When you want to get a new job, don't look at your resume to see what you could get. Instead, take time to build a resume that meets the requirements of the jobs you want. This doesn't mean using keywords that are in the job description. That is not going to work. Instead, look at the types of experience that are required to get the job you want, and then get yourself that experience.
1. Make up a project for yourself
You don't need to be paid in order to put something on your resume. A resume is about experience, not income. So invent projects for yourself, and do them, and make sure you execute exactly what you need in order to put a bullet on your resume. For example, if you need to be able to say you executed national campaigns, then do one.
Jessica Goodman is a great example of this. She just graduated from the University of Denver and she's looking for a job in public relations or marketing. Inevitably, the job she lands will involve social media. Because that's where both industries are headed.
In the meantime, Jessica created a project for herself that showed her college counseling office why they should be teaching students how to job hunt with social media. (And she wrote a blog post about it.) This is a great project because whether or not the college does anything with it, Jessica conceived and executed a project to promote an organization-wide adoption of social media tools.
2. Work for free
You don't need permission to get the experience you need to get the job you want. And you don't need to be paid to do every piece of work. It's true that if you work for free all the time, people will not value your work. And you'll have to marry very rich, or starve. But work for free sometimes, when you can gain important experience that you can leverage to get high paying work.
The way I got a nationally syndicated column was to write my column for free for two years. That's right. Every week for two years. And the way I got my first online marketing job was to nag my boyfriend for weeks and weeks until he let me do a marketing project for his company for free. (I did it for a project that involved U2, and I swear, that was my golden bullet for five years of interviews. Who doesn't like to talk about U2?)
3. Use other peoples' resumes to build yours
If you aim high — to jump a few levels in your field, or to switch fields but skip the entry level — then it's sometimes hard to conceive of what a resume should look like for those jobs. The best way to make sure you have the right resume is to find people online who have already had the job you want. Look at their resume. Look at the bullet points they've collected.
Then transfer those bullets to your resume and start figuring out how to make them true for you. It's focused skill-building and it's very smart — you gain the exact experience you need to get the job you want. So much of what we accomplish at work is not relevant to the next job we want. It's hard to control what you do in your job (but you should try). However, you can control the work you do for free. So start with the bullet you want to write for that work, and then maneuver yourself backwards into the work.
4. You don't have to do everything perfectly, just try
It's very hard to do something outside of what you know you’re good at. Usually, the first time is extremely difficult, which is why I suggest you do it for free. Give yourself freedom to execute on a plan to get that special bullet on your resume even if the execution is not great. Perfection is totally overrated, and just having the guts to make an effort is totally underrated.
The first speech I ever gave was at a business school. It was a disaster. I thought it was supposed to be ten minutes and it was slated for fifty minutes. The speech sucked. But when it came time to write the bullet, I could say that I “give speeches at business schools.” This opened the door for me to give speeches at lots of schools. (And, good news, they have all gone really well since then. Here's one.)
5. Have patience
You will need at least a few months to envision the resume that will land you the job you want, and then gather the bullets you need for that. It requires planning, and commitment, and a leap of faith — in yourself.
But really, all three of those characteristics make a great employee, so maybe that will be a bullet for your resume, too.