The good news? Having LIS skills and training means you can apply for – and succeed in – all sorts of information-based jobs. The somewhat more challenging news? Creating tailored resumes for all those different jobs can take way too much time, effort, and brain power.
Enter the master resume, a document that brings together all your potentially relevant information in one spot. The goal is to create a comprehensive overview of all of the things you might want to showcase to a diverse range of possible employers. You want one, easy-to-tailor reference document so you can quickly pull out and present the most compelling elements as needed.
It’s important to remember that potential employers are most interested in your work history and experience. According to LibGig’s Director of Recruiting, Brad Rogers,
“For the master resume, you should go broad and include everything. That way you’ll be less likely to forget key points when you’re creating the tailored, job-targeted version of your resume. And if you’re looking to make a significant career change, like going from an academic library setting to a law firm or corporate setting, it’s important to position your experience as broadly as possible and avoid industry references or jargon that have no meaning in a different sector.”
How to create a master resume
As with a traditional resume, your master resume will include all the basics employers look for:
- Qualifications or strengths summary. What used to be the “Objectives” statement has been replaced by a more useful summary of your key qualifications or strengths. The goal of a Qualifications Statement or Overview of Key Strengths summary is to showcase those attributes you possess that make you an ideal candidate for a particular job.
- Work history or experience. Organized chronologically (most recent first), each entry should lead with your job title rather than your employer, and include dates of employment. Your employer’s name and location should follow, in the second line underneath your job title.
- Career accomplishments and/or awards. Not everyone has accomplishments or awards they can point to in their career, but if you do, this is where you’ll list them. For example, are you a member of a professional association that’s given you an award of some sort? List it here, with a very brief clarification of what the award was for if not clear from its title.
- Publications. Similarly to career accomplishments and awards, not everyone will have publications to list (although this may be a professional goal to shoot for). But if you do have publications you can mention, so much the better. Even published student papers can demonstrate your ability to research, write, organize information, and self-manage, all good things to a wide range of potential employers.
- Professional affiliations. One of the things you want to showcase as you grow your LIS career is your engagement with the profession, i.e., your willingness to take the initiative to contribute, volunteer, share expertise, and support others. So listing your professional memberships (for example, SLA, ARMA, PLA, etc.) is an easy way to demonstrate that engagement and also indicate your professional areas of interest.
- Volunteer engagements. If you have volunteer activities that you’re comfortable sharing with potential employers, this section enables you to provide a more rounded picture of who you are as an individual, and depending on your engagements, may make you a more compelling (and memorable) job candidate.
- Education. This section should include both your MLIS and undergraduate education (list degree with any specializations, then institution) as well as certifications or additional coursework undertaken to broaden your skill set.
Again, as you assemble these modules or sections of information, you’ll want to include all of the items that could potentially fit in each section so that later, when you need to quickly produce a job-specific resume, you’ll be able to do so on-demand by simply choosing and including the items that align with the job description.
Refine your resume language now (so you won’t have to later)
Now that you’ve assembled the components of your master resume, the next step is to make sure the language you’ve used throughout is crisp and compelling.
You’ll want to take a “just enough” rather than “just in case” approach; in other words, how concisely can you describe a job responsibility, for example, while still conveying key accomplishments? If you struggle with this type of writing, a career coach can help you perfect your organization and wording.
Keep in mind that whenever possible, you want to note why what you did was important to the organization.
The mix-and-match resume – fast, easy, employer-targeted
Now comes the easy part. Once you’ve compiled and refined your master resume, you can simply take a quick cut-and-paste approach to assemble a resume that’s perfectly tailored to the requirements of the specific job you’d like to apply for.
Then, as you continue through your career, make sure to keep your master resume growing with you. Receive an award? Publish an article? Volunteer in your community? Change jobs? You’ll want to make sure all new career developments are reflected in your master resume, because you never know when that next great – and unanticipated – opportunity will cross your path.