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Six Tips for a Resume Refresh

Are you looking forward to a promotion or another new step in your career? Is your resume ready to help you get there?

An old resume presents the old you. But your resume should take you into your future. Apply these tips to make your resume fresh and representative of who you are today, with an eye to tomorrow.

1. Ask yourself: Who am I today? Describe the new you in your professional summary or profile.

You need to do more than update the description of your most recent or current position. Over the past months or years, how have your skills, experience, and goals changed? To guide the readers of your resume, begin it with an accurate portrait of the new you, like these two examples:

Example 1:


A creative yet pragmatic communicator with award-winning experience in narrative storytelling and news production. Proven ability in written and visual communication, with particular expertise in social media. Happy to work in teams or independently. Focused on maximum efficiency. Special assets:

  • Extensive experience in film production, with works featured in regional, national, and international film festivals.
  • Skilled in Final Cut Pro 7, DV Camera, Microsoft Office, Hootsuite, HTML/CSS, Tableau.
  • Fluent in Japanese, conversational in Spanish.


Example 2:


Capable executive assistant experienced in managing a wide portfolio of responsibilities. Recognized and rewarded with rapid promotions over the past 6 years for these strengths, among others:

  • Proficiency in handling sensitive matters and communicating diplomatically with people of differing views.
  • Strong skills and experience in research and in communicating through letters, emails, op-eds, social media, and speeches.
  • Expertise in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access.
  • Dual Canadian-U.S. citizenship.


2. Answer the question: What have I accomplished?

It isn't enough to have held a job. People reviewing your resume want to know what you have accomplished. Accomplishments communicate the difference between mediocrity and excellence.

Writing your accomplishments is easier if you take notes often on your successes. Those notes should document your results, preferably with evidence in the form of numbers. Here are five unrelated sample accomplishments:

  1. Promoted to team leader after two months on the job.
  2. Supervised support staff of 14, including legal secretaries, paralegals, and general office support. Reduced turnover by 30 percent in my first year on the job.
  3. Consistently maintained Number 1 or 2 ranking for order fulfillment in a team of 32 order pickers.
  4. During 7 years in the warehouse, had no accidents, injuries, or safety violations.
  5. Created a system for finance managers that generated and emailed monthly financial reports and spreadsheets for on-time budget planning.


3. Refresh your language and specific examples.

Review your older jobs and accomplishments to be sure the language still communicates well. Refresh things such as "secretarial support" to "office support" or "administrative support," and "personnel" to "human resources." (Don't change actual names of departments, but if you can describe the functions with newer words, do so.) Don't just insert today's jargon–think of the perfect, positive, specific words that describe you and your experience.

Update the names of organizations that have changed (for example, ASTD to ATD). Eliminate references to software or computer languages that people no longer use.

Add your new email address and your professional social media links.


4. Out with the old!

Your resume is not a record of your entire career. It's a marketing tool that communicates your relevant jobs, education, and skills. So get rid of old information.

For instance, if you are more than 10 years out of school, drop your college activities unless they communicate something unique and amazing. Eliminate early jobs such as working in a frozen yogurt shop (unless you are applying for a fast-food management position) and acting as a camp counselor (unless you are still in the counseling field).

Also, eliminate details about any job that has no relationship to what you want to do now. (Just note the job title, company, and years if you need to cover the period chronologically.) Those details can distract readers and interviewers and pull you away from your current goals.


5. Summarize the old. Expand on the new.

Imagine this situation: That job you held from 1993 to 1996 was once a significant part of your resume, worthy of five bullet points of accomplishments. But it ended 20 years ago, and you have accomplished a lot since then, right? Cut those five meaty bullets down to two shorter ones. Do the same for other jobs from more than 10 years ago. Then expand on your most recent jobs and accomplishments.

Just as emptying your closet of old clothes helps you focus on and build a new wardrobe, eliminating old resume details helps you focus on and build a case for the newest phase of your career.


6. Refresh the format.

Does your resume look fresh and contemporary? To refresh its appearance, consider these suggestions:

  • Add color sparingly, for example, in your headings.
  • Replace some of the text with concise bullet points if you have chunks of text that are longer than three lines.
  • Add white space so the content can breathe and not compete for attention.
  • Replace typefaces such as Times New Roman and Book Antiqua with a sans serif typeface like Trebuchet, and see if you like the difference.  
  • Experiment with incorporating a strong left alignment rather than centered headings, to communicate energy rather than formality.
  • Take advantage of descriptive links to share work samples. For example, the SUMMARY OF QUALIFICATIONS shown in Tip 1 above includes this list, which might include links to online samples (indicated by underlining): letters, emails, op-eds, social media, and speeches.


Whatever changes you make, be sure you are happy with them. Your resume should make you feel pleased, proud, and confident as you move into your future. If you need a proofreader, I recommend my partner Scribendi. They provide excellent editorial services and fast turnaround. 

Do you have tips to help others update their resumes? Please share your ideas. 

Here are other pieces I've posted on resumes:

Who Are You? Tell Resume Readers Fast

Start Out Strong in a Resume

Resumes: Content and Ethics

When Resumes Lie


Syntax Training

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

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