Why You Should Update Your Resume Now, Even If You’re Not Looking for a Job

resume update

Think of your resume as a living, breathing document. It is the written representation of the real-life professional growth you experience every day, on an ongoing basis, and it should always contain your most important successes and milestones. But, more than a third of professionals only update their resumes when they’re actively looking for a new job, according to Monster.com. For many, this can mean that years go by before they make any updates to their resume. What’s more, only 10 percent of respondents said they update their resume as new assignments or projects came up.

This is a mistake. At a minimum, resumes should be updated at least once or twice a year, regardless of whether or not you’re on the job market. Although, ideally, you should make additions to this document much more frequently. Here’s why…

Even if you haven’t gone through a job change or other big professional milestone, you have still experienced new things, accomplished new goals, and learned new skills. If you don’t update your resume on a regular basis to include these things as they happen, it’s more likely that you’ll forget the important details of these key experiences or successes that would be of interest to a potential new employer, however far down the road that might be.

Keeping your resume current by updating it regularly throughout the year or, better yet, as things come up is a professional “best practice” that shouldn’t take up too much of your time -- 20 or 30 minutes per sitting at most.

So if you haven’t looked at your resume in a while, here are the 6 most important updates you should make (starting today!) to your resume on an ongoing basis:

1. Projects

If you’re not currently on the job market and needing a perfect resume to submit to employers right away, it’s still wise to take a few minutes out of your normal workday to record any new projects you’ve taken on since your resume was last updated. Don’t worry about wording or grammar -- just get the most important points down -- since you can always go back and revise your sentences at a later time or when you’re back on the job market in full force.

2. Experiences

While this may be a more difficult category to add to your resume because it can encompass so many things, don’t hold back here... again, you can always revise and cut down at a later date. Try to think of all the new experiences you’ve had at work since your last resume update. Have you attended any professional conferences? Or joined any committees or groups? Have you appeared as a guest lecturer or served on a panel? If you wait too long to update these types of activities, you run the risk of forgetting about them and leaving off important details. Plus, by updating your resume as these things come up, you save yourself valuable time in the future since you won’t have to spend hours hunting down every detail of what you’ve done to add to your resume.

3. Skills

Every time you learn a new skill or acquire a new certification, record it on your resume right then and there. As the months or years go by, it can be easy to lose sight of all the valuable skills you’ve acquired and the impact that’s had on your professional abilities. By documenting any new skills you’ve acquired -- big or small -- in real-time as they come up, you’re more likely to be able to add rich, descriptive language to your resume that will more convincingly highlight the benefits of your new skills.

4. Results

This is perhaps one of the most important categories on your resume that should be regularly updated. It’s important to provide potential employers with quantitative outcomes and accomplishments that you’ve achieved -- they like to see hard facts and figures around the goals you’ve met or things you’ve accomplished. But, for example, it can be difficult to recall from memory specific results you had on a project from years ago (and time-consuming to retroactively look up old performance numbers). Keeping an accurate record of key results you achieve as they happen ensures you’ll be able to reference your most impressive stats and not have to spend hours updating your resume when you go back on the job market.

5. Accolades

Don’t forget to add any awards or accolades to your resume as you receive them. Recording these things in the moment will ensure that you don’t leave off any important honors or omit key information about your successes.   

6. New Job Title

This is a bit of a no-brainer, but of course, you want to update your resume whenever you get a new job or a new job title. While it may seem a bit counter-intuitive to start working on your resume immediately after getting hired at a new company, adding a few lines about your new role and job duties only takes a few minutes and it leaves you prepared for any situation that might require showing your resume.

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