By Uzair Bawany, founder and managing partner of Fairway Search Partners
Candidates typically view writing resumes in the way they once treated exam revision: it is left until the last minute. After all, few people enjoy having to sell themselves, digging deep into their memories to uncover what they have contributed to organizations in the past and justifying their value to potential employers. For many, writing a resume can bring them one step closer to an existential crisis.
It is precisely to avoid this pressure that I recommend candidates at all levels start treating their resumes like a career diary, reviewing it every month and adding or editing as appropriate.
Some VPs, directors or MDs may have been with the same organization for up to 10 years and not have thought about their resumes at all during this period. However, given current economic conditions, it is fair to say neither seniority nor length of service will guarantee immunity from the threat of redundancy.
I've worked with plenty of candidates who waited until they were actually made redundant before they updated their resumes. This is almost always a bad move. Producing resumes under pressure can lead to the omission of highly valuable content as only the most obvious points are most likely to be remembered.
Even if you're not looking for a job, keeping a "resume diary" will still be useful when applying for a promotion. Its content can be used to remind decision makers of important achievements. It can also be used at appraisal time to ensure key skills and achievements are recognized. One forgets what has been done over the year. Keeping this updated can help jog the memory.
Though I recommend a change in the process of compiling a resume, the general rules regarding content should not be changed. Keep it brief and to the point. Ensure it does not exceed two pages. Give priority of space to the achievements you are most proud of and that are relevant to the position applied for (while keeping them in chronological order). Include dates so the resume flows and shows growth, development and hopefully an increase in responsibilities.
If you are a senior candidate struggling to prioritize and distill 10 years worth of achievement into two pages, a high quality search firm or a professional career coach may help you prioritize what is of most importance.
If you are a junior to mid-level candidate serious about a long-term career in financial services, I recommend you get started on that "resume diary" now so you avoid being stuck in five to 10 years' time.
Wherever you are in your career and whatever approach you take to resume writing, please, for your own sake, understand that times have changed and you can no longer say what one candidate told me years ago: "I've got Goldman Sachs on my resume-that says it all!"
This article first appeared on our UK site.