There are plenty of people and sites that will give you advice on the best way to write your résumé, and as a career coach I offer that as well.  Typical advice can include what key words you need to get beyond screening software, how to write your bullet point accomplishments to get seen, as well as opinions on the best format and length.

What doesn’t get talked about as often is that working on your résumé is not just a tactical, linear process.  Writing your résumé can be a tangle of emotions. 

First, let’s acknowledge the fact that we are usually in a heightened feeling state while we’re doing it. Most of us don’t work on our résumés on a regular basis, despite the prevalent advice to do so. We do it when there is a reason to, and that can bring up a lot.   We might feel panicked after being laid off, excited about the possibility of a new role, worried if we don’t do it right we will miss an opportunity, anxious that there is too much competition and/or confused by how to tailor the résumé to an impossibly short and generic job description (or how to address a detailed, lengthy one).

There’s also something about looking at our work history all at once that brings up our insecurities and judgments.  We might get into stories about ourselves: “I’ve changed jobs too much.” “I’ve been in one place too long.” “I don’t have enough paid work experience to do the job.” “Other people will be more qualified.”

It’s a lot to deal with.

So given that doing our résumés brings up a lot of feelings, what can we do to make it easier, and be kinder to ourselves, while coming out with a document we can be proud of?

  • Work in short bursts, or spend a longer chunk of focused time – whatever works best for you
  • Watch your emotions and energy – don’t push too hard, take breaks when you need to
  • Read inspirational stories from others who are on the other side of your situation
  • Process the emotions that come up – journaling, talking to friends, talking to a counselor are a few of many options
  • Practice self compassion
  • Get the help you need – expertise from a career coach, support from a résumé writer
  • Know when it is good enough
  • Remember the big picture this process is supporting – get connected to the vision you have for your life and career
  • Celebrate finishing!

Writing your résumé can seem like high stakes and fraught with emotion. Sometimes the simple acknowledgement of this fact can create some space – and from that place you can understand what your next best step is. Small steps forward can feel like wins and help you through a process that is hard for almost everyone.