Brainstorming Content

What is the actual content of your resume going to say?

Before you start putting your resume into any kind of final format, you’re going to need to brainstorm the actual content.

People often freeze up when it comes time to prepare their resume for the job hunt. The reason for this, in many cases, is people don’t break the process down into its respective parts. Many activities in life are made easier when we break them down into their various components and tackle them one by one.

Writing a resume is no different.

Don’t worry about how your resume will look right now. Instead, think about what you’re going to say. Here are the subject areas for which we need to generate content:

1) Objective

What is your objective? Do you have a definite position or industry you want to be working in? If you do, describe your objective briefly in two sentences or less.

Feel free to write your Objective a couple of different ways until you find a way of saying what you want to do that sounds right. Remember, you don’t need a finished draft just yet. Our goal at this stage of the game is to generate lots of ideas and content.

Below are some Objectives from resumes which were sent into ABA Staffing:

[Example 1]
Seeking a position as an intellectual property paralegal in a challenging environment requiring outstanding communication and organizational skills that offers the opportunity for growth and added responsibility.

[Example 2]
To obtain a position as Legal Counsel for a respected corporation where my legal and business education, skills and experience will be maximized in a professional, team-oriented work environment.

[Example 3]
To acquire a mid-level associate position in a dynamic, professional boutique firm where I can best utilize my proven writing, reasoning and other litigation skills.

Remember, the less precise and specific your objective, the more likely it should be omitted from your final resume completely. If you find the only thing you can come up with is a meaningless statement like, “To acquire a position where I can grow,” then you should drop the Objective part from your resume altogether. This statement adds nothing to the argument that you should get the job and is merely wasting space on your resume because you think you need to include an Objective.

Only include an Objective if you have a very clear statement that explicitly ties you to the job you are applying for.

2) Summary

Sometimes called a Summary / a Summary of Skills, a Summary of Qualifications, Qualification Statement or even just a Profile – this optional segment of a resume can serve to “position” you for a particular job quite nicely.

Whereas an Objective is really limited to a couple of sentences of text, a Summary can range from being a couple of paragraphs of text, several bullet points or a list of different skills.

Think of the Summary as a way of giving the person reviewing your resume a clear snapshot of what you do.

Below are some Summaries taken from real resumes:

[Example 1]
Educational background includes JD degree from a top 10 law school, BA, and forthcoming MBA. Over 12 years experience in private legal practices, in law firm, banking, and corporate environments. Research and resolution experience and training in litigation within diverse legal areas with emphasis on intellectual property, securities, business and banking law. Excellent written and verbal skills. Conscientious, dedicated and flexible emplyee who enjoys being part of a team as well as taking a leadership role.

[Example 2]
Summary of Qualifications
Experience in Civil Litigation at State and Federal levels (trial and appellate stages) in the following areas:

  • Professional Responsibility, Ethics and Malpractice.
  • Products Liability, Environmental Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, Property Damage, Asbestos, Proposition 65, Lead litigation, Toxic Torts, Workers’ Compensation and Insurance Defense.
  • Automobile accidents, Construction Defects and Unfair Competition/Anti-Trust.
  • Life Insurance fraud, Corporate Law, Transactional Law, Estate Planning, Family Law and Intellectual Property.
  • State and Federal regulatory and legislative issues, statutory and proposed regulation, medical issues, scientific issues and caselaw.

[Example 3]
Dynamic versatile lawyer with broad commercial experience in high technology, hardware, software, telecommunications, and service industries. Actively participates in global operations and in all aspects of division business planning to achieve full understanding of markets, customers, suppliers, and operations. Significant strategic international and domestic transaction experience including sale, purchase, vendor financing, technology transfer, licensing, and joint venture. Demonstrated ability to manage a department, outside counsel, and inside resources to meet the daily and extraordinary demands upon a department. Extensive experience minimizing and/or resolving disputes. None of the above examples are perfect, by any means, but they do serve to show you what you might include in a Summary if you choose to go this route. Use the Summary option if you find your Work Experience isn’t really explaining what you do.

[Example 4]
Goal oriented and enthusiastic litigation paralegal with 4 years trial preparation experience including expertise in legal research, cite checking and brief preparation. Additional background in project management, quality control, and customer service. Proven written and verb communication skills. Recognized by peers as adaptable, amicable, detailed, and for excellence in work as both a team player and an individual contributor.

3) Work Experience

Write down your current or most recent position and jot down a list of of your duties and accomplishments as bullet points. Don’t worry about prioritizing them yet. That comes later.

You should have a number of things that you do/did in your last position. Write them all down. If some things logically go together, join them, but don’t worry about organizing yourself too much at this moment.

If you still work with your co-workers or are in contact with them, try asking them what they consider your most important attributes, duties and accomplishments. It’s ironic, but oftentimes, other people have a much better grasp on what we do at work than we do, especially when it comes to explaining it to strangers on a resume.

Your list of bullet points should read something like the following real examples:

[Example 1]

  • Drafted Patent Applications, Responses to PTO, and Office Actions.
  • Involved in the enforcement of patent rights.
  • Performed legal research, drafted memoranda & affidavits relating to Patent and Trademark litigation.
  • Analyzed issues of prior art, anticipation, obviousness, ยง112 compliance and infringement.
  • Drafted licensing agreements and other business contracts.

[Example 2]

  • Took and defended depositions.
  • Second chaired three trials to verdict.
  • Researched issues in complex litigation including corporate, employment and environmental matters.
  • Drafted various pleadings, summary judgment motions, settlement agreements, and motions to compel.
  • Extensive client contact.

[Example 3]

  • Assisted attorneys by drafting complaints and motions to compel.
  • Researched in personal injury, contracts, corporations, and trademark
  • Answered all types of discovery requests (RFA, RPD, FI) and produced documents. Scanned and indexed documents for paperless office.
  • Organized and indexed files.
  • Filed incorporation documents.
  • Drafted demand letters and other correspondence.

Develop a list of bullent points for each of your positions going back five years.

When you eventually come to writing your Work History, you’ll start to consolidate different bullet points into one. Put the most important bullet points in relation to the job you are applying for at the top. If you overrun a page because you have too many bullet points for each job, you can easily chop off the ones at the bottom until you get your content to fit the page.

If you don’t want to include bullet points in the final form of your resume, use each point to form the basis of a sentence. Three bullet points become three sentences stating what you did during a job.

For the sake of ease, however, when brainstorming your duties and responsibilities, start out using bullet points.

4) Education

Unless you’ve just graduated, your Education section should be pretty simple and straight-to-the-point.

If you have just graduated, include any courses which are relevant to the job in question or shed light on positive qualities such as leadership, initiative-taking and project management. These skills are all pretty much universal to most jobs.

In all other cases, where you haven’t just graduated, you should stick with listing the school, dates attended (or graduated if you got a degree) and the subject you graduated in. The highest level of your educational attainment is the most important one to an employer, so if you earned a degree in English or Business, don’t bother including your High School on your resume.

Here are some real examples sent to us:

[Example 1]
University of Southern California, Juris Doctorate 1998
Boston University, Bachelors of Arts, 1995

[Example 2]
New York University School of Law, JD 2001
Columbia University, MBA 1998
Cornell University, BA in accounting 1996

[Example 3]
Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies, Whittier College, Whittier, CA, 1997
Bachelor of Arts, Spanish Linguistics, University of California, Irvine, 1990
Bachelor of Arts, Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine, 1989

5) Skills or Computer Skills

Increasingly important to include on a resume is a show of your skills/computer skills. Most resumes targeted at jobs in the Office or Sales environment, should now include a section listing the the operating systems (Windows 98, MAC) and applications (PhotoShop, Word, Excel) you are familiar with as well as any proprietary database systems (for instance, medical or contact management databases).

You may want to wrap these skills into a Summary section or your Work History if you don’t want to focus on them. However, for many people, this is an area in which they really shine and will want to give a lot of attention to. For these people, listing your skills/computer skills at the bottom of the resume under your Work History and Education is best.

[Example 1]
Credit Analysis
Trade Finance
Financial Analysis

[Example 2]
Computer Skills:
MS Products: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access

6) Miscellaneous Subjects (Training, Voluntary Work, Hobbies)

Caution should be exercised when including any Voluntary Work, Hobbies, etc. The rule of thumb is only include these things if they are relevant to the job in question. For instance, listing voluntary work for Habitat for Humanity, while always worthy, is out of place on a Sales resume. However, it would be perfectly at home on a resume for somebody wishing to be a counselor or be a social worker.

Please use your discretion.

Including on-the-job or off-the-job training follows the same rule of thumb. If you attended courses on Sexual Discrimination at your last employment and are applying to join an HR department, you would want to include the course on your resume. However, if your job won’t involve handling sexual discrimination issues, but you want your prospective employer to know how sensitive you are to the issue – don’t bother – the course really doesn’t answer the question, “Why should I hire you?”