How do you balance an IT resume that must capture the subject’s progress from technical jobs to a professional-services role?
By Don Sears
How do you balance an IT resume that must capture the subject's progress from technical jobs to a professional-services role?
For Richard McDonald, a 22-year veteran of IT resume writing, it's a matter of measuring the job seeker's accomplishments in every job, no matter how technical.
"You have to estimate results and talk about specific improvement goals and details of the specific technology challenges in a project and you're approach to meeting those challenges," said McDonald, a certified professional resume writer who works with TheLadders. "It also doesn't hurt to have references ready to talk about the results of your work."
McDonald's job becomes more difficult when the job seeker is a consultant whose work involved pieces of larger, complex projects with clients. The job seeker may not be around the client long enough to see the ultimate savings or efficiencies generated by his work, and he may find it difficult to glean results and accomplishments from their work history.
"Chad," who chose not to use his real name for this article, works on just these types of projects. He is a professional technology consultant for a small professional-services firm in New England; while he likes his current job, he wants to ensure he's prepared if the need for a job search arises. Chad wants to keep doing the same kind of work but struggled to describe it in his own resume.
"In my early career, I was a programmer and coder in Texas and in Maryland," Chad said. "As things progressed, I became more involved as a consultant." Since most of his work came by word of mouth and project by project, Chad had never changed the resume format since he was "a heads-down coder."
Not only was Chad's resume dense, it failed to sell his strengths.
"The way I was brought up, you were told that you don't brag about yourself," Chad said. "I'm just not any good at talking about myself and what I've done. And while I can write, I find the resume to be its own kind of format and style."
Eight pages of detail
Chad struggled so much documenting his projects that he could not even fill out the career assessment McDonald offered him to start the process. Instead, McDonald worked with him on the phone, to list in detail what he did in the last 30 projects spanning 15 years.
McDonald ended up with eight pages of detail, and it didn't stop there. McDonald also needed Chad to describe his goals more clearly.
"This can be a really difficult thing to do for technology folks," McDonald said. "There are so many different directions an individual can go, especially with a history in software development and programming. It can be overwhelming to take on in a resume."
After some gentle prodding, Chad zeroed in on four potential job titles -- ones he knows are always in demand with IT recruiters. They are senior consultant, professional-service manager, sales engineer and professional services director -- all job targets Chad would consider for the right company.
Armed with these ideal titles, McDonald could concentrate on describing how Chad's project work supported them. Yes, his recent work had focused on professional services, but Chad's programming experience got its own dedicated paragraph section highlighting his earlier background. The emphasis of the new resume was putting technology in a business context.
The art of name-dropping
More specifically, McDonald was keen to show the client roster in the bullet points of Chad's new resume. In a professional services resume, name-dropping is key. Showing that you've consistently worked with Fortune 500-level companies is a subtle way of saying, "The big boys of corporate America chose us."
"It was an amazing transformation in the new resume," Chad said. "I was really afraid of the new one not showing enough balance between my more technical experience and my consulting roles. It was not the case. What I got was a very accurate, honest portrayal of my background."
"Many of my technology-career clients over the years have a really hard time tooting their own horn," McDonald said. "In Chad's case, he struggled mightily with it, so getting him to sit down and just tell me what he worked on, the intimate details of the projects, and projected goal and results of each of them allowed us to break through."
"It's perfectly framed for today and the future," Chad said. "It's a really nice picture of what I've done and set up for lateral and even higher job positions."