Take a look at my resume, will you? Over the course of a year I get a lot of resumes from military wives seeking feedback.
I notice the same things over and over. I see resumes that are too long, have pushed out margins, boast a font size tiny enough to fit on a grain of rice. I often can’t even tell what kind of job the person is seeking.
Slogging through a resume like that isn't resume fun. It is the resume equivalent of a mud miler.
That’s why I believe in the Dirty Little Resume for Military SpousesI think we spouses have the wrong idea about a resume. We think that first, ultra-complete, sweat-drenched, three page resume is a finished document that someone will read and see exactly where we fit into their organization. So we should put in everything, right?
Wrong. The finished resume is really like a big business card. It is focused. It is functional. It is read in literally six seconds by the people in your network (where 80% of all jobs in America are found).
The Dirty Little Resume—that document that everyone should throw together whether they are actively jobseeking or not—isn’t meant for public sharing. The Dirty Little Resume is a thing meant to organize your thinking. To push back fear. To help you figure out just what you want.
How to write a Dirty Little Resume:1. Throw together a work history. This isn’t a neat, clean, perfect little document. This is a straight shot here-is-all-the-work-I-have-ever-done—paid and unpaid. Lay the whole thing out chronologically starting from the minute you graduated from high school.
2. Yes, include every "little" thing you have done. Go ahead and include everything you have done—the jobs you liked, the jobs you didn’t like. The volunteer work you couldn’t wait to get out of doing, the contractor job you wished you could have done forever. Do include your gig as a Stay-At-Home-Mom or Dad. Add in your education even if you did not actually finish your degree. Partial degrees can be very revealing.
3. Love it or list it. For each job or educational opportunity, write a little pro and con list. Here are the things I liked. Here are the things I didn’t like. If you were/are a SAHM, often the things you like or don’t like do not include childcare per se. Instead think of things like whether you liked working alone, on your own schedule, with people under three feet tall? Or maybe you liked the opportunity to be creative or to spend a lot of time outside?
4. Print it. I don’t mean that you need to print this on bond paper for distribution. I mean that when you hold something in your hand vs. look at it on the screen, you see it differently. Your mind considers it differently. So print it.
5. Get it dirty. Break out the pencils, pens and markers, people. You are now going to make your Dirty Little Resume even dirtier. Circle themes that you see. Paths that you have taken. Patterns that emerge.
You will probably see a path that goes along with your college coursework like “Marketing” or “Teaching” or “Engineering.”
You will also find themes about what you did on the job “Military families” or “Details” or “Spreadsheets” or “Cold Calling.”
You could see themes that are about a value or a skill like “Leadership,” “Justice,” “Health” or “Creativity.”
6. Use themes to suggest your next job goal. Seeking these themes might seems silly to you, but this the important stuff. These themes tell you not only what kind of job you want, but they tell you what you should actually include on your next resume. Where is your past work experience, your education, your strengths, your satisfaction leading you to? What is the next job for you?
7. Name that job. If you can’t name the kind of job or employer or field you seek, you aren’t really ready to craft a resume. You aren't quite ready to approach your network.
You don’t need to be able to say, “I want to be a senior product manager for a midrange firm selling software to furry-backed cabinet makers on the north side of the street in Midlothian, Virginia.”
Instead, you say something like, “I want to work for a nonprofit—I’m good at fundraising and events.” Or, “I want to use my healthcare background in a business environment this time."
You are even allowed to be seeking more than one kind of job at a time—as long as you have a resume for each job you want.
8. Ask for feedback. If you still aren’t sure what you are looking for, post your dirty little resume on the fridge or email it to a few trusted friends. Start asking the people who love you what they think you would be good at doing. Write that stuff down. (My son once gripped the car handle and told me, "I don't think you should get a job that requires a lot of driving, Mommy."
You could also go to a professional resume service or job coach. You can get help for free from one of the SCC consultants at Military OneSource. They won’t write your resume for you, but they will run a professional eye over your work and make suggestions.
The people in your network really do want to help you get a job. Using the Dirty Little Resume exercise, you can identify what kind of job you seek. Tighten your margins. Focus your bullet points. And maybe, if you are really sure of yourself, you might even pick a 12 point font this time. Because we all want to see where you are going, just like you do.