Resume Building for Opportunity-Ready Project Managers

We are over a month into the new year, and hopefully everyone has made some resolutions for their career in 2024. After you have made a plan for the year, I suggest that your next step be updating your resume. No, I’m not proposing that everyone needs to quit their job and find a new one, like some high-stakes musical chairs. Being prepared with an updated resume is just a smart strategy. 

Why Keep a Resume Current?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Getting fired or being threatened to be fired is stressful. I network with hundreds of folks monthly, and many are asking for advice and updating their resume when they have to look for a job. However, updating your resume before unemployment strikes will relieve some of the stress of this unfortunate situation. You can take a moment to breathe and prepare for what is next instead of feeling pressured to get your resume ready. Also, you will probably do a better job on your resume if you aren’t in crisis mode.

There are other good reasons to keep an updated resume that don’t involve potential job loss. There is a common saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Why not be prepared for the good fortune, as well? You never know who you will meet at a networking event or when a colleague will DM you the perfect job listing. The world moves at lightning speeds, so it is advantageous to strike quickly while an opportunity is hot.

It is a strange time in the job market right now. While, on the one hand, Project Managers are more in demand than ever, layoffs have also been happening in almost every industry. Whatever motivates you, whether it’s an opportunity or an emergency, it’s a good idea to update your resume regularly. 

What Should You Do to Keep a Resume Current?

Keeping a resume current consists of two parts: physically writing and editing your resume and “fattening up” your resume.

First, the practical aspects of the resume: be sure all your contact information is current, and consider updating your formatting if you haven’t done so in a while. Look at your references to ensure they are still relevant–and living–contacts you would consider reaching out to in case of need. Update your list of skills, certifications, projects, and job descriptions. 

I recommend updating your resume at least a couple of times a year. Writing down your accomplishments and skills while they are fresh and recent will help you record more relevant details. You could also browse job listings to see what kinds of skills employers are looking for so you know what to focus on while updating your resume. 

For maximum flexibility, you can have two resumes – one that lists ALL of your job history, skills, projects, etc., and another that you would use if you were going to apply to your current job. This second resume should be as concise as possible to be available in a pinch. Then, if you are on a job search and need to customize your resume to a job description, you can pull what you require from your comprehensive resume. 

Second, the “fattening up” portion of updating your resume is when you look at your resume and your career aspirations and think about what else you can do to help further your goals and give you an edge in the job market.

The most direct way to add some heft to your resume is through certifications and education. Investing in your professional development is always worth it, but it can sting to shell out the couple hundred dollars it takes to do so. Don’t be afraid to ask your current employer to invest in your professional development; there is a strong case to be made that it will benefit them as well. Then, when you complete each certification, add it to this living document, your resume. Also, remember your network, your local PMI chapter, and other ways to get inexpensive education, and keep a record of all education-related activities you participate in.

Keeping your LinkedIn profile current to reflect the changes you are making to your resume is equally important. Ensuring your profile is rich with keywords helps recruiters find you. Additionally, once you finish a project, ask your colleagues to write you a recommendation on LinkedIn. An invitation can be sent to individuals within the platform, and you can add a note asking them to comment specifically about the project you just finished, implemented, or led. Again, doing this when you are not in crisis mode or disconnecting from a company is always better.

Beyond the Resume

Ultimately, opportunity readiness is more than just being ready for a potential job change – it’s preparing yourself for a career. There are a few things outside of the resume that will help you achieve this goal. 

Make sure you know what Project Manager salary ranges are and be confident in your value to an organization. Researching the job market and salaries will save you time and help you focus your efforts where it will best serve you.

Networking creates magic!  Networking has many benefits: opportunities for relationships, friendship, mentoring, learning, fun, and helping others. There are unlimited possibilities. In one instance, I introduced my mentee, who was looking for a job, to another volunteer whose company was hiring and offered to be a reference. My mentee got the job and doubled her salary.  Magic like that doesn’t always happen, but it definitely won’t if you don’t put yourself out there and network!  

Another fancy word for networking is volunteering—the relationships you foster and the opportunities you have while volunteering will lead to career growth. I have seen this happen over and over. It provides an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in various fields, allowing individuals to hone existing skills and acquire new ones. If you want to change industries or transition or grow in your career, this practical experience will be beneficial and give you more to discuss in your interview. Employers often value candidates who demonstrate commitment to community service, especially if it is one of their corporate pillars.

Volunteering is a networking goldmine. The relationships built can easily serve as a source of recommendations, references, and insights that will boost one’s career trajectory. 

I hope that as you go through this year, you will take time to occasionally update your resume and continually foster relationships with others in the Project Management field.

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