Build Your Resume

A simple search on the web will reveal that there are a number of ways that you can format your financial resume, depending on your experience level, background and goals. There is no 'right way', but there are a few general rules that can help you make the best impression and get on with your financial career.
Step 1: Qualifications
The first step to a great resume is deciding what you'd like it to do for you. A resume isn't just a list of what you've done-it's a document of your professional assets and where you'd like to take them. Take time to consider this. Then, under a Summary of Qualifications section, list your most relevant skill sets and experiences that qualify you for a position that falls in line with your current career goals. Someone should be able to read this section and know what sort of position you are seeking.
Step 2: Make a list of your jobs held
Next, we'll go with the most obvious section: Employment. Unless you are fresh out of school or have held very few positions, this section should take up the majority of your resume. You should generally list jobs in order of time, with the most recent position listed first. You'll need to include your title, the name of the company, and the years (or months) that you held the position. If you were promoted, list each position as a separate job. If you have any gaps in employment, don't worry-but do be prepared with a good explanation.
Step 3: List your responsibilities
Under each position in the Employment section, make a brief but detailed bulleted list of what you did for the company while holding that position. Chances are, your future employer will be more interested in what you've done than in your job description, so this is your place to shine. Try to keep all or most of these to one line each, and really take time to think out all of your duties. Don't list irrelevant tasks, but DO list even small tasks that might make you a better candidate for the position. Was there a one-week project you worked on last year that really applies to the job you're going for? List it!
Step 4: Action words
Stop, and look at those lists of qualifications and responsibilities again. Make sure they are specific and relevant, and try to begin each task with an action word. For example, use 'Analyzed payments...' rather than 'Analysis of payments...' or 'Managed the initiatives of eight individuals for xyz project' rather than 'Project management.' Don't be afraid to give yourself credit for jobs well done, or projects that you took under your wing. Even 'Implemented a new filing system' could show your self-motivation or organizational skills. NOTE: If you have held few or no relevant positions, create a section titled Relevant Experience, and format it just like an Employment section, with bullets highlighting past experiences that qualify you for the position you are seeking. Don't forget the action words!
Step 5: Other experience
If you have experience in other fields, or a work history that stretches farther back than your most relevant experience, it's okay to list those in a separate section titled Other Background or Other Experience-particularly if you can pull out a few duties that may apply to the job you are seeking. Bullets aren't necessary here. Instead, you can briefly describe your duties in a line or two, separating responsibilities with commas.
Step 6: Education
Make another section for any degrees, certificates held, computer skills and/or specialized training. You can also list any professional affiliations in this section.
Step 7: Tailor it
There's no way for employers to know your abilities unless you tell them. Research the type of position you are going for, and pay very special attention to the job requirements and skill sets posted in listings. Your job now is to let them know that you are qualified that you are exactly what they are looking for. Make sure that you've listed any background you have that would make you a better candidate for this position. Would you be working with people? Let them know if you have experience interacting with clients. Are they looking for a 'team player'? Don't forget to list that departmental project you collaborated on. For a general resume (like the one you might post on this site), do your best to highlight the skills that you'd like to put to use in your future career. And, once you get the interview, go ahead and tailor the resume further to specifically suit that employer's needs. This will not only show-on paper-how good a fit you are for the position, but will also prep you for selling yourself in the interview.
Step 8: Heading, Font and Paper
Of course, the content of your resume counts for more than its appearance, but don't underestimate the value of a professional impression. To get noticed, you have to market yourself. Your resume should be exactly one page, if possible, and should begin with a nice letterhead or heading, including your name, address, email and phone number. Your name should be significantly larger than all other text on the page, and should stand out upon a quick glance. You can include professional certifications (like a CPA) with your name, if they apply to your desired career. Use a simple, clean font for the header, and avoid anything too twisty, curly, or over-stylized-it's simply not professional. Keep the font style basic and easily readable for the body of the resume as well (Arial and Times New Roman are always safe bets), and don't use a font size smaller than 10pt or larger than 12pt. Make all text black. For printed resumes that you will be mailing or submitting in person, go ahead and splurge on nice resume paper. Resume paper generally comes in shades of white, gray or beige, is thicker than regular printer paper, has a bit of texture, and is available at any office supply store.
Step 9: Get input
Once you think your resume is ready, enlist a trusted friend, family member or professional acquaintance to give feedback. It can be tough to open yourself to criticism, but an extra set of eyes can prove invaluable.
Step 10: Get it out there
Now that you look great on paper, be sure to get the word out. Upload a resume to this site, mail it out to businesses where you'd like to work, and actively seek out open positions.