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Resume Preparation

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The word résumé, which means "summary" in French, commonly refers to a printed summary of one's work experience, education, and professional credentials. In academic circles and a few other places, this same type of document may be called a curriculum vitae (abbreviated C.V.) instead (this is Latin for "the course of [one's] life").

Think of a resume as an advertisement: it touts your qualifications and tries to persuade the reader to hire you. When you write your resume, be brief and to the point. The reader is likely to be very busy, perhaps even bored silly from reading stacks and stacks of resumes. For the vast majority of people, two pages are the limit. If you have more material than space, you aren't doing enough summarizing.

The traditional format is to place your name and contact information (postal address, phone number, fax number, e-mail address, etc.) at the top of page one. After that, you may use a few sentences to state your employment objective and/or to put your skills and accomplishments in a nutshell.

The heart of the resume lists in reverse chronological order (that is, working backwards from the most recent) the various jobs that you have held. For each job, you should mention (again, briefly) some key accomplishments. If you are considering applying to different types of employers, you may want to tailor a separate resume by highlighting the accomplishments and stating your objectives that would be most important to each employer. Avoid exaggeration, but also be careful not to undersell your contributions.

A short section at the end of the resume lists your the schools you attended and the degrees you earned. If you have any special licenses or professional certifications, these should appear in this section also.

A common misconception is that resumes are solely for college-educated persons seeking white-collar jobs. This is not true. Practitioners of blue-collar trades also should invest time in preparing a resume. Whatever your field of work, a well-written and professional-looking resume will get you favorable notice as someone who is organized and ambitious.

There are numerous reference books that suggest resume formats and give pointers on the best phraseology and buzz words to use based on your field of work. Better yet, especially for young people just starting out and older workers who are changing careers, you should consider getting coaching on resume preparation from a career counselor. Also, pass a copy by a friend and get his opinion -- he may help to highlight areas that need clarification or remind you of strengths that you omitted.

Like any project, resume writing is easier if you gather information as you go rather than waiting for when you need it. Consequently, you should keep ongoing, copious notes on your accomplishments and maintain a file with key samples of your work, letters of commendation, press clippings about your achievements, awards you have won, etc. Even if you use only a small proportion of this material in your resume, having such information at your fingertips can be invaluable in other contexts or in making future updates to the resume itself.
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