Updating My Resume: Learning to Celebrate My Accomplishments

So, in April, I did a thing. I hadn’t done this in, oh, 17 years. I updated my resume and interviewed for a job. And no, it wasn’t like riding a bike.

I’ve been an elementary school teacher for 18 years. I’ve been a mother for ten years. In these jobs, my primary role is to care for someone else. I’ve seen my kids and my students at their most vulnerable. I want them to be successful. I want them to be the best they can be. When my students finally figure out how to blend sounds to read a word, that is their accomplishment, not mine. When my kids finally figured out how to tie their shoes, it was their success, not mine. The excitement in their faces was the only acknowledgement I ever needed.

So now I was faced with the task of touting my own accomplishments on a resume and in person. l’ll have you know this was one of the hardest things I’ve done in quite a while. Why? Because I had to promote myself, which is something I’m just not good at (see what I mean?). That has never been my strength. Since I was a child, I always preferred to blend in instead of stick out. I was okay with average – average sports player, average student, average musician. I was, and still am, terrible at receiving compliments.

What made this even tougher was that I was applying for a job that is not at all related to my current career as a kindergarten teacher. I applied and interviewed for a full-time writing job with a company I freelance for currently. How in the world was I going to make my skills as a kindergarten teacher look relevant in a writing job?

This was my first time writing a resume since grad school. Thank goodness for those career counselors in college – someone to help me look good on paper and prepare me for interviews! Their skills landed me a job, which eventually led to another, and so on. Even when I was in grad school in my 30s, there was someone to help me prepare a resume and portfolio for my teaching career! Brilliant! So when I had to write my own resume and prep for an interview, I ran to my father-in-law for help. Throughout his career, he’s read hundreds of resumes and also written a few for himself. I knew his advice would be solid.

First off, he encouraged me to write an objective statement, summarizing why I stood out from other applicants. You could literally hear the gears in my brain screech to a halt. Nope. I can’t do that. It’s not what I do!  That’s when my sweet father-in-law got tough with me. He told me that I am just as qualified as the next person, and I needed to let everyone know it. This was the tough love I needed.   

Resume formats have certainly changed in the past 17 years! What used to be a sterile, one-page-only, Times New Roman, 10-point font document, can now be typed in different formats and fonts, depending on the job you’re seeking! And if your experiences are enough to spill onto two pages, go for it! Remember Elle Woods, Reese Witherspoon’s character in Legally Blond? She printed her law school application on pink paper spritzed with perfume. I didn’t do that. But I did play around with a format that wasn’t so stuffy. 

Now on to the interview. As hard as it was to promote myself on paper, I knew this was going to be harder!  I furiously googled interview questions and rehearsed my answers for “Tell us what qualities you’d bring to the team,” or “What’s been your biggest accomplishment in your career?”  Umm … I can quiet 20 kindergarteners in three seconds, and I have never been thrown up on by a student. Yep, that doesn’t translate to a writing job very well.

The interview was fine, but I was sweating it the entire time. Literally. I was sweating. I could feel sweat running down my back. But I fought on with my well-rehearsed answers, trying to sound confident yet not boastful. I spoke to my experiences in a school environment and did my best to connect it to the job being offered.

In the end, I was offered the job! However, I ended up not taking it. The career switch would not have been a good fit for our family. Ultimately, I also knew I wasn’t ready to leave the classroom and probably would never be ready to leave. I love celebrating with my students when the light bulb finally goes on. This is what I love to do. 

But I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity to freshen up my resume and interviewing skills! I learned a lot … namely, that I have a lot to be proud of.

Jen was born and raised in Overland Park. After going to Indiana University for college, then living in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, she grew exhausted of circling for a parking spot and headed back home to be near family. She and her husband Matt are parents to a 10 year-old boy and a 8 year-old girl. Jen teaches kindergarten and her husband teaches high school, so they wonder how they’ll relate to their kids during the middle school years. She spends her free time cheering on the Chiefs, Royals, and Hoosiers, hanging out with family, laughing with her teacher friends, and fostering a love/hate relationship with boxing. She also loves traveling, Target, coffee, wine, sunflowers and all things pop culture.