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Friday Refill: Making Limited Work Look Good on a Resumé

Published 4/9/2021

How do you make work look good on your resumé when you feel like you haven't done anything impressive? Only the people who work with you know the value of what you did, so how can you communicate that in a bullet point?

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Happy Friday everybody! My name is Jonathan Cutrell listening to another Friday Refill episode of Developer Tea. I'm going to start off the episode by thanking one of our discord community members the drowsy archer who asked this question that kind of spurred on this particular episode the drowsy archer in our discord community. You can join that community by the way and you can ask questions that may turn into episodes by heading over to developertea.com slash discord and we'd love to have software engineers who are looking to level up who are looking to grow in their careers who are looking to have meaningful conversations that's developertea.com slash discord. So I'll summarize what the drowsy archer mentioned in their question. They've been working at the same company for around six years they're kind of struggling putting that six years of work into a resume format and they've attempted to kind of generalize it but they're having trouble creating kind of the wow factor. Part of the reason that they feel this way is because they didn't necessarily have direct access to the production data for the projects right they would deliver it to another team who would take it forward that data turns out to be impressive but only to their internal team it's hard to kind of explain the value of that externally right so this is the setup that we have for today's episode. As we go into the weekend we're coming out of a time in the world. Many of you certainly already know this and if you don't you've probably been asleep for a year a lot of people are probably looking for jobs right now and a lot of people are probably hiring right now and if they're not now they will be soon and not only because of COVID but because it's kind of hiring season this seems to be a time when people's budgets are kind of you know firming up and new jobs are popping up. It tends to be a hiring season there's another one another hiring season that happens later on in the year but because of this a lot of people are also looking at their resumes and they're trying to figure out how to make themselves look good to recruiters look good to hiring managers how do we do this? Now we make our resumes look good and we're not going to cover the whole subject of that today certainly there's a lot that you can do to make your resume look good the most important thing you can do is good work good work is going to make your resume look good because that is the core of your resume and even if you do have a good looking resume if you don't have good work to back it up then any reasonable hiring process is going to uncover that right so now let's be clear when I say that a reasonable hiring process is going to uncover your your good work or your lack of good work I want to be very clear that if you don't have a massive portfolio of work that doesn't mean you're unemployable right that should be hopefully a very loud message that you take away from this because there are a lot of people listening to this right now who for the exact reason that your work is is insufficient for what you would call a legacy right you don't feel good about all the work that you've done and you want to improve you want to take the next step so if you were to have this portfolio full of incredible work well you probably wouldn't necessarily have to go and look for a job that's not true for everybody sometimes people look for jobs for entirely different reasons but for a lot of people the reason you're looking for a job is because you want to grow you want to do something different you want to continue doing more complex or more involved or more interesting exciting work and for that reason you're looking at your resume and this is a very important factor you're looking at it through your own experience and you can't look at it through someone else's experience it's impossible to do but it is possible to remember that your perspective of your experience colors it in other words your way of thinking about those projects your way of thinking about the bullet points on your resume is necessarily going to be different in fact perhaps drastically different from anyone else's including the hiring manager including that recruiter so with that in mind right let's remember that our own perception perception of our work is going to be colored especially when we're looking for another job right there's going to be things that we think are very important on our resume that aren't there's going to be things that we don't think are important that are and there's going to be some things that we are struggling to communicate that would be important but end up being underplayed these are all kind of ways that resumes can go wrong here's a very important factor in clarifying the impact points on your resume right when I say impact I mean the things that a recruiter is going to point at and say this sets this person apart or this qualifies this person above the last five candidates I looked at right the impact points there is a pervasive feeling when you are writing your resume that if you accidentally take too much credit that you are somehow you know being an imposter right so in other words and we'll talk about how this plays out but if you take credit for a project or for work on a project that someone else was the lead on this is a very common example right maybe you were not the lead you contributed to the project the project went well they had a major impact on the business but you don't feel right taking credit because maybe you started on that project halfway through or you know maybe you feel like the the work that you contributed wasn't necessarily absolutely critical to the success of the project I know I'm talking to a lot of you very directly right now because I had this exact experience on many occasions in my career and I know other people who have as well they felt like they were not a critical part of the team they felt like their contributions were not you know incredibly important and that if somebody were to put it under a microscope they would say oh we could have you know cut you out and it wouldn't have mattered so you can't really take credit for it and you have to stop thinking this way right this is this is a thought that you need to eradicate from your memory okay if you were a part of that team if you were a part of that project then look at the project and the impact that it had no matter where you were in the stage of that project focus on that impact communicate that impact and then explain your role along the way start with the impact and when I say impact for the vast majority of cases this is going to be a business level measure something that a a non software engineer can look at and understand the value of right you're going to communicate some measure some metric something that is tangibly important to the business first right so and the way that this tends to be formed is you use some kind of action verb and don't go over the top don't choose something really obscure and certainly don't choose something that is vague but choose an action verb and then explain what that action resulted in in that particular impact metric so maybe you worked on a performance team let's say right you can say cut load page load time cut home page load time in half resulting in you know a 1.4 x increase in total sessions I don't know these are made up numbers and certainly those are not necessarily connected but you can imagine you know putting that together as an impact metric now did you directly do all of the work to make that happen no in fact if somebody's reading your resume and expecting that you are solely responsible for the work that's on your resume then you probably don't want to work at that place right because they don't understand that teams tend to be the ones to get the best work done together very very seldomly does an individual actually do all of the work on the resume that would be a ridiculous assumption right so take credit for the work that the team did and then explain your role so you cut you you helped cut that page load time in half by optimizing the the image loading sequences or the maybe you worked on I don't know these are all very very ridiculous examples but you can understand that you had a part to play right and that your role in this you're connecting it back to the business impact but here's what I want you to do with this right I want you to come up with let's say three of these kind of impact metrics impact moments projects that you worked on that had some kind of impact and then I want to go ask somebody go ask somebody in our discord you can ask us in there you can ask another engineer in the industry maybe a recruiter somebody that you feel has does not have the internal context of your company doesn't understand kind of what that project necessarily is ask them to read over those they don't have to do a whole review of your resume just look at those particular points and ask them do first of all do these things make sense do they seem like things that people would care about right do they seem like something that made an impact on on that business in that moment on that project and specifically I want you to look for places where they seem confused right clarity is of utmost importance here if they seem confused about anything you either need to cut that thing entirely or you need to change the way you're communicating it possibly change the metric that you're using and it's possible that you're using metric that only makes sense to your internal team maybe you're using some kind of jargon that you don't even realize that you're using because it's become second nature to you once you get this kind of external review from people who are not exposed to your internal culture they're not exposed to your clients or your work they don't have any context on any of that then you might have a clearer picture of something that makes an impact right that's really what we're going for here we're not trying to prove to your team prove to your clients prove to you even right that that's probably the hardest one to get over we're not trying to prove to you or any of those other people that you've done good work we're trying to get you to the next step in that interview process that is the whole point of these resumes there's no other you know maybe there is some pride that's wrapped up into it maybe there is some sense of worth but if your goal is to get a job then really what you're trying to communicate is a truthful picture of the business impact that you participated in that's what you care about and that's what your recruiter cares about that's what your hiring manager cares about they're trying to get proof they're trying to get proof that you have the the makeup of someone who's going to have a tangible impact on metrics that they care about that they actually want to pursue and there's plenty of other things that we can talk about on a resume that might allow them to see that you're a culture fit for example right but this specific thing asking about how do I make my work look good is it should be entirely focused on finding those critical points of business impact and communicating those first and then your role in that process thank you again to the drowsy archer in our discord community you can join that discord community by heading over to developertea.com slash discord thank you so much for listening to this episode of Developer Tea. The Friday refill of this show comes out every Friday we also have two other episodes that come out each week so it's a total of three episodes it's a lot of content and it's easy to miss out on something if you're not subscribed so go ahead and subscribe and whatever podcasting app you use if you don't want to miss out on future episodes thanks so much for listening and until next time enjoy your tea