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Electrify Your Skills Resume With Active Language

If you’ve never done it before, it could be challenging to adjust the language in your old resume to turn it into an active and engaging skills resume.

In the old “duties” style, it’s customary to write those duties in passive language. Active language is a much better way to present and sell yourself, but we tend to shy away from using it when describing ourselves. It’s just a human thing. I mean, when you’re vying for a new job, even when you’re desperate, you don’t want to appear too pushy in case it ruins your chances and takes you out of the running, right?

You don’t want to think that way.

Why? Because active language is the stuff that sells the most important thing you bring to the table–you. It’s important you use it well.

In a skills resume, think action words that describe not those tasks you’ve performed, but what you’ve accrued for yourself in the performance of those duties. Remember, you want to write this resume in the frame of “transferable skills”. These are the skills that are sought out by multiple employers across many industries. This way, you can open up more avenues of opportunity for yourself including one where you may even find something that truly makes you happy rather than only finding a “job”.

How to do it – Adding Active Language

resume smarts - use active languageA lot of the duty-to-skills conversion will be context-driven, so you’ll want to adjust to your own situation. Remember, as an added bonus, if you can quantify any of your transferable skills, this can stand as concrete proof that you really do possess the skills you note and the next potential employer will love that. It shows them you can back up your claims and if they call your former employer for a reference and ask, they’ll be able to corroborate it. It removes some of the element if risk in hiring you who they’ve only just met.

In any prospective employer’s mind, it makes them think “They’ve accomplished this where they are for that company, so I know they will do at least that for me if I bring them here.” Your goal is to answer this question for every prospective employer: “What will this person do for me and why can’t I live without them in my company?”

If this is your first crack at it, you may need some help with the language until you get rolling on how to describe your transferable skills. While there’s about a million ways to describe some of these, here’s a sample of some real duties and how they might translate into transferable skills language.

Duty: “Was responsible for filing for several departments and answered switchboard”
As transferable skills:
Organised and detailed
Independent worker, self-motivated
Effective mult-tasker, excellent time management skills
Meets goals and deadlines, most often with a cushion
Co-operative and efficient
Effective negotiator, proactive problem solver, excellent communication skills
Excellent performance record and personal reviews each year of tenure

Duty: “Assisted clients with clothing suggestions and rang up purchases through POS system”
As transferable skills:
Personable, approachable and engaging
Has a knack for drawing out through conversation exactly what a customer is looking for – closed more sales than all members of shift for last 4 quarters
Creates rapport and trust relationships – at least 3 times a per week with consistency (documented), clients left messages with other shifts about preferring to wait to purchase items until I was back in

Duty: “Key holder; made night deposits”
As transferable skills:
Bondable and dependable
Contribute independently or as part of a team
Proven leader
Welcomes opportunities for responsibility
Enforces policies, identifies outdated policies and encourages collaboration on new ones
Knows what it means to go the extra mile
Seasoned, mature and trustworthy – one of only 2 key holders

Duty: “Counter help, took orders and rang up sales”
As transferable skills:
Approachable, helpful and engaging
Detailed, active listener and effective communicator – retains the distinction of being the only server never to send an incorrectly taken order back over entire tenure
Remains and calm and retains sense of humour under stress
Resourceful and self-motivated
Maintains and exceeds targets – attained highest upsell total 6 months running this year

Duty: “Supervised agents; coached direct reports”
As transferable skills:
People manager, seasoned delegate, identifies untapped resources
Focussed on team and individual development
Approachable mentor and seasoned coach
Organised and effective time manager – lead 3 teams of 12 agents for half of last year after the unexpected exit of several supervisors
Engaging, enthusiastic coach – promoted 3 reports to supervisor last year

Duty: “Bartender, served customers, maintained cleanliness of bar back area”
As transferable skills:
Effective multi-tasker, maintains calm under pressure
Detailed and conscientious
Approachable, active listener and effective communicator
Engaging and personable, easily create rapport
Adaptable and flexible – always prepared to change shifts on short notice, with consistency has never turned down a shift change over tenure
Self-managing and works to exceed set metrics – increased return customers by 29% on set shift over 1 year tenure

Duty: “Assisted customers with accounts, billing and troubleshooting”
As transferable skills:
Customer advocate
Flexible and dependable – maintained best attendance record on every shift over entire tenure
Creative problem-solver, maintains ownership of issues – closed 98% of customer issues with one contact and without engaging second tier
Personable, creates rapport and builds trust relationships – maintained highest TNPS score in department 4 years running

Again, when considering your own duties resume, think about what skills you used while you performed each of those duties instead of listing the actual duties. This will help you choose more effective language to describe what you learned from your experiences that you can offer a potential employer.

Remember, those are your transferable skills and that’s what your next employer wants to know about you. Ready to give it a shot? Dust off those dry duties and juice up your experiences with some active skills language!

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