Job Search Month: Using Your Résumé and Cover Letter to Market Yourself

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What is the one thing you know most about?

What is your number one field of expertise?

What does the culmination of your experiences create?

You might find it surprising that I actually know the answers to each of these questions. How do I know the answers to these questions about you? Easy. The answer to all of them is you.

Even if you have a doctorate degree in physics, YOU are the topic you know more about than anything else. You are your number one area of expertise. You are the culmination of all of your experiences.

Blog posts are supposed to be easily read in a few minutes, so I’ll be fast and blunt about my key contention. While you are the number one expert in yourself, you might be too close to the subject matter to be an effective advocate without assistance. In fact, you may not have realized that you are such an expert in the subject matter. Too often the documents we use to market ourselves (résumé, cover letter, references, writing sample) don’t accurately reflect our real value. Instead, they simply reiterate a sanitized career timeline.

It is critical to take the time to reflect on the qualities, values, experiences, and abilities you bring to your job search. These factors must be easy for readers to understand from your written materials. Often the best way to do this is to have someone review your materials who has no knowledge of your history and then can work with you to ensure you paint a truly comprehensive picture of what you bring to a job.

The best way to explain this is to give an example of a quality or ability that won’t come through on a traditional job timeline: Judgement. It is unlikely that anywhere on your résumé you have listed that you have been the Chief Judgement Officer for six years at Thinking Corp. But people who are good at hiring know that hard skills can be taught but soft skills like judgement are much harder to teach. Making sure your résumé shows that you have the ability to demonstrate good judgement will move you forward in your career goals.

This is just one example, but it is important to ensure your abilities, and not just your experiences, are reflected in your job application materials.

This brings me to the title of the post: Using Your Résumé and Cover Letter to Market Yourself. Time spent ensuring your materials reflect all that you bring to an opportunity pays dividends. From your job search, to opportunities to serve on boards, be considered for an appointment, or receive awards and honors, those materials are a necessary element to advance. In fact, having effective materials even improves your confidence when you’re networking, because you're better able to discuss what and why you do what you do.

So how do you get to that point of confidence where you know that your materials reflect your true abilities? As I stated above, you are the number one expert on yourself, but you might be too close to the subject matter to be an effective advocate without assistance. At a very basic level I have three suggestions:

  1. Make sure you are not the only person who reviews your résumé and application materials. Specifically, have two people review them: someone who intimately knows your abilities and qualifications, and someone who — like the average employer reviewing your résumé — does not have any knowledge of who you are. This will help you ensure that you are putting the best version of yourself forward as well as give you an opportunity to get feedback..

  2. Make sure you focus on abilities and not just experiences. Answer the question, “What ability did this experience give me?”

  3. Spend the time to really discover what you desire in a position or a career transition and make sure you emphasize that desire. It should come through in the cover letter and application materials. This is critical to making sure not only are you a good fit for an employer but that they are a good fit for you.

You are the expert on you. That fact should give you confidence going into networking and interviewing. It does not, however, mean that you should be the sole expert on how to market yourself. It is very important that you utilize external tools to ensure that you present a complete picture of your ability and expertise.

If you don’t know where to begin to assess and present your abilities and career goals, do not hesitate to consider coaching. Coaching can help you move much further than you thought possible in a much shorter period of time than feasible on your own. Finally, if it is the documents that you need assistance with, Apochromatik’s Résumé Redo service provides a comprehensive approach to making sure all of the above factors are considered in your documents…and some packages even have a coaching component. This is an investment that can pay exponential dividends in your long term career trajectory. You are the expert on you, but you don’t have to go it alone.

As always if you have questions or comments please include them below and we will respond. Stay tuned for the remainder of Job Search Month.

For additional resources: Are You Résumé Ready?