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The tech industry might feel like some monolithic juggernaut, but it's easy to get along with once you know it a little better. If you're a young professional looking to make your start in an emerging and disruptive technology field, however, how can you give yourself the best chance at standing out? Like it or not, it all begins with the humble resume. Here's how to make yours shine in what is projected to remain a very in-demand field, according to employers.
Nail the "Fit and Finish"
Technology is a detail-oriented field, like many others out there. What this means for you is that you need to "sweat" even the smallest details — but often, that means not sweating them. The Header part of your resume, for instance, should be meaningful but simple enough to put together in a tasteful font. Make sure you include:
- Your first and last name.
- Your full phone number.
- Your personal email address.
- Your city and state of residence.
Don't include every detail in your address. It's clutter and not necessary at this stage, but you will want to include your phone number and email address — and if you don't have an email address you're comfortable speaking aloud or including in a Header, get a new one and include it here.
Something else to think about? Make small portions of your resume easily swappable in terms of design, typeface and color details. If you know the branding scheme of the company you're applying for, look for clever ways to include it tastefully.
With all of that accomplished, let's move on.
Take the Professional Summary Seriously
There's a reason to believe that aspiring professionals who include a Professional Summary on their resumes are potentially twice as likely to get hired as those who do not. The Professional Summary is, like it or not, the "people version" of the "elevator pitch." It's a brief moment for you to break out of the confines of formulaic applications and make your case in your own words.
In a short paragraph or a few short bullet points, summarize your past, present, and future career aspirations and why you're fit for the job. Sound impossible? Just break it down to:
- The job you want (the one you're applying to).
- Your recent relevant experience and qualifications.
- A brief nod to something that makes you uniquely right for the job.
Notice the unsparing use of "brief." The Professional Summary is your chance to "wow" the hiring manager — but don't get long-winded. It should be a little teaser about you, and it shouldn't slow them down on their way to the "meat" of your resume.
Think (Way) Outside the Resume Box
If you're determined to enter the wide and exciting world of technology, it's not hard to imagine why. Few other fields seem quite as successful in collecting progress-minded ideas and individuals. That means you could find yourself working on everything from space shuttle engines to interactive video games.
What this means is that you're not necessarily limited to the "traditional" resume — a document so dreary and boring it's a slight wonder we're still putting up with it. The point is, if you know your audience, you can do something especially extraordinary, and unexpected.
There's the interactive, "video game-esque" website-based tech resume, for example, from an enterprising young professional who wanted to display his design, coding and interactive user interface skills all at once.
Be as Specific About Your Skills as Possible
You know as well as anybody that there are a lot of variables and a lot of skills in the technology industry. In fact, it's silly to think about it as a single industry at all. It's many.
Consequently, you need to lay out your practical skills — including the usual suspects, like education and employment history — neatly and succinctly, but also as specifically as possible. Leave off skills that are no longer current as well as employment history that's not relevant or not within the last several years.
Since this is a digital world you're looking to get into, there might be opportunities to demonstrate some of the practical skills you're naming here, such as writing animations or coding for the Web. If you can do so neatly within the text of your resume, and you have an online portfolio of some kind, such as a live website, feel free to include it. There's no guarantee the hiring manager will click on it, but having it there for a cursory mouse-over grants legitimacy to at least some of what you're saying.
Don't Forget About the Soft Skills
An increasingly large body of thought and research seems to suggest soft skills might be more important than the harder skills.
First, let's start off with the hard skills. What are hard skills exactly? They're the things that apply directly to the position being applied to — the practical knowledge that comes with experience. Maybe it's being conversant in a foreign language, possessing a particular degree or certificate, your typing speed or knowledge of computer programming.
What are the soft skills, then? It's important to remember that there are plenty of other skills and characteristics that define an employee which can be learned and honed over time. Soft skills are things like:
- Decisiveness in decision-making.
- General quality of communication.
- Ability to self-manage and self-start.
- Willingness to act within (and on behalf of) a team.
- A general high standard in leadership and professionalism.
We began this conversation with a note about the "fit and finish" of your resume — the physical characteristics that give it, well, character. Your "soft skills" are the "fit and finish" of your professional persona. Your persona isn't an affectation, though. It's the sum of who you are in terms of your employment history, what you've learned and how you've managed to put it into practice.
Why are we going over this at such length? It's once again thanks to anecdotal and scholarly evidence, which says as much as 85 percent of your professional success might be owed to how well you demonstrate soft skills in your industry. That last 15 percent sliver represents "hard," practical skills. It's a slightly different ratio than showed up when hiring managers were polled a few years ago — they almost unanimously declared that hard and soft skills were equally important to them when it came to making hiring decisions.
Whichever ratio your own research turns up, remember this important balance between traits that indicate your fitness for the job and those that denote your fitness as an emotional being. What further proof do we need of how essential the resume is — and why it takes some effort to master?