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A Little Bit of Everything on Your Resume? That's a Strength!

A paint brush and a paint palette.

If you’re a social-impact professional among friends who hold corporate positions, you’ve probably noticed that your resume looks a little different than theirs. Odds are, yours is filled with a greater number and wider variety of projects.

In a world where common wisdom says staying in a position less than two years is a red flag for hiring managers, you may worry that a diverse resume will label you a “jack of all trades and ace of none.”

Here's how to make sure your breadth of experience comes across as your greatest asset.

Find a relevant common thread

If you’ve held a lot of positions, it may feel like every job is a world unto itself. Step back, though, and you’ll find there are threads that tie your projects together.

Maybe it’s the topic—do you tend toward work focused on the environment? Women’s rights? Or maybe the commonality lies in the type of skills you employ. Are you a wizard at winning grants for social-impact organizations, regardless of their issue area? Can you energize volunteers across a variety of causes?

When you’re trying to land a new project or job, figure out what the organization needs, then find the common thread in your work that shows your ability to meet that need. The key is to connect the dots with a customized version of your resume and cover letter so that a hiring manager won’t have to.

Pro Tip: Still wondering if you fit the job requirements? You may simply be lacking a bit of confidence rather than all of the necessary skills. Read our post to find out if low confidence is holding you back professionally.

Flaunt your flexibility

Loads of social-impact professionals are skilled in a certain field. Far fewer have the ability to pivot quickly to meet the changing needs of a project.

In a world where social-impact organizations are focusing more and more on the points at which issues intersect, any experience juggling a variety of work, schedules, deadlines, and clients is an asset. In fact, the ability to adapt to change is one of the most important skills a social-impact professional can have.

Make sure to call out in your cover letter times when—because of your broad experience—you’ve been able to adapt quickly to a situation in order to meet a client's or employer's needs, offering tangible and specific examples as well as any measurable impact.

Be prepared to pitch any project

Often social-impact opportunities pop up unexpectedly and are filled fast. If you want to make sure your resume and application materials are the first on the hiring manager’s desk, you need to do a little prep work on the front end.

Remember those common threads? Instead of waiting to look for them when a new opportunity presents itself, get a head start.

One way to do this is to maintain a spreadsheet listing the topic, type of work, and organization for past projects. A quick sort will present you with a set of projects that are relevant to the opportunity at hand.

You can then use those projects to tailor your resume and cover letter. The more clearly you tie your experience to the requirements of the job, the more apt you are to land it!

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by Alice Pettway

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