5 times in your life you should update your resume

Hit some kind of milestone? A resume update is in order.

5 times in your life you should update your resume

This is when to update a resume during your career.

Since you’ve been gainfully employed for a good stretch of time (score!), an updated resume might seem low on your to-do list. We get it: It’s no longer a priority. But if you don't update a resume promptly and let it go stale, you put yourself at a disadvantage.

“You never know when you may get laid off or when a job opportunity might present itself out of the blue,” says Dawn Bugni, a professional resume writer in Atkinson, North Carolina.

For many people, “updating their resume feels like going to the dentist—they avoid it at all costs,” says Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, executive resume writer and owner of Dallas-based coaching firm Career Trend. Granted, a constantly updated resume isn’t realistic, but there are benchmarks in your career when your resume needs a tune-up.

5 times to update a resume

1. When you start a new job

The best resumes highlight quantifiable achievements—not job responsibilities. But when you’re a new employee, you don’t have any real accomplishments yet. Instead of copying and pasting snippets from the job posting onto your resume, tell the story of why you were hired, says executive resume writer Louise Kursmark, co-author of Modernize Your Resume. Got recruited? Say so.

Now is also the time to update your career summary section. Coming off the job search circuit, you should tweak this part of your resume while your value proposition is fresh in your mind, says Robin Reshwan, professional resume writer and founder of Collegial Services, a consulting and staffing firm in the San Francisco area.

2. When you get promoted

Take the opportunity to celebrate, but don’t forget to update your resume, which should always include your current position. Don’t just slap on your new job title though; explain why you earned the promotion (e.g., “promoted for outstanding performance to spearhead new project”), and “don’t be afraid to brag,” says Bugni.

3. When you complete a big project

Did you close a major transaction? Wrap up development on a new product? These accomplishments need to be reflected on your resume. “Any time you finish a successful project, make sure it goes directly onto your resume,” says Barrett-Poindexter. Citing quantifiable results is crucial (e.g., “implemented new accounting system that saved the company $50,000 in annual operating costs”). Include such details as how many people worked on the team, what your role entailed and the hurdles you crossed, says Barrett-Poindexter.

4. When you get laid off

Yes, it stinks to have to update a resume when you just lost a job, but do it anyway. Getting fired is one thing (in which case, you’ll need to do more than update your resume); getting laid off as part of a downsizing is a different story. “Unemployment isn’t a black mark if it’s a result of the company’s performance,” says Tiffani Murray, an HR professional and resume writer at Atlanta-based resume service Personality On a Page.

Part of bouncing back, though, involves working on an updated resume. And rather than try to hide the fact that you’re unemployed—a strategy that could put off prospective hiring managers—include in your summary section why you were terminated (e.g., “laid off as part of a 20% reduction in staff”).

Additionally, you’ll want to update your work experience to reflect what it is you’re currently doing. Yet, putting that you’re now a “job seeker” isn’t very appealing to prospective hiring managers. The better move: Join a professional association and take on a volunteer position, such as an events coordinator, that you can add to your resume.

“Showing that you’re actively involved with an industry organization clears up any assumption that you’re just sitting there twiddling your thumbs while you look for a job,” says Bugni.

5. When you acquire new skills

Whether it’s an accreditation, certification or new proficiency (e.g., learning a second language), skills strengthen your resume, so keep yours current. Industry-specific credentials can also serve as keywords to help your resume pass through application tracking systems, says Kursmark.

Do a quarterly assessment of your resume and remove any outdated skills or obsolete software, advises Reshwan. Look at job postings in your field to determine what skills are in demand.

Refine your resume

If you're not sure how to update a resume the right way, or if it's been a while since you last gave yours a glance, you might not be sure of what to include and what to leave off. Could you use some help with that? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. It's a quick and easy way to bring your resume up to speed so that it's ready to impress a hiring manager whenever, wherever.