Innovating Through Artistry

Advancing Your Skills with a Job

In Entrepreneurial Tool Box on May 28, 2008 at 7:10 pm

While, as you know, I am a big advocate for developing a creative venture as quickly as possible in life, some of the artists and wanna-be-entrepreneurs I have taught and coached over the years have strategically used jobs to advance their skill sets before leaping into a business of their own. Ryan Conrad, who has written a few posts on this blog, a recent graduate from Juanita College, is doing just that by taking a job working for Live Nation to build skills and contacts which will help him advance his fledgling business, Direct Fusion.

But if you are going to take a job, or if you already have a job and are trying to advance your skills to start your own business, your resume quickly becomes the most important door opener you need to building your future! Over the years I have helped many artists develop a better resume. Artists resume’s can be tough because they are often project driven, have short timelines and lead to a very fragmented work history. But without a great resume your strategic next job will wind up belonging to someone else.

So how can you improve your odds of success?

Here are ten tips for making your resume stand out in the crowd and open the door towards your entrepreneurial future:

#10 Organize your resume by the skills you have and not by date or the job titles you have had. ( ie. Marketing, Customer Service, Sales) By grouping your resume by skill set you can not only more easily de-emphasize a fragmented work history, your age and/or a lack of experience but usually will find that many of the work experiences you have had will fit into multiple skill categories creating substance and length to your resume.

#9 Make sure to include internships, volunteer work, paid and unpaid short term “jobs”- all count as part of your work experience and skill development. It does not matter if the work you did was for a day, a week or a month. Everything counts if it was a meaningful use of or way to develop your skills.

#8 For each skill building job you have in your background write down: What you accomplished, who you accomplished it for and what result or benefit it produced. Be as descriptive as possible in explaining the work you did. Start by writing as much as is required to communicate all your thoughts about the job and the results you produced and then edit it into a compelling sound bite for the reader. Expect this to take several rounds of editing before it comes together. Too many times I have seen resumes that look like they were written an hour before I received them. Invest in yourself and spend whatever time it takes to produce clearly written sound bites that reflect your accomplishments and the impacts they have had on others.

#7 Demonstrate results! By showing your potential employer that you understand that your work must be results oriented you can dramatically improve your chances of getting an interview because your resume will stand out in the crowd. 99.9% of all resumes fail to communicate what they know about the work they did and the impact it had. Employers are looking for those who will help them focus on the results they need.

#6 Lead with a Skill Summary on the top of your resume. Start off your resume with a quick statement to a potential employer about what skills you bring to them and how strong they are. Those who review resumes are pressured to look at hundreds of applications or possibly even thousands. By starting out with a quick summary of why you have all the skills they need for the position you will more likely capture their interest and encourage them to continue reading.

#5 PROOFREAD your resume. Make sure your grammar, spelling, punctuation and resume formatting of headings, dates, bullet points- what ever you use- is consistent and correct. First impressions matter. Also make sure to put your full name, correct address, phone number and email address on top. You would be amazed by how many resumes fail to provide the basic information required to actually receive that phone call, or email asking you if you would like to come in for an interview.

#4 Educational experience belongs last on the page. Many recent graduates, rightfully so, feel accomplished by having finally achieved the degree they worked for four hard years to earn. As a result many display it proudly on their resume by putting it first. Not only does this scream out recent college graduate to a potential employer but it also does not offer your potential employer the opportunity to read your resume and be impressed with your accomplishments first before being even more impressed by how you did it all while still in college.

#3 Never put references or references to your pay in your resume. If you become a candidate for a position it is only natural that your employer will ask you for references. Don’t waste the space- fill it up with your skills and the results you have produced from them. And of course how much you are paid is something you can discuss and potentially negotiate with an employer so never reveal how much you have earned in the past. Besides, the summer job you took for just over minimum wage that helped you develop lots of skills, might now be worth 4 or 5 times what you were paid then because of what you know now.

#2 Use standard fonts like Arial or Times Roman. Use white, off white or light grey paper. While your individual style is unique to you, don’t try and stand out with your font or paper choice. Stand out by working to write a compelling story about each job or skill you have developed and why your contribution makes a difference.

#1 Write a brief compelling pro-active cover letter and send it with your resume. Includes what makes you the perfect person for the position, what about the company you are most attracted to and demonstrate both with your words in writing and actions that you are the kind of person that follows up. Be tenacious and pursue those inside the organization with regular follow up –making it clear to everyone involved in filling the position that you really are interested in the job and a future in their organization.

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