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Recently, a client in the human resources field came to me for help.  She was confused and frustrated because she wasn’t being considered for the jobs she wanted.

At first it seemed like her resume, with its clarity in job duties and quantitative results, should have opened doors for her. But then we looked deeper. She had worked in 2 jobs over the last few years where the bulk of her responsibilities were laying people off and creating operational efficiencies.   On her resume, one bullet after another focused on how many people she laid off, how much time and money this saved the company.

Reading her resume gave me the impression she was proud of that type of work and that she wanted more of it.  I was met with a hurt expression and a resounding “no!”  The last few years had worn on her – she really wanted to be helping people, influencing company culture and making companies magnets for the best talent. That is why she had gotten involved with HR in the first place.

Over the years we have been trained to believe that quantifying or qualifying our accomplishments is what makes us and our resumes stand out.   However, in this competitive environment, resumes are missing the opportunity to be powerful documents that draw the work we want to us.  So how do we do this?

Step Oneminimize the things you want less of.

During our conversation, I found out that this HR professional had multiple other job duties she juggled before and alongside the layoffs.  Some of her responsibilities included completing benefits administration for the company, updating the employee handbook and supporting managers during the annual review period.  While the layoffs took the majority of her time, it was very important to bring the things she wanted more of to the top of the list of bullets and give them equal footing with her other duties.

Step Twoif you can’t minimize, re-frame. 

As the conversation progressed, she became concerned that leaving out too many bullets around the layoffs would make her experience seem limited. So instead, we re-framed the experience by asking her one key question:

  • What was she most proud of?

She was most proud of handling the tough conversations with transparency and kindness, holding to the company value of respect. Her approach resulted in one of the smoothest layoffs in the organization’s long history.

By re-framing, she showed potential employers that she takes the values of an organization seriously and can implement against them, with real benefits.  By threading these attributes through the rest of her work experience, she was able to move the focus to the consistent way her strong interpersonal skills positively impact an organization.

How about your resume?  Are there items you could leave out or re-frame, to more effectively draw in the work you want to you?