How to make a kick ass CV and resume

Before we get too much further into the year, there are two things you need to do to boost your career. Capture the past year’s highlights on your resume AND set up good systems for the year ahead.

The beginning of a new year is a natural time for reflection, contemplation and fresh starts, but NOW is always the best time to set yourself up for success.

Us ‘millenials’ are much more likely to jump jobs than previous generations, making resumes and interview skills even more important. Being able to identify and articulate what you’ve done is especially important early on in your career.

Even if you’re not currently job-hunting, now is the time to practice writing about yourself in a positive light.

Why now? So when the job application or  interview comes around it’ll feel natural. (Also people have terrible memories, so you don’t want to forget all the cool things you’ve done.)

Create an “I’m awesome because…” document.

Who’s awesome? You’re awesome. But sometimes it’s hard to remember why. Like when you’re writing a job application and can’t for the life of you remember when you ‘solved a problem’, ‘demonstrated resilience’ or ‘worked under pressure’.

An “I’m awesome because…” document is like an encyclopedia of all the things you’ve done – a list of career wins and examples of skills demonstrated. These can be included in a resume or cover letter, used when addressing key selection criteria or as answers in an interview.

What did you do in the past 12 months?

Start by making a list of what you’ve been working on. This might include:

  • Projects. What did you work on? Was there a specific focus you had? A key thing that you were responsible for?
  • Events. Did you run anything? Attend anything?
  • Teams. Were you part of one? Managing people? Was there conflict? Was there consensus? Did anything you do affect the way the team worked?
  • Strategy. What planning and strategic thinking were you involved with? Any long-term goals, problem solving, creative thinking?
  • Public speaking. Did you do a presentation (internally or externally)? Did you MC an event? Give an interview? Present a lecture?

Next step, how well did you do it?

Think about all the highlights. What are you proud of doing this year? When did something good happen? When were you challenged? How’d you get out of the mess?

Think of a moment when…

  • Someone told you you’d done a good job
  • You felt proud of your work
  • Your team had a win (what was your role in making this happen?)
  • You fixed something / came up with a solution

Write so that it’s useful.

The STAR model is a great way to frame applications and interview responses – and a great way to frame your examples in the document. Outlining the Situation, Task, Activity and Result shows that not only can you take action, but your actions have great outcomes.

If you’re struggling to write positively about yourself it’s much easier to pretend you’re writing about a random third person. Write like someone else would speak about you.

Another trick I use is to write your achievements as quasi-instructions. This way you include specifics and details you might otherwise miss.

This sentence doesn’t tell you much…

“I created a hire agreement document as an external organisation was borrowing our bus.”

But if I think about the steps involved and how it will be used in future I end up with…

“I drafted a vehicle hire agreement between YMCA and an external organisation. This involved liaising with our national legal team and reviewing the relevant insurance documentation. The document I created has been adopted as the template to use across the organisation.”

Option 2 is much clearer, more specific and looks more impressive.

Yeah, I don’t know – I don’t want to sound “up myself”.

Yep. Making a list of all the things you did well can feel like a vanity exercise. And ego is always a bad thing, right?  Wellllll humility and ego are not opposites. Humility and arrogance might be, but ego and self-confidence are excellent things.

It takes a lot of self-reflection, thinking and looking internally to be able to accurately identify your strengths and weaknesses.

We (especially us women) tend to minimise achievements because we think it’s not THAT important or we don’t want to blow our own horn. Too often we can list a million things we want to improve, but devalue what we do well. You know what? Strong, successful people know what they’re awesome at.

You got skills. Be proud of them.

I didn’t do anything special, I was just doing my job.

Awesome! That’s what you’re paid to do. However it’s only you that knows what ‘doing your job’ entails.

Too often we assume that people understand buzz words and role titles, when we should be breaking it down and spelling it out for people. When you’re applying for a job, you want to make it super easy for people to hire you. If someone has to dig through your resume to understand what you do, you’re not getting the gig.

Good applications arrive on a metaphorical silver platter. Tell the person what you can do, why you’re good at it and why they should hire you.

What if I did something different to where I want to work in future?

Don’t underestimate how transferable these skills are. Regardless of the field you’re in, you’re sure to interact with people, face challenges and solve problems.

Casual jobs, volunteering gigs, helping out the local community group or sports club. Write it all down.

Want to make your document even more useful?

Make it relevant. Look at relevant job advertisements, find the key selection criteria that are commonly listed and match the things you’ve done to the criteria. This way you’re super prepared for any questions you’ll get asked.

Include failures. Often interviewers ask you for an example of failure. Being able to talk openly about failure is important, so having a quick answer handy will prevent you freezing up when asked.


5 ways to set yourself up for future

  1. Create an “I’m awesome because…” document that you can add to throughout the year.
  2. If you take on a new project/event/program, add that to your list.
  3. Keep any emails that have comments about your performance or the success of a project/event/program you were involved with.
  4. Ask for feedback from colleagues and stakeholders.
  5. Ask for LinkedIn recommendations following an event/project that you worked on.


Best of luck 🙂

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