Last weekend, I spent some much-needed time tending to all my houseplants, catching up on all the upkeep I really should’ve been doing on a regular basis. As I cleared away weeks (er, months?) of unruly vines and leaves, only to find the beautiful plant I knew and loved buried underneath, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to resumes.
While most of us only look at our resumes when we’re trying to find a job, I’m telling you now, do so at your peril. Keeping your resume maintained on a regular basis is one of the best things you can do to keep your professional appearance appealing and fresh—both for you and for your future employers.
Here are three lessons my houseplants can teach you about resume care.
1. Sunlight and Sustenance
We all know plants need at least two things: water and sunlight. Well, your resume isn’t all that different. Leave it in the dark for too long, and it becomes wilted and stale—an outdated document showing off your skills and responsibilities circa 2009. Hardly a fair representation of your current professional self.
And it’s a rookie move to think you can rush to update it right when you decide you want to submit an application. Employers can spot a dusty resume from a mile away: Those beautifully crafted bullet points with keywords and numbers to highlight your past accomplishments cozied up to your current responsibilities, which read like an abbreviated job description of your new coveted position, is a dead giveaway. While you might be able to fool some with a quick update, any seasoned employer can tell you haven’t been taking care of your resume.
Instead, carve out some time every quarter or so to pull up your resume and make some updates. Have you taken on new responsibilities? Learned new skills? What accomplishments are you particularly proud of? Add them in.
When your resume is updated and refreshed on a regular basis, you’re not only ready to pounce when opportunity presents itself, you’ll also be confident that the document is in tip-top shape.
2. Clearing Away Dead Leaves
If you’ve ever neglected a houseplant for too long, you’re familiar with what you’ll find when you finally get to work: Dead leaves. Lots of them. Your resume is just like that plant. If you don’t pay attention to it on a regular basis, you’ll inevitably accumulate a few skills or word choices that really need to go.
For example, listing “Internet” as a skill might have worked in 2001, but it will impress exactly no one now. And those “skills” with Microsoft Word? Not so much—pretty much everyone on the planet knows how to use it.
Instead, keep tabs on the latest must-have skills for your field, and update your resume every time you take one on. And be specific: “Social Media” might work for some gigs, but if you’re in the marketing world, detailing your prowess in Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Vine, or blogging, is more likely to catch an employer’s eye.
By checking in on your resume regularly, you can update your job descriptions and skills to reflect what matters most in the ever-changing job environment.
3. Curb Appeal
When I first graduated from college, a single cactus was about all I could keep alive. But, over time, I acquired a few more plants, updating them to keep my place looking nice and welcoming—not to mention keeping up with the trends.
This is where resume building can be fun. As you probably know, having one standard version of your resume isn’t always the way to go, and by keeping your finger on the pulse of the job-search world, you’ll know when you need to take a little creative license with yours.
Sometimes, this means you’ll need to create more than one resume—if you’re a marketing professional, for example, you might have one highlighting your marketing skills, another showing off your copywriting abilities, and a third that really focuses in on the work you’ve done for nonprofits.
But beyond that, don’t be afraid to get a little creative when highlighting your talents. Do some research online to find examples of different types of resumes—infographic resumes, anyone?—and consider adding a couple of your own to your portfolio. Over time, you’ll have created a nice group of resumes that will work with just about any job you’re considering—and they’ll all be up-to-date and relevant.
Your resume is the backbone of your job search, and, like a houseplant, it needs constant care and attention to thrive. Keep these tips in mind, and employers will have no doubt you’re committed to your professional growth.