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Your Career Reference File...
An Important Tool for the Serious Competitor

FRS has stressed continually the importance of careful preparation of your federal-style resume and, in particular, the value of relating your qualifications to the experience requirements of the job you're after.  To do this well, you must be an expert on your background, experience and qualifications.  Sure, you need to know about the job too --- but most people fall short when it comes to tying their backgrounds to the job requirements.

The fact is that, unless you continually study yourself as objectively as possible, you don't really know yourself.  An intimate and yet objective knowledge of your saleable experience and qualifications is absolutely essential to produce a resume that leads you into finalist competition.  Whatever the general and specialized experience requirements of the vacancy might be, your resume must reflect experience, which demonstrates that you meet these requirements.  In order for your resume to successfully perform this important job, your experience descriptions must be on-target, accurate and complete.  You need all the information about yourself that you can draw upon.

When most people begin to write or update their resume experience descriptions, they sit down with a blank resume template and try to remember all of their work experience and eloquently record it in one horrendous sitting.  Too often the final product is an incomplete or poor work experience statement and a renewed understanding of why resume writing is a victim of procrastination.

The job is much less formidable if it's treated as formally as any important research and writing project.  It's certainly more vital, yet it's often given less attention.  As with any research project, a good source of information is essential.  If you've been following our articles, you know where to get the necessary information on federal occupations and job vacancies.  But where do you get information about yourself?

If you analyze yourself as an information source, you have to conclude that you are limited to (a) what is in your member, and (b) what you've written down and recorded about yourself.  The subject (your career) is too important to leave to memory, and that leads us to the thrust of this article: Give yourself the tools to create a first-class resume.  Build a "Career Reference File" on yourself, which will become your personal reference library and to which you can easily refer when composing, checking, updating or custom-tailoring the work experience blocks of your resume.

You will find your "Career Reference File" to be surprisingly easy to set up and indispensable.  To start with, gather everything relating to your career, background, work experiences, and qualifications.  This includes old and current resumes, SF-171s, OF-612s, school records, references, evaluations, appraisals, letters of commendation, awards, military and security clearance records, and training certificates.  And, one other item, so important that we'll consider it separately: a diary, log or running record is your work history.

If you don't have a career diary, set one up now.  Think back as far as you can and jot down the important aspects of your career.  Don't be surprised if you remember some essential items a few days later.  When you realize you forgot an important point, go to the diary and insert the information --- preferably where it would fall chronologically.

Once your diary is set up, periodically record the things you have done so that the information will be available the next time you update your resume.  You should include new duties, new responsibilities you were given or assumed, your recent accomplishments, awards, commendations, and information on your supervisory responsibilities.  Your office calendar can even be used as a tool to make sure you don't miss any significant events.  Keep the record up-to-date --- the subject is just too important to be left to memory.

File all your documents (resumes, awards, training certifications, etc.) in reverse chronological order --- based on the date of preparation --- and place them in a folder.  Ideally, your latest resume would be the most recent career-significant item in your file.  If not, your resume probably needs to be updated.  Your work experience record or diary might be in the form of a spiral-ring notebook for everyday convenience or you can set it up as a word-processing file on your home computer.

There it is --- your personal "Career Reference File."  Sound like work?  It is.  Are you and your career worth it? You have to decide that, but we feel sure of one thing: once you've put your "Career Reference File" together, your job of writing or updating your resume will be easier.

Sandra M. Harris
Federal Research Service








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