How Often Should You Update Your Resume?
September 24, 2012
Finding a new job requires you to have a few simple things. The first is an updated resume that accurately depicts your career skills and experience. The second is references that can vouch for your experience in the field you are looking to work in. And lastly you need either a solid network of contacts in the industry or a lot of luck.
Unfortunately, most people wait until it is too late to update their resume. They’ve had to come home and tell their families they won’t be going the next day. They’re panicked and an emotional mess. Amidst all of this they boot up the computer and start putting a resume together.
It’s too late.
They will eventually land a job, but they’ve missed out on some serious benefits of updating their resume on a regular basis.
Where Almost Everyone You Know Fails at Updating Their Resumes
First, let’s clarify what failure looks like:
- If you haven’t updated your resume in 12 months.
- If you don’t have a resume.
- If you wait until you get laid off to update your resume.
All of these are detrimental failures in terms of being able to quickly land that next position. Why?
Imagine an interviewer asking you the following questions with your old resume sitting in front of you:
- Tell me about the last 12, 24, or 36 months of your career.
- What major projects did you complete?
- What interesting work did you do?
- Who did you work with?
- What was the name of the Vice President you brought that last project proposal to?
It’s good to have some interview tactics under your belt before you sit down with a potential employer. If you haven’t updated your resume in three years you will spend a lot of time saying “Uhhh, well, let me think . . . .” The interviewer then inevitably thinks, “Wow, this person can’t remember what they did at their last job? Are they making it up on the spot?”
Don’t be like that. Be different. Update your resume more often than that. But how often is the right amount?
How Often Should I Update My Resume?
In my opinion you shouldn’t go more than six months without updating your resume. Now if you do the same basic job day in and day out, you might be able to stretch this a little bit further. (And you might want to consider trying to move your career up a few notches if you aren’t working on anything interesting.)
Why a maximum of six months between updates? You simply can’t remember all that you did in 26 weeks. That’s a long, long time. There’s a lot of family time, work time, sleep, sporting events, and hobbies mixed in there. You may have had a contribution on a major project that completely slips your mind because you didn’t write it down.
If you work in a dynamic and fluid industry with a lot of constant changes or mini-projects – think of a software developer working on several apps for his employer – then you might want to consider keeping a running log of your accomplishments before your six month update. If you don’t go that far at least try to update it twice per year so you can remember all that you accomplished.
Benefits of Frequently Updating Your Resume
The best part of updating your resume more frequently is it can take a lot of the sting out of the process. If I asked all of our readers how many of you would rather spend four hours updating your resume or be forced to dig ditches in the summer heat, an unhealthy portion of you would probably ask to see where the shovels were.
Updating your resume doesn’t have to take a long time – that’s the beauty of it. If you spend 15 or 30 minutes every six months jotting down your most recent accomplishments you never have to sit down for hours on end to remember all that you did over a several year span.
Oh, and there are three other specific benefits:
You’re Ready for a Pink Slip
If you’ve updated your resume in the last six months and get laid off today, the document sitting in front of you is mostly ready to be sent right out for employers. You’re prepared for a pink slip – at least from a resume standpoint. (You should probably have an emergency fund as well to bolster your layoff defenses.)
You’re Ready for Career Progression
Having a resume ready to go makes it a lot easier to send one quickly to a potential employer that you run into in an elevator. “Hey, send me your resume when you get a second” doesn’t literally mean right that second, but you can’t wait five days to update and send your resume either. It makes finding that next job a lot easier because the best time to look for a job is when you have one.
You’re Reminded to Network with Colleagues
As you’re remembering details of those important projects you’ll suddenly remember the two team members you collaborated on that you haven’t touched base with in a while. Maybe one moved on to a new employer and the other switched departments. While you’re updating it makes sense to call them up to grab lunch. This strengthens your professional network and makes finding a job if you are laid off a lot easier. (Or maybe those friends suddenly come across a great opportunity in their new area and try to get you on their team).
How often you should update your resume really depends on your industry. However, it is universally true that waiting years to update is a poor career choice. Spend a little bit of time every so often to update your major accomplishments so you don’t find yourself in a panic when you need your resume put together quickly. If you’re struggling with your resume there are resume services you can hire or you could even look into what services career coaches might offer regarding resumes.
Are you updating your resume on a regular basis? Let us know in the comments!
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