Job narratives are the heart of the resume. Everything else is just supporting material.
The job narratives are a series of success stories that provide the reader an unbroken string of value, achievement, and contribution. This is where, as they say in law, you make your argument.
who is this “Employer?”
We speak the term “Employer” as if it were bold, italicized, and in an extra-large font. Just who is this “Employer?”
Well, guess what? The “Employer” is just a person. Like you and me. Male, female, father, mother, son, daughter, nephew, niece . . . etc. There is no single prototype of the “Employer.” So, don’t try to create something directed at this monolithic mythical beast. You are the expert in what you need to present.
If you have a reasonably focused vocational direction, a good place to start the first draft of the resume is with your objective. That will help keep you on track in selecting those pieces of your background that specifically relate to it.
Thus, you will choose the duties, experiences, and achievements that best demonstrate your qualifications for that type of work. If you have substantial direct experience, the selection process becomes one of determining which information best sells you.
Those without a true objective have a somewhat different mandate. In this case, you want to select those experiences that represent you more generally to the reader. The beauty of the narrative format is its ability to demonstrate your skills in diverse enterprises and settings.
In reviewing the job sketch you created for your current or most recent position, identify the most important things an employer should know about the experience. Don’t worry about length; you can tighten the writing and eliminate less important duties later.
The empowered resume will present your best attributes to the reader: Diligence . . . Initiative . . . Efficiency . . . Cooperation . . . Effectiveness . . . Teamwork. Your duties must be adequately covered so that the employer will understand and appreciate the full range of your experience. The types of positions you will be seeking will determine which duties should be highlighted the most. Duties unrelated to your objective can be dispensed with briefly or omitted entirely. By focusing on the related activities along with accomplishments, the reader can sense your potential.
The examples below demonstrate these points. Read the job narratives as originally written; then read the revisions. Notice how the revisions were made and how they heightened the overall impact.
In the following example, notice how the first version is concise, but lacks valuable detail. The second version provides a fuller, more vivid picture of her experiences.
Also, as you study the revised job narrative, ask yourself what you know about the person that you didn’t before. The revised job narrative is somewhat longer, but the extra detail and value it provides, more than justifies the extra few lines.
Employer Wiggins Sportswear 2007 to Present Position Marketing Coordinator Responsibilities Coordinate the entire clothing program
Creating and utilizing Excel spreadsheets for marketing, production, and finance projections Market research Coordinating advertising with publications Work with outside contractors on special projects Fabric and notion research/purchasing Calculated preliminary and final costing of garment Approved bills relating to the clothing program
Employer Broadway Department Store 2006 to 2007 Position Salesperson Responsibilities Sales and interior layout and display
Opening and closing the department Handling customer complaints and problems
Wiggins Sportswear, San Diego, California 2007 to present
marketing Coordinator -Coordinate the production and marketing functions for a new line of active sportswear. Came into the project when it was two months behind schedule and over budget. Worked with the designer to select colors, designs, and fabrics.
Purchased fabric and accessories. Negotiated with two garment manufacturers to produce
small lots, thus reducing the required unit sales to reach a break-even point. Worked out
schedule arrangements with manufacturers and authorized any changes in specifications. Line was introduced on schedule with final costs 10% lower than originally projected.
Coordinated the production of the annual sales catalog. Designed order forms, verified prices, and consulted with graphic artists and printers. Had authority to make all necessary changes.
Set up the company’s first computerized systems, using Excel and other software to provide the first accurate year-to-date sales figures, as well as highly useful marketing, financial, and manufacturing projections.
Broadway Department Stores, San Diego, California 2006 to 2007
Salesperson -Sold women’s clothing and had interior layout and display responsibilities. Selected as Employee of the Month for December in this store of approximately 190 employees. Selected on the basis of sales, favorable comments from customers, and taking on added responsibilities.
The revised version is longer than the original, but because it provides more background, you get a clearer picture of her capabilities. By mentioning a project that was behind schedule and over budget, her ability to complete it on schedule and under budget makes the accomplishment especially meaningful. Her original resume contains only a brief list of duties and provides no information regarding whether she had been successful. The revised job narrative conveys her talent and potential. It shows that she was given a lot of responsibility and that she handled it well. It suggests to the reader that she has some very interesting stories to tell about her experiences at Wiggins; but hearing them will require an interview.
The experience at Broadway did not receive as much space because she has no intention of returning to retail work. The experience does, however, demonstrate valuable background which pertains directly to her career in marketing. It is important that she was able to demonstrate success even in a short-term job. Simply listing her duties provides no clues about the quality of her work and could be construed that she left early as a result of poor performance. Mentioning that she was employee-of-the-month proves she was valuable. By mentioning the basis for the award—sales, comments from customers, and taking on added responsibility—she demonstrated she excelled in each category and was recognized for it.
As you write your job narratives, look for ways to tell your story that convey your value and your successes. Even if you were fired from a job it is possible to demonstrate value. Stress what you did well and ignore the other stuff.
The next job narrative was created by a youth counselor. One of his earlier positions was as supervisor for a municipal parks department. Version 1 provides nothing but a dull list of duties. He was a very interesting person with an excellent background, but you couldn’t tell from this. The entire narrative is one long sentence set off with semicolons. This style is extremely hard to read, but unfortunately, not uncommon. Mark Twain described this type of sentence as one “in which you can ride all day without have to change cars!”
Supervisor — Portland Park Department, Portland, Oregon. Overall responsibility for staff, facility, and program at a neighborhood community center; supervising, hiring, training, and recruitment; program planning, implementation, and evaluation; record keeping, budgeting, grant writing, and analyses; work with schools, local, state, and federal agencies in a variety of capacities; direct service including teaching, training, and work with adults and youth in social, educational, cultural and athletic programs; community and business presentations.
The revised narrative will pretty much make you want to meet this guy. There’s a personal element here sorely lacking in the earlier attempt.
Portland Parks Department, Portland, Oregon
Supervisor – Developed and promoted social, educational, cultural, and athletic programs for the community. Contracted with consultants, instructors, and coaches to provide instruction in dozens of subjects and activities at the Browser Community Center. Interviewed and hired instructors and conducted follow-up
assessments to ensure top-quality instruction. Personally taught several courses
and coached athletic teams. In three years tripled participation at the Center and took it from a $1,400 deficit to a $12,000 profit.
The revised narrative presents a person with goals and ideals. It is clear that he really cared about his job: he got involved, he took action, and he got results. This picture is created by using action verbs such as developed and promoted. You feel the action. The programs that the community really wanted did not exist so he developed them. Since people don’t come flocking to programs they don’t know about, he promoted them. And he not only planned programs, he taught some, and even coached several athletic teams. This has the added benefit of demonstrating he is an action-oriented and physically fit individual. The ultimate result of his efforts was the tripling of participation, yet his original job narrative did not even mention it.
Writing the empowering resume takes time. From these examples you can see why. Describing oneself in positive terms is difficult for most people, yet it is necessary. Write and revise your job narratives until they approach the examples you find in this book. Everyone can do it, but it will take time and thought. Taking the time will pay off in interviews and job offers. And you can take that to the bank.