IT Resume Makeover: How to Avoid Selling Yourself Short

Resume expert Cheryl Lynch-Simpson helps an early career project manager develop her personal brand in this month's CIO.com Resume Makeover.

There's a time and a place for modesty and humility -- your resume isn't one of them. That's what Cheryl Lynch-Simpson, executive career coach and resume expert with Executive Resume Rescue, saw when she looked at Susan Toomey's (not her real name) resume -- a talented, highly skilled project management professional who was selling herself short.

CIO.com Resume Makeover

"My first impression was that Susan was dramatically underselling herself," Lynch-Simpson says. "Susan's original resume was generic. Her summary contained content that could have been true of any candidate seeking similar roles, which is always a sign to me that she wasn't doing significant 'branding,'" Lynch-Simpson says.

A personal brand is critical to set yourself apart from other candidates vying for the same position. Making sure to hone in on unique achievements, successes, skills and knowledge is key, especially for a candidate like Toomey who, while experienced, didn't have decades of work history behind her.

[Related: Resume Makeover: How to Emphasize Your Career Highlights]

Part of Lynch-Simpson's process when working with a resume is to have candidates complete a branding and achievement questionnaire to help them identify their career highlights and articulate what makes them stand out from other candidates.

While it may seem like boasting or bragging, "branding" and "selling" your accomplishments demonstrates your value to potential employers and is necessary to gain an edge in a tight job market.

[View Original Resume]

Personal branding is especially important for early career professionals who might not have much in the way of work history, but can still demonstrate value and worth to potential employers using measurable results, keywords and active language.

"As an early career professional, Susan didn't have the same kind of numbers and results to clarify the impact of her actions, but I stressed the results she achieved with softer language that, nonetheless, is a huge improvement," says Lynch-Simpson.

"I used keywords and phrases to introduce her achievements -- a practice that increases the resume's keyword count while also providing context for Susan's accomplishments," , Lynch-Simpson says. In addition, she added strong testimonials to reinforce Toomey's rapid rise at BlackBerry.

"I also honed in on her people skills and process management skills to help prove her readiness for higher-level positions," says Lynch-Simpson. Susan's resume also looks better, with a more intuitive format and use of numerous keywords.

"I thought my resume showed a lack of focus on achievements and value-adds," Toomey says. "I was surprised to find out that branding was so important. I was describing what I did, but not how I did it or how I provided benefit to my employer," she says.

[Related: Resume Makeover: How to Sell Your Tech Sales Skills]

"The resume Cheryl provided was eye-catching, but there was also great substance to add to the style. She not only made it look good, she made it a powerful document that captured my working style and history succinctly," says Toomey.

[View Resume Makeover]

The key to identifying your personal brand is to reflect on where your career has been, where you want it to go, and how your individual traits, skills and experience make you uniquely qualified for the position that can take you there, says Lynch-Simpson.

"Susan's new resume is designed to help her land another project management role and take the next step in her career when she's ready," says Lynch-Simpson.

Sharon Florentine covers IT careers and data center topics for CIO.com. Follow Sharon on Twitter @MyShar0na. Email her at sflorentine@cio.com Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook.

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