When to Update Your Resume

Two Woman Chatting

The layoffs and challenges caused by COVID-19 stir up the same confusion and fear as the housing crisis of 2008. For many of us, job security, workplace engagement, and planning for the future are now in limbo. Updating your resume right now is never a bad thing, but it might not help you overcome the outsized unemployment rates. There are also dozens of excellent resources on how to update your resume. 

A few of my recommendations include:

  • JT O’Donnell of WorkItDaily offers (sometimes free or sliding scale) coaching and hands-on resume advice on LinkedIn.
  • Kyle Elliot of CaffeinatedKyle reminds you to stay authentic in his coaching and resume guidance.
  • James Belcher (formerly of CareerBuilder) offers a kind but rigorous review of your resume, LinkedIn profile, and cover letter for a very accessible flat rate.
  • Joining a community dedicated to your field (online via LinkedIn or Indeed or Glassdoor), and following the chatter there. 
  • Getting started on understanding your goals for your resume by checking out sites like TheMuse.com and TheBalanceCareers.com.
  • Leveraging a friend or professional who hasn’t seen your resume before to give you a cold copyedit. Nothing like applying for that dream job with a document entitled “Sarah Eilefson manging editor cover letter.”

But that’s not what I really want to talk about today. I hope this post outlasts our current public health and economic crisis and that you read this someday when you’re exceedingly happy in your role, having just achieved a significant milestone or completed a big project. Because that’s when you should update your resume. When you’re feeling good, have access to all the supporting data, and remember exactly the tool or platform or resource you used to be so successful. 

Rethinking Your Resume

I’ve heard all the reasons against updating a resume when employed:

  • I’m happy where I am. 
  • I have no reason to look for another job.
  • That feels disloyal.
  • Why would I spend my time on that when I could be doing other things I enjoy more?
  • That’s a waste of time. By the time I need my resume again, I’ll have to update the whole thing anyway.
  • I’ll remember this later, so I can just add it then.
  • I don’t even know where the latest version of my resume is.
  • My last resume got me this job, so it must be OK.

Before I share how I respond to each of those excuses, let me say why I think it’s time we all re-think our resume. Instead of viewing your resume as some dusty relic to be brushed off when it’s time to job hunt, think about your resume as a concise and vibrant reminder of what you’ve achieved, where you’ve learned your skills, and what has made you so valuable to employers. 

Note: I say “valuable to employers” because your value—or worth—is not limited to what people will pay you to do. But when it comes time to salary negotiations, reminding yourself of your worth to employers is every bit as important as demonstrating that value to your next potential employer. 

I’m happy where I am. Wonderful! Then you’ll have a wealth of experiences, skills, and results to add to your resume. But do it now. It’s much easier to come up with positive things to say when you’re already in a positive mindset than when you’re out of a job. 
I have no reason to look for another job.Lucky you! But job security is often beyond your control. And it’s not just pandemics. Businesses rise and fall, operations move, technology and consumer needs change. Updating your resume is a valuable tool to help you see if your skills are maintaining relevancy or if it’s time to think about adopting new skills. 
That feels disloyal.Not at all. Your employer wants you to want to be there. If you know your value to other employers and make an intentional choice to be with your current employer, that’s a benefit to you and your workplace alike.
Why would I spend my time on that when I could be doing other things I enjoy more?You’ve got me there, but I put resume updates just to the right of dishes or laundry. It’s not that much fun, sure, but at least you don’t have to do it every day or every week. 
That’s a waste of time. By the time I need my resume again, I’ll have to update the whole thing anyway.I’m glad you know that you won’t be able to just “dust off” your resume when it’s time to send it out. You will need to update it holistically each and every time you think about sending it out, and you should consider customizing your resume for specific roles. But think of that update like a detailing made possible by the regular tune-ups you’ve provided. 
I’ll remember this later, so I can just add it then.Trust me, you won’t. And you won’t remember the specific statistics or datapoints that will help your big achievement jump off the page. Remember too that links are not always permanent, so grab the screenshots for your portfolio now. 
I don’t even know where the latest version of my resume is.Bummer. Happily, there are dozens of free templates to help you get started again. And this time, save it someplace prominent (with a back-up in the cloud), so you never have to start from scratch again.
My last resume got me this job, so it must be OK.Wonderful! So you’re 90% of the way there. Keep your streak going by adding the quality work you’re doing for your current employer now, while you can still remember and access it. 

Still not convinced? Here’s one more reason why keeping your resume up-to-date and close-at-hand is so valuable, independent of how you feel about your current work. 

A few years ago, my mentor reached out to ask if I’d accept a consulting role for an educational program I’m passionate about. The deadline was pressing, so I’d need to email him my resume within the hour. I would not have time to dust off my resume, much less write a new one. Happily, I had a fresh version at hand, was able to put my finger on it quickly, and send it along in time to join that opportunity. 

Certainly, inertia is a powerful force. A Chinese proverb I use to motivate myself reads: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” I encourage you to take the time now to find and update your resume, and to keep updating it as you achieve your professional goals and learn new skills. You never know what kinds of opportunities might grow from it.

Send me an email if inertia is too great and you need a little push to get started.

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