Remember the superhero comics you read as a kid? Whenever someone turned superhero after a lifetime of being ordinary, there was always an adjustment period. Inevitably this would be played for laughs, with the hero tearing off doors instead of just opening them.
The punchline? Always some version of “Whoa — I don’t know my own strength.”
Now it’s time to shine the superhero spotlight on you. When it comes to your next job, do you know what you’re capable of? More to the point, does the employer? The way to make that point is by clearly enumerating your capabilities on your resume.
Although you can use your job descriptions to provide this information, relying on these entries to show your abilities can be problematic. For one thing, key strengths that were utilized in early jobs will fall too far down in the resume to be compelling.
One elegant solution to this problem is the use of a capabilities section on the resume. Names for this very adaptable section might include Notable Abilities or Strengths & Qualifications or Key Assets or simply Skills.
I like to place these sections near the top of the resume, preceded only by a Summary statement or possibly a brief headline. My thought is that these points — what you can do in the workplace — are of primary interest to the employer.
In a traditional resume format with chronological job entries, the Experience section would follow the capabilities section on the page. In a “functional” style resume, where the Experience section is replaced with a simple listing of job titles and dates but no descriptions, the capabilities section is fully expanded with multiple subheadings to provide the detail needed about each skill being showcased.
Here are some samples of very basic capabilities sections for an administrator or middle manager:
- Supervision: Up to 20 direct reports, including union and nonunion employees
- Budgeting: Preparing / overseeing annual budgets of $200k-$5m, including capital expense
- Project management: Establishing teams, schedules and resources to complete mission-critical projects on deadline
- Communication: Using emails, manager’s blog, and in-person or virtual meetings to communicate at all levels
In the above example, I used the gerund (“ing” verb ending), but you can choose present tense, past tense or no verb at all. In this model, I’d probably limit it to about six or eight entries.
If you find that it’s difficult to keep the list short, that’s a signal that you could use a more expanded format for the section, with two or three bullets appearing under four or five subheads. Here’s how that might look:
- Direct up to 20 team members, in both union and nonunion roles
- Hire, discipline, train and promote team members
- Create and oversee project teams, and mentor the leadership abilities of promising staff
- Participate in forecasting processes to determine quarterly, annual and seasonal expenses
- Prepare and oversee budgets ranging from $200k to $5m, including capital expenditures
- Initiate cost-saving measures, including vendor negotiations, to ensure budgets are met
As noted earlier, this longer version is more “meaty” and would usually be used in lieu of lengthy job descriptions, particularly for candidates who performed similar functions in a number of their positions.
Here’s another, much shorter version for the same person:
- Project management
This very crisp style has the advantage of being immediately accessible, but the disadvantage of eliminating metrics, so the reader doesn’t know the details about each function. It’s best used when the job entries will contain full descriptions.
So there you have it, Superhero: three ways (among dozens) to show your capabilities to prospective employers. But to make use of this very powerful tool, you need to know your own strength, so start making lists. You’ll have your section built in no time.
Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul, Minn. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 626 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.