Stop obsessing over your resume — it's not the key to career success

·3 min read

In the last decade of my career, I started new jobs six times and went from earning $31,000 to over $300,000 in total compensation. Looking back on how I got those incredible opportunities, I realized I submitted a traditional application only once. One time. In 10 years.

In the vast majority of cases, I was approached directly by a hiring manager or recruiter who knew of my work and thought of me for the role. If my resume was ever mentioned, it was usually a formality at the end of the interview process when I knew I had the job in the bag and someone from the human resource team asked me to formally apply through the company's applicant tracking system.

I’m by no means alone in this regard. In the last week alone, I’ve heard from two coaching clients of mine who received six-figure job opportunities not because of how well formatted their resumes were. They, too, were approached directly for the roles and asked to interview.

Resumes are not the key to career success. Your professional brand is.

The key to your career success is not a well-formatted resume. It's your brand, writes one career expert.
The key to your career success is not a well-formatted resume. It's your brand, writes one career expert.

I know “brand” has become a cringeworthy buzzword but it’s never been more important for jobseekers to understand how branding works and how it can propel them to the juiciest job opportunities. Around 70% of job listings are never even published — they go to candidates who are referred by employees, promoted internally at the company, or (as was so often the case in my career) poached from another employer.

Here are a few strategies you can use to strengthen your professional brand today:

Share exciting work projects or news in updates on LinkedIn

Some people struggle thinking of how to best use LinkedIn. Don’t overthink it. Share posts about the work you’re doing. Tag your colleagues in posts to celebrate their work. Share links to job openings with your network. Seek out recommendations from former colleagues. The key is to keep finding ways to remind your network of contacts that you exist so they think of your name first when new opportunities arise.

Be a champion and cheerleader for your peers in their work

When you support peers and colleagues, they are more likely to want to work with you in the future and refer you for opportunities they come across. It’s really that simple. Offer to mentor others and refer folks to opportunities you come across as well. Career karma is real.

Say yes to scary invites to speak at conferences or be on panels

Your brand should be strong outside of your current company and a great way to do that is to participate in industry events like conferences or workshops. If invitations aren’t coming your way to speak or sit on a panel, submit an idea to the conference yourself.

Get your name out there by writing thought leadership content

When you are a subject matter expert in your given field, you can probably talk all day about it. Channel that passion into content written for external websites where your peers (and potential employers) are likely to be in the audience.

Host a training in a skill or subject you’re passionate about at work

It’s important to keep your brand strong within your company and be sure folks in other departments know who you are. An organic way to do that is to offer to host a workshop for any colleagues interested in learning a skill set you’re an expert in.

Mandi Woodruff is an inclusive wealth-building and career expert, cohost of the Brown Ambition Podcast and founder of the MandiMoney Makers community.

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