How much should you invest in your résumé?

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People often wonder how much they should invest in their résumé.

In harder times, we are forced to cut back and analyze every purchase we make. The question is, can we afford to cut the budget on our advertising, our résumé, and our reaches to the marketplace? Can we afford to budget on the key to securing and increasing our earnings?

Well the cold hard reality is that it is an employers’ market right now. Employers can afford to be overly selective and discriminating. This means that our competition for any position is more intense than ever, and our need to differentiate ourselves is likewise more intense than ever. It follows then that our investment in our résumé is indeed more mission critical than it has ever been.

So let’s think about the cost of your résumé. I have a friend who is a really gifted fisher woman. She proudly displays all of her lures, and the bigger the fish she’s after, the more expensive the lure she uses. Everybody wants the best job and the highest possible wage, but when it comes to a résumé, some argue, “I can’t afford to spend money on a professional résumé.” The reality is that in today’s economy, it is too costly NOT to invest in a quality résumé.

I have come to call résumés our “passport to the marketplace”. We understand today if we want to travel and leave the country, we must have a passport, whatever it may cost. A quality résumé is no different. A distinctive résumé should tell your story and showcase your best talents and accomplishments. It should never read like a cut and paste version or a simple job description. I often tell my clients that when résumés tell a story they often reflect a resonating theme, much like the resonating theme in a score of music that captivates and impels us to purchase a new song. Similarly, I am always pleased to find that when allowed the luxury of taking the extra time required to write the highest quality résumé, a resonating theme emerges that shows the gifts and talents of my client. And that resonating theme proves that unlike a” hole in one” shot on a golf course, these gifts and talents are characteristically manifest throughout their career. If we are in sales, and our skills lie with building trust and relationships, the resonating theme will reflect many new and profitable accounts and long-term client retention. If we are operations managers, the resonating theme will be continuous improvements, cost savings, and innovative systems and enhancements.

It follows then that the more time we spend crafting your résumé, telling your story, the more impact your marketing vehicle will have. While a one-page résumé may have worked 10 years ago, the reality is that today, the more your prospective employer knows about you initially, the more likely they are to interview you. Of course it takes time to tell that story, and the more time we invest, the more expensive the résumé will be. But put as much into telling that story as you can, because the rewards will be commensurate with the impact of that story!

So even if you have to charge a résumé, or borrow a little to fund the development of this critical marketing tool, you will find it worth the investment. Remember there are hidden costs to résumés that people don’t often consider beyond the initial investment. There is the expense of buying résumé books, taking résumé writing courses, only to find later that these have not yielded the superior result you hoped for. Unfortunately, this approach is much like a car owner trying to take an auto mechanic course to save money on car repairs. It takes years to acquire the highly specialized skills and diagnostic equipment to do so! How much better to do what we do best and leave the repairs to the experts. Then there is the cost of putting an ineffective résumé into the marketplace, the lost time and wages, not to mention the psychological impact of rejection letters or even worse, no interviews. And often, when clients have sent out hundreds of self-created résumés and been confronted with no results for months, they call me in despair to tell me their résumé is not working. By this time, their self-esteem is seriously decimated and they are convinced that they are just not marketable! And that is a really an unfortunate stance from which to seek a quality position. It reminds me of a story that Og Mandino tells in his book, “The Greatest Salesman in The World”. In training his sales people, he says he always gives them a crisp $100 bill to place in their wallet and instructs them never to spend it. And then he explains why. He tells his sales people that when they are about to close a sale, and they feel desperate, he wants them to remember that they have that $100 in their wallet, because “a desperate salesman never sells.” Likewise, I never want my clients to feel so badly about themselves when they finally do get an interview, that like that desperate salesmen, they can’t sell themselves. Instead, try to catch that desperation on the front end if at all possible by going out to the market with the best possible presentation. If you are already feeling unmarketable, bolster your confidence with that new presentation and remind yourself that the past does not equal the future.

To borrow the wisdom of my friend with the fishing lures, if you want the best paying jobs and cream-of-the-crop interviews, you need to invest in the best possible marketing tools. While it is always good to watch your budget and carefully separate needs from wants in this troublesome and challenging economy, your résumé is too important for compromise. That’s why I tell my clients that even in the leanest times, I never fail to invest in my advertising, because no matter how fine a writer I may be, it will be the best kept secret in the world if my market doesn’t know I exist!

Remember the old adage, “you get what you pay for”? The converse is also true. You also get the best possible positions and the best possible pay with the best possible presentation. Invest as much as you can in getting the very best quality marketing tool and you will get the best possible returns. Remember, there are still jobs out there to be had, and you only need one of those jobs! It follows then that if you put your chips on marketing yourself well, you will be able to survive and even thrive in today’s challenging marketplace.

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