As most of you know, I’m a strong advocate of everyone having an updated resume and bio. It prevents you from being placed in the embarrassing situation of being asked to “shoot me over your current resume” and having to say you don’t have one or lying and scrambling to create something. The bonus of this discipline is you are forced to reevaluate your job and career on a regular basis as well as update the document’s format to meet ever-changing standards. When it comes to biographies, everyone should have three versions — very short (often preferred by media outlets), mid-size (good as an introduction when you’re an invited speaker), and finally a full pager that gives many of the current facts and delves a little into how you got to where you are now and what your contributions have been.

If in fact you have a career strategy, meaning you have mapped out your career and job path long-term with benchmarks and a timetable, you are well ahead of your competitors. If, on the other hand, you would like to create one or yours needs a refresher, then the 3+ year resume is a great way to get you thinking, planning, and executing.

Let’s talk about your 2016 resume. Can I assume your current document is up to par? It has a headline that succinctly describes what you do and your expertise, or specialization, e.g., “Online Gaming Marketing Executive — Pacific Rim Specialist.” Under the headline, you have a brief narrative promoting who you are and what you can do for an employer. You have followed this up with three columns, each with a list of skills you bring to the table — social media, Java, team leadership, etc. Then, and only then, you start with the chronological listing of your employers, positions, and contributions.

Back to your Resume 2016. The format stays the same, where the stretching occurs is your looking forward. For a moment, imagine yourself being approached by an ideal employer, in front of an entrepreneurial opportunity, or an academic position, something you can taste or is just a fleeting dream. Now visualize your liking what you hear and deciding to go for it. You get the proverbial “shoot me your resume” request. What are you sending?

When I say, “What are you sending,” what I really mean is, “What is it that you are offering?” How does your resume of three years from now differ from what you have at this moment? Have you been promoted or moved to another, more exciting or cutting edge area, jumped to another company or switched fields? Have you been placed on a team or project that tests your abilities and has high visibility? What have you contributed that is remarkable, memorable, and profitable? Not sure? That’s where the career strategy comes into play.

What is missing? Are you an individual contributor who needs experience managing and leading a diverse group of people? How could you get that? Are your tech skills stellar or good enough? How and where could you enhance them? Is social media impacting how your profession operates and you’re basically a casual Facebook and LinkedIn participant? What could you do? Do you need another degree, certification, or license? Are you an active member of influential thought-leading groups either in-person or online? Whom do you know and, more importantly, who should know you within your organization and field? Who would you like to use as a reference but do not have the intimate relationships you need to ask? These are the questions you need to ask yourself to identify the holes in your career strategy. Given the timeframe, you have the opportunity to tick them off your list methodically.

This is the conversation you have when you meet with your supervisor and discuss your, and his or her, aspirations and career development plans. A small minority of people take advantage of the education and training benefits offered by corporations and smaller firms. We’re all too busy. But, when you think back to a time (how did you earn that Bachelor degree and work full time, or have a baby and earn a promotion), you realize motivation, an eye on the prize, and dedication played a big part in the achievement.

Here’s what I am suggesting. Have an honest conversation with yourself. What do you want personally and professionally over the next few years? Go into great detail. Dissect everything from the role and compensation, to how long you are willing to commute and travel, to whether you are capable of sitting in a classroom or in front of a monitor to learn. Be frank and honest. Dismiss nothing. Then, take a discerning look at the picture. Sit on the opposite side of the desk and ask yourself, “Would I think this candidate is qualified and the right person considering what it says on this document?” Probably not at this moment but the beauty of a strategy is that you can alter the tactics to getting there. You can question the entire strategy before it becomes reality. Try it.

A future-focused resume allows you to feel proud of what you have accomplished, take a brutal look at the reality, and act as a guide for the future. It also allows enough distance, so you can be a bit more objective and honest. It offers choices and opens options. It permits you to do it for yourself before they do it to you.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.