This is a question that has been debated for thousands of years. In fact, history shows that Socrates debated this in ancient Greece and faced much opposition for his views. Jokes aside, I recommend everyone update their resume every 3 months preferably, 6 months if you can’t keep up with it quarterly, or at the absolute least once a year. This is even in the event that you are not looking to change jobs. Why would you do that?
First of all, in terms of practicality as you add to your professional skill set, it is easiest to keep track of new skills you have picked up, new responsibilities you have taken on, and types of projects you have completed by more frequent updates. Waiting 3 years to update your resume means that you might not think to add the software conversion that tortured you for 6 weeks back in ’94. Imagine if Neil Armstrong waited to jot down his experience in the moon landing until the 70’s- rather than “One Small Step For Man” he might have forgotten and instead reported that he said “Won’t you gimme 3 steps, gimme 3 steps mister…”
Second, this allows you to notice if you ever reach a ceiling or perhaps are taking on more than you are happy to be taking on in your current role. If you realize you are in over your head or perhaps on the other end of the spectrum and becoming stagnant, this may help you decide to consider a job change.
Third, this can provide a much needed confidence boost. When you look back and see that over the last 3 months you have prepared updated process memo walk-throughs, sped up the cash collection cycle, and added 3 new coffee flavors to your rotation you will find your job all the more fulfilling and be ready for your next challenges in your current role. If you find that you haven’t really elevated your game over the last few months, this gives you a chance to stop and motivate yourself to pick up the pace next quarter. This would be the time to set some goals or request more challenging work from your boss.
Think of your resume updates as a quarterly earnings call that a company might have. Are things on track? Are they not? What worked and what hasn’t? Where are you heading? Evaluating this by updating your resume quarterly can help you stay on track or return to your track should you detour. To toss in an accounting analogy, on the control matrix, updating your resume as a good detective control to career risk.
The takeaway: Like most everything else, you need to be proactive about where you want your career to be. What you see yourself doing, what you value, and where you go are driven by the steps you take along the way. Keeping up with your resume is a piece of that puzzle.
In our next riveting installment I will cover my thoughts on resume length, and later the edgy topic of whether you should have a summary section at the top… stay tuned- I know you are on the edge of your seat for that one