Resume Formats for Every Career (yes, entrepreneurs too!)

typing your resume
typing your resume

Last month I had the opportunity to share some of my job search tips with the blog, The Collective Mill. In case you missed it, I shared advice on how to structure your resume depending on your industry. Read on for what I had to say...

Navigating the professional landscape can be hard. As if it’s not enough trying to answer the question – “What should I do with my life?” – you also have to figure out HOW to land your dream gig.

One thing’s for certain – you’re going to need to present your professional achievements in a way that others can see just how perfect you are for the job. Sometimes you’ve got to prove your worth by displaying career progression. Other times you’ll need to showcase specific accomplishments. Regardless of what your dream is, you’re going to need to arm yourself with one thing: a solid resume.

Unfortunately, outside of LinkedIn there isn’t a commonly accepted format for sharing your professional achievements. Some organizations want to know everything you’ve done since high school. Others are only interested in the work relevant to the position at hand.

Over the last ten years I’ve seen a lot of bad resumes. These have come from students and tenured professionals. The biggest mistake people make when creating their resumes is assuming one size fits all. Not only do you need to know what the standard is for the job you want, you’ll also need to update your resume for every opportunity you seek.

Sometimes it’s about standing out. This woman wanted a job for Airbnb so bad that her approach went viral. But more times than not, it’s about shining as brightly as you can while still staying within the bounds of industry expectations.

Today I’m breaking down resume formats and fixings based on the type of career you’re pursuing.

CORPORATE

Chances are this type of resume is the one you’re most familiar with. Recommended at one page in length and text heavy, this format is perfect for non-profit and business candidates alike.

Writing your resume is all about focusing on what you’ve accomplished. So often I see young professionals rehashing their job description without any talk of why it matters. Sure you may have been responsible for sales in your last position, but rather than listing your responsibilities, list your results! Write every line so that someone completely unfamiliar with the company or position is crystal clear on how you brought value through your work.

I’m a big fan of the reverse chronological format with a summary statement at the top. This means listing your most recent job first. If your professional experience is impressive (especially if you’ve worked with a reputable organization), lead with your experience. If you’re a recent grad without a ton of experience, your education will play a more prominent role at the top of the page.

You’re certainly free to list out your skills in a standalone section, especially if they aren’t already highlighted in your experience section, but don’t let this be a keyword dump. Only list those that make you stand out as a candidate. This means do not include “Microsoft Office” or “social media”. These days those types of skills are standard qualifications that you are expected to hold.

PUBLIC SERVICE

In the land of government gigs, long resumes rule. USAJobs, the online portal for federal government positions, recommends applicants submit resumes between 3-5 pages for consideration. That’s much longer than most companies would accept!

There’s a lot of competition for these positions as they’re often well paid and come with great benefits. In order to make your resume stand out, focus on your skills, not just your accomplishments.

Government recruiters are big on specialized experience. In order to prove you’ve got what it takes, tie your professional proficiency to keywords listed in the job announcement.

You should also know that you might be asked to break down your experience by years, months, and hours worked as well as provide full salary disclosure on the document. Most application systems will be clear about their formatting expectations, so follow closely if you want to make it to the interview stage.

CREATIVE

In the creative field it shouldn’t surprise you that you’ll get the most leeway with how you want to format your resume. In fact, HOW you format it can be as important as what’s in it, depending on the job you’re after.

Even if you’re not a designer, you might want a non-traditional format. Though I’ve never personally used them, there are several services out there (like this one) selling resume templates at low-cost that are as beautiful as they are functional for a creative.

It’s also imperative that you complement your resume with an online portfolio of your work. A woman I went to college with has excelled in her career as an art director. She’s created a portfolio site complete with examples of her work, a link to her resume, and a contact form. With a great blend of personal branding and SEO keywords, this setup allows for prospective employers to connect with her without the need for a single application.

ACADEMIA

Whether you’re applying to grad school or pursuing a career in higher education, here’s what you need to know. A resume is more commonly referred to as a curriculum vitae or “CV” for short. Long and detailed, the purpose is to provide the reader with a comprehensive overview of your accomplishments.

The main difference between a resume and a CV is that while a resume tends to be tailored specifically for a particular position and accompanied by a cover letter, a CV should be able to stand on its own. A graduate student’s CV may be two pages in length while a more seasoned academic could have a CV that is 8 pages or longer.

Be sure to highlight any publications, lab or research experience, teaching experience, service/volunteer positions you’ve held, and professional affiliations. These are critical to admissions and tenure committees.

ENTREPRENEUR

You might be thinking, “Hey I ditched the 9-5 because I didn’t want to do the same things traditional jobs required.” Sorry but I got news for you – you’ll need a standard resume for some gigs even if you are working for yourself.

First of all, a resume is a good way to just keep track of where you’ve been and what you’ve done. This is important because as entrepreneurs we don’t have job descriptions to fall back on.

Secondly, if you ever want to consult or teach a course you’ll need to submit a resume for consideration. The good news is you can be creative with your formatting and what you choose to highlight.

As an entrepreneur it’s also very important to craft a biosketch. Similar to the “about” page on your website but shorter, your biosketch will give audience members, blog readers, and prospective clients a taste of who you are and what you’re known for. Get creative and don’t shy away from sharing personal tidbits. For one of the best perks of being an entrepreneur is the freedom to market your whole, authentic, distinctive self.