by By Alesia Benedict , CPRW, JCTC
Are you a
butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker? It's very rare to
be one of those people who are equally qualified in
numerous, vastly different professions. If you are one of
these uncommon folks, you'll certainly need more than one
version of your resume. You're an unusual bird with
experience all over the map.
But chances are, you -- along with the rest of us in the
human race -- need just one resume.
We All Have Just One Past!
Let's face it -- we all have just one history. Sure, we may
have different goals in mind, but no one has Life A, Life B,
and Life C running concurrently. Most people have had
different types of jobs and have worked in different
industries, but can distill their resume into just one
In the same vein, we have just one future. And the next step
in your career is finite -- you can only take one step at a
time, right? If you tried to take three different steps in
three different directions at once, you'd end up with
tangled feet, an inevitable fall, and a definite loss in
If you think you need more than one version of your resume,
it most likely means you're not fully committed to your next
career step. Many people say they are "open to several
directions" but, when questioned, they're really uncertain
which direction they want to take. While they think they're
open to everything, their mindset is closer to "I'll take
anything" -- not a smart way to manage your career,
especially at the executive level.
Defining Your Future
So how do you know which step is the right, next step?
Simple -- look at your last career step, or maybe your last
series of steps. Uncertain job seekers should always look at
their past experience and education, since it's this
experience that will lead them to the next position.
Let me give you an example - say you're a sales management
pro, who started out in inside sales. Over time, you've
changed employers and worked in different types of sales
(B2B, B2C, Retail, Outside Sales, Territory Management,
etc.) in different types of industries. Now you're ready to
take that next career step into executive management. You
test the waters and find several different positions that
pique your interest: a national sales director for a
technology company, a national business development manager
for a specific product line within a luxury consumer product
group, and a vice president of sales for a smaller company
that is an OEM for a niche product.
Do you need three different resumes? No. Why not? Because
you have just one background to present to all three
employers and the focus is the same for all three jobs --
national sales management.
A lot of job seekers in this position would want to create a
few "resume versions" by rearranging some content in the
summary, changing a few keywords, and calling it a different
But here's the thing - most of the time, these different
"versions" show minimal and barely detectable changes. They
make no real impact on the reader and no difference in terms
of winning the interview. In fact, sometimes a different
"version" might actually be weaker than the parent resume
that solidly presents the qualifications and experience in a
Using Cover Letters to Target Applications
So, how do you attack different positions that have
different aspects to them? Easy -- with the cover letter!
A cover letter is the marketing tool you should use to
zero-in on the position that's advertised and show the
reader how your specific qualifications match their specific
requirements. Because a cover letter is in a narrative,
conversational format, you can "speak" to the reader
directly and, in essence, say,
"You are looking for someone with experience in the
development of sales teams within the heavy equipment
industry. I have developed fourteen, record-breaking sales
teams in my career and worked in the heavy equipment
industry for twelve years for Caterpillar. When can we
A statement like this is so much more effective than just
rearranging your resume's core competencies to start with
"heavy equipment" or "sales team development".
By creating one, strong resume, and using the cover letter
to personalize your application, you won't drive yourself
crazy trying to keep track of all the variations of your
resume and/or trying to remember which version you sent to
which potential employer. Job searching is stressful enough
- no need to add any more, unnecessary complications!
Remember, there's always a logical next step in your career
whether that next step is a short, easy one or one that
requires one, long stride. Either way, your resume
represents where you stand now, the path you have taken to
get to your present location, and where you want to go. Use
the cover letter to illustrate more specific points about
your career, and draw the reader in the right direction.