Resume Tips Summarize Project Managers Career

A Boston project manager’s resume grew every time he tried to summarize his career.


What do you do when a 35-year career driven by a stellar reputation and word of mouth hits a dry spell? You call a professional.

Only recently a U.S. citizen, “Jonathan,” who asked that his real name be withheld, had been working predominantly as a consultant via work-visa programs for much of his career in technology management. He had been a project manager, responsible for planning and closing projects, and a product manager, responsible for researching and developing a product to completion.

Now married and a citizen, Jonathan had been a director at a Boston firm that consulted with major financial-services companies. He managed a business line and more than 40 people responsible for product, deployment and customer support. But he was recently laid off and looking for a job for the first time in his career. “I have never done a lot of serious job hunting over the years because I had gotten most of my jobs through colleagues,” he said.

Jonathan wanted to pursue project- and product-manager positions and needed his resume to showcase his skills in both areas, he said. But the result was a long and unfocused resume that could be intimidating for managers to scan, said Donald Burns, a certified professional resume writer who works with Ladders and to whom Jonathan eventually turned for help.

“He had good information listed, but it was too labor intensive to read,” Burns said. “It needed to be reformatted for simplicity on the eye. That’s a really important thing that most people overlook when they are doing their own resume. You need to make it friendly to scan, and four pages is just too darn long.”

Tailor to the job you want

Burns said people with lots of experience don’t always realize that you can tweak your resume within reason and customize titles for specific jobs to which you are applying.

“You have to have done the work,” Burns said, “but as far as a desired title goes, adjusting your resume in the summary and lead area of the resume is fair game for customization when applying for different jobs.”

Jonathan is applying for positions in product management with an emphasis on the business aspects of selling and promoting a product; he’s also interested in purer software-management positions. He has the experience to do both, and maybe even to go after CIO and CTO positions, Burns said.

“You need to target each individual resume response to job openings,” Burns said. “This is another often overlooked aspect of the job-search process.”

And it’s another tactic for broadening a resume’s potential in a time of diminishing opportunities.

Jonathan is now looking beyond jobs in Boston to include opportunities in New York. While Jonathan hasn’t found his new job yet, he was very pleased by the experience, and understands the value of making his resume shine as bright as possible.

Emphasize promotions

Jonathan had a long history of promotions in his career, but the achievements were muted in bullet points under his job titles, Burns said. They weren’t featured in a presentable fashion.

“He alluded to promotions and changes in having more responsibility in the sentences,” Burns said, “but the actual titles weren’t there, so I was able through my interview with him to see this, get him to spell them out, and then I was able to make them in to individual subheadings.”

“I was really happy with what Don was able to do to my resume,” Jonathan said. “Don gave it a simplicity and symmetry that wasn’t there before. I could really see the difference in layout. It looks really good now. I hadn’t been thinking enough of how a hiring manager would see this, but I do now.”

Here’s how Burns explains the value of showing promotions:

“It’s more powerful than anything you can write about yourself because someone else promoted you… Someone chose you to take on more, to be a leader and to ultimately be accountable for a business. That’s sometimes lost on people who have always been asked to take on more.”