A friend of ours, Janet, works in the crazy, chaotic always-changing environment of a small business start-up. You know, one of those places that's been struggling to become a "real company" for the last three years. She's starting to think about greener pastures and wonders what's going to happen when she begins putting together a resume to explain what she's been doing there for the last year or so. Janet does not have a title or a job description because the company is so small and everyone wears many hats.
We advised Janet to make a mind-map of all of the activities she's involved with. In other words, keep a brainstorm on paper of her contributions.
Here's what she gave us:
content manager, creative director, art director, content editor, creative editor, editorial manager , administrative manager, product marketing, public relations liaison, marketing, creating advertisements, conducting competitive and market analyses, writing press releases, caption writing, initial graphic user interface design, determining clients' needs, conceptualizing new ways to fill voids, executing ideas by acting as the hub for various departments.
This was great! It was quite a lengthy list to sort out.
We next advised Janet to think about writing a functional resume rather than a chronological one, especially because she was expecting to change career direction. She was thinking seriously of pursuing a job at an ad agency. She liked the excitement of such an environment and the opportunity to work with a variety of different clients. We showed her Yana Parker's Web site http://www.damngood.com to see what we meant by functional resumes.
While Yana didn't exactly have a resume for someone like our friend at her site, one of the samples there gave a good example of what we were after: http://www.damngood.com/catalog/exmpl/katrina.html
We suggested that Janet choose the words among her mind map list that she'd like to use as "functional headings" within the body of her resume. These would be like the words in bold Italics on Katrina's resume at http://www.damngood.com/catalog/exmpl/katrina.html (Assessment, Clinical Case Management, Short Term Problem Solving, etc.). Having this long list to choose from would make the job of creating divisions within the resume manageable.
She chose Administrative Manager, Content Manager, Creative Director, and Public Relations Liaison.
Janet saw how she could list her specific contributions under each area. Then for the word under Employment History she chose the words Account Executive to summarize her overall contributions since she was carrying the equivalent workload of someone with that title at an Ad Agency. These words would also be better understood by the people in the advertising agencies she'd be networking with for job opportunities.
We told her that this was perfectly acceptable to use a title that better described her responsibilities since she worked in a start-up. Just as long as she wasn't stretching the truth. However, before asking for references from anyone from her present company, she should show them her new resume and ask for their support in substantiating the cluster of responsibilities she shouldered, if not agreeing to the appropriateness of the new title.
If you find yourself in a similar situation to Janet's, we suggest that you try the mindmap exercise yourself. Keep a brainstorming list of the words that most appropriately describe your work, paring them down to the select ones that would work as functional headings. Choose an overall title that better describes your total responsibilities within your current job. You'll be amazed at how this process will help you better explain what you really do.
Here's another hint. If you'd like to stay put where you are, use this process and resume style to negotiate a raise or a greater stake in the organization. Chances are you, as well as your boss, has been underrating your important contribution!