By Berna Ozunal
In this four-part series, I’ve been looking at how to prepare an editor’s resumé. First I talked about some micro matters. Then I talked about how to present yourself on a resumé for editing work—the main take away from that was to not describe yourself as a hybrid candidate if it’s not a hybrid role. Next I talked about language and advised you not to provide information that can lead to bias and not to include humdrum, untrue, or irrelevant information.
Well, here’s the thing: The world is changing faster than anyone can type. An article in Fast Company claims that cover letters are dead. I suspected as much: I think they’re in their death throes, but some employers are still stubbornly demanding them. Either way, this is good! Now we can focus on the resumé. You have to tailor it for each job you’re going after. Gone are the days of blitzing everybody with the same resumé. In this post, I want to talk about structure, and structure is inextricably linked with content.
If you are an editor looking for work these days, I would refrain from taking the easy route and dusting off or sprucing up a previous resumé. Start over. Do your research. There are multitudes of knowledgeable people writing about job search tools. Your resumé should reflect you, and there is room on it to provide a holistic picture of yourself. For example, for editors who don’t specialize, being a generalist in the knowledge department can be a plus. If you have multiple degrees, have travelled extensively, or have worked in diverse industries, again, this is a good foundation. But just plopping it on your resumé in list form or as an add-on is what I’d advise against. It all has to work together to support your case for why you’re the best editor for the job. I’ve seen impressive “YOLO” resumés—about people who’ve climbed Kilimanjaro or marched with the penguins—but they did not explain how these life experiences would be valuable to the organization or contribute to success in the role. It is impressive in and of itself, yes. But if you can’t tie it into the I-am-the-best-editor-for-this-job story in a way that is not stilted or obvious, leave it out.
The summary should be a short paragraph placed at the top of the document that incorporates your qualifications, skills, career highlights, and aspirations. Remember to focus on verbs, not adjectives. The resumé writer is, in effect, a storyteller, and the story you’re telling should be (a) true and (b) energetic and engaging. As with every good tale, there is a hero (you), there are obstacles and victories (for example, you spearheaded a detailed process-improvement initiative for your last employer, which helped them bring order to their universe), and there are endings (only talk about positive ones, but don’t elaborate on them in the summary because space is tight). If there is an opportunity to name-drop, you can do it here too—writers, organizations, pieces of legislation… . There is an opportunity to include a YOLO experience here, but again, only if you can seamlessly work it into the bigger story you’re presenting.
Some people, especially junior editors, will list their education first, since they don’t have much related experience. I would suggest not doing this. What you can do as an editor—the practical mechanics of improving poorly written text—far outweighs all the Roland Barthes theory you’ve retained from university. Education is important, but experience is more important. If you’ve only got internships or non-paid or unrelated work to report, that’s okay. It’s how you present those work experiences that matters.
In this age of technology, we are skittish and impatient when it comes to processing information, and bullet points, infographics, and shorthand are the new normal. And the resumé is no different—so use bullet points, and remember to keep them parallel, active-voiced, and past tense for all positions that are not ongoing. (If the work is in the past, you have to write it that way. This is a common oversight.) I’d suggest that three bullet points per job is just right: not too much info, not too little.
On the subject of technology, remember that employers and clients may well look at your online profiles, particularly LinkedIn. This, unfortunately, doesn’t help the whole idea of eliminating bias from the process, as the accepted practice is to provide a photo for social media profiles. But a professional online presence gives you an opportunity to expand on your experience and qualifications. It goes without saying that everything must gel together and there can’t be any inconsistencies between what you’re putting on your resumé and the information you’ve posted online.
Now, how far do you go back if you’ve been at this for a long time? I’d say only go back a decade. Some say go back 15 years, some say 20, but generally speaking, many of the technologies you were using or things you were doing back then won’t have much of a bearing on what you’re doing today. The resumé is not meant to be an exhaustive list of everything you’ve done. I’ve seen resumés where every menial, thankless task ever performed was mentioned. This is often done, moreover, to fill up space, as some people think longer, fuller pages are better. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’ve done unrelated work in between editing jobs, I would advise that you only talk about the relevant work. Explain the editing gaps in your employment somewhere on the resumé though, maybe as a footnote, or by qualifying the heading as “relevant experience.”
So, there you have it. I have tried to touch on the different facets of the editor’s resumé. A resumé today works together with an online portfolio of information to tell people your story. And finally, it’s so obvious, yet truly difficult, even for us: the resumé, your LinkedIn profile, and any other first-person write-up about you must be error-free. It must be diamond. It must represent the very best of your writing, editing, and layout abilities. If you’re not so great in the writing and layout areas, get someone to help you. Keep it short, yet don’t take shortcuts. Given what a hustle it is to obtain meaningful editorial work these days, your resumé should be continually re-evaluated and revised until you land that plum job or contract.
Berna Ozunal is a senior editor specializing in advertising, design, business, and corporate communications.
This article was copy edited by Vanessa Wells.