FIRST update your resume.

Another deep breath. Can you tell I get nutso about this?

So, now what? If you’re thinking about what’s next for you, and your next step is NOT to update your resume, then what the heck is it?

Instead of updating your resume, focus first on getting clear on who you are and what you want next at work.

With apologies to Kermit, it’s not that easy being clear.

We’re faced with a cacophony of voices from well-meaning friends, colleagues, family members, and media (both fake and real).

There’s a lot of noise about what we SHOULD be or what we SHOULD want.

Doing the work to get clear right now helps you drown out all the noise.

Investing time and attention in yourself to get clear helps you listen to the most important voice –your own.

In my experience working with hundreds of clients in person and teaching even more through my on-demand video course, Get Career Clear, once you get clear, you have:

  • A better understanding of what’s most important to you—the characteristics and experiences you value—both personally and professionally. Most conflict between organizations and people comes about because their values are out of sync, like hitting two keys next to each other on the piano. Both are just fine alone, but they just don’t go together, and so unhappiness ensues.
  • A longer-term vision, because if we don’t know where we want to go, we don’t know that today’s decisions will help take us there.
  • Awareness of the superpowers you bring to work-all of the strengths, skills, talents, attitudes, perspectives, resources and knowledge that represent you at your very best.
  • A distinct picture of the type of working environment where you thrive. If you’re best in a fast-paced world, why consider a company that moves at a snail’s pace? Or, if you need quiet and space to think, that group with open space offices and constant interruptions won’t be the scene for you.

All of these aspects become filters to help shut out all the voices telling you what you “should” do and help you tune into the whispers and feel more confident and in control as you decide what’s next for you.

That way, when it’s time to update your resume—if you even find you need to update your resume at all—you’ll know exactly what you need to say, how you need to say it, and who needs to hear it.

Hey—want more help?

No matter what’s happening in your life at work, a 30-minute chat with me can help you get unstuck and move forward, fast. 

Just hit the button below, and pick a date and time that’s available. Answer a few short questions, and then I’ll call you at the time you picked. There’s nothing to prepare–just show up right where you are. If, after we talk, it sounds like one of my coaching programs or courses will help you going forward, I’ll share details after our call. There’s no pressure -my goal is to be helpful immediately.

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