By Sarah Landrum
If you’re a military veteran who is now making the transition into the civilian workforce, there’s a good chance you’ve already experienced a few bumps in the road. Whereas you’re probably used to constant communications and instant results, the civilian workforce might be a little slower than what you’re accustomed to. Moreover, the entire process of writing and distributing your resume, which should always open with a strong professional summary, can be quite confusing at times.
However, the value of a strong professional summary cannot be denied. In fact, according to recent studies, hiring managers and recruiters typically spend six seconds on a resume before making an initial decision on the candidate’s potential. As such, it’s crucial that you catch their attention right from the start.
Purpose of the Summary
Generally speaking, the professional summary is being touted as the replacement to the older, outdated resume “objective.” While the objective focused on your career map and professional goals, the summary actually serves as an overview of your skill set, your achievements and your past experiences.
When placed at the beginning of a resume, the professional summary gives the reader a brief glimpse into your profile before they continue on to the meat of the document. It may even contain information that would have otherwise been omitted from the resume entirely, including details about your military background, your academic achievements or any volunteer work you have completed.
Deciding on a Length
The exact length of your professional summary is a topic that will be contested until the end of time. While the overall length of your summary ultimately depends on the information you’re trying to provide, most experts agree that three or four lines of text is usually more than enough.
Using short, succinct sentences is a great way to pack a lot of information into very little space. By eliminating unnecessary verbiage, including some of the more common buzz words, most candidates should be able to come up with a powerful professional summary that only takes up a few lines of space.
Highlight Specific Achievements
The most effective professional summaries will always include insight into some of your verifiable achievements. Hard facts and numerical figures always look nice, but they’re not absolutely necessary. Simply stating the number of years you have on the job, your time spent in the military or even some of your transferrable skills can go a long way toward creating a strong professional summary. The important thing here is to draw the reader’s attention through the strategic use of vernacular and prose, which will hopefully interest them enough to continue with the remainder of your resume.
Avoid Personal Pronouns Throughout the Resume
While a cover letter is more of a conversational document that should utilize personal pronouns when appropriate, your resume, including the professional summary, should be free of any personal pronouns. Although this may result in sentences that are technically incomplete in some cases, the use of first-person pronouns is a huge no-no within the resume itself.
Remember: it’s your resume, after all. Any information listed, whether it’s contained within the summary or the body of the resume itself, will already be attributed to you and your professional background.
Use Different Summaries for Each Job
The most proactive and successful jobseekers tend to use multiple professional summaries, or even multiple resumes, in order to submit a document that pertains specifically to the job in question. Touting your experience in customer service does little to help you land a job in manufacturing, for instance, and highlighting your aptitude for teamwork isn’t going to hold much weight if you’re pursuing positions that require a high level of independence.
It’s a good idea to devote an entire document to storing various professional summaries. When it comes time to submit your resume to a new position, all you have to do is copy and paste an applicable summary into place. This is a great way to ensure that your summary remains relevant to each individual job while minimizing the amount of overall work on your end.
Write With Your Level of Experience in Mind
Ultimately, whether or not you include something within your professional summary depends on your experience level. While a certain opportunity might call for expertise in project management or business administration, you don’t want to mention these traits for the sole purpose of appeasing the reader. If you do have the experience to back up your claims, however, feel free to include such qualifications.
Moving Forward With Your Job Hunt
Now that you’ve gained some insight into the resume writing process, including some hints and tips you can use in order to strengthen your professional summary, it’s time to put these strategies to good use and continue your job hunt. Equipped with a renewed sense of motivation, improved confidence and a summary that is clear, concise and informative, you might find yourself in the interview chair sooner rather than later.
About the Author
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and founder of Punched Clocks. Coming from a military family, Sarah is passionate about helping veterans find and succeed in a civilian career. Follow Sarah for more advice on career development @SarahLandrum
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