What Goes in Your Resume at the Beginning, Middle, and Peak of Your Career


The following is adapted from Ignite Your Career!

It makes sense that a recent college graduate’s resume would look different than that of an experienced manager, yet too many professionals drag their resume out, tacking on more information until it’s a bloated mess. If this describes yours, it’s time for a resume overhaul.

A resume should be easy to glance at and pick up top-line information, but depending on the stage of your career, hiring managers will be looking for different details. It’s in your best interest to highlight the details they want to see and cut or deprioritize the rest.

Deciding what to include on your resume can be stressful—you don’t want to leave out something important—so let’s go through best practices for your resume at various career stages and explore what hiring managers need to know.

The Just-Graduated Resume

Coming out of school, you’re in what I call the “learning phase” of your career. You have minimal on-the-job experience and are mostly focused on building your skills and learning about your chosen career.

At this stage, an interviewer will be evaluating the depth of your training, the breadth of your learning, and your relevant results. In the learning phase, they want to know what boxes you have checked. If you have accomplishments, they are the icing on the cake—the key is whether you’ve developed relevant skills.

Under your education, include any leadership or significant service positions, bulleted out. This will show leadership, initiative, and potentially strong project management skills. Then add any work experience, such as internships. Here, potential employers are seeking evidence of intelligence, leadership, initiative, project management, creativity, ability to work with others, and analytical skills.

The Mid-Career Resume

After you’ve gained several years of experience in your field and built up your professional skills, you’ll move on to what I call the “doing phase” of your career. You’re no longer primarily focused on growing your skills, but on using them to add to your achievements.

In the “doing” phase of your career, an employer will again be evaluating your breadth of responsibilities, but they also will be looking more in depth for accomplishments. They’re evaluating what you have built and the results you delivered. You need to assess how you positively impacted the projects you worked on and highlight those results on your resume. This is not the time to be self-effacing.

Prospective employers also want to see evidence of progression, which could be a promotion, a rotation, or additional responsibilities. All of these show you are doing a good job.

The Peak-Career Resume

When you’ve become an expert in your field, you’ll reach what I call the “leveraging phase” of your career. You’re at the top, either at an executive level or close to it, and hiring managers will be looking for major achievements. When you’re in the leveraging phase of your career, where you went to for your undergraduate degree hardly matters compared to the results you brought to your last company.

At the leveraging phase, potential employers are going to be evaluating accomplishments and your ability to lead and leverage your expertise and track record to deliver results, not just on your business, but on a group of businesses or at the overall organizational level.

On your resume, list each company you’ve worked at along with three or four bullet points of your greatest accomplishments at each employer. Have a one-sentence description under your title stating what you are or were responsible for in that role. Think high-level, quantifiable results that you brought to the table.

A Winning Resume at any Phase

Your resume is a vital tool in your job search—it’s worth going through and updating it every time you switch jobs, and overhauling it when you move from one career phase to the next.

Remember, at the start of your career, hiring managers are looking for evidence of intelligence, creativity, and skill acquisition. The more experience you gain, the more tangible, objective results and leadership capability they want to see. Highlight the relevant information and cut out the clutter. After all, when each resume only gets a quick glance, less is more.

The easier you make it for the reader to glean the salient points, recognize what you’ve accomplished, and understand your strong progression, the more likely you are to get to the interview stage.

For more advice on building a successful career, you can find Ignite Your Career! on Amazon.