The New Year always brings a flurry of new promises – to get fit, to eat more healthily, to reinvent yourself as a new, fresher version. Yet in rushing to recreate ourselves, we dismiss the considerable (and oh so marketable)  skills, experience and expertise we already possess. 

Talk to any expat partner and you will discover a problem solving powerhouse, who combines flexibility, commitment, a sense of humour and an incredible work ethic with the ability to work across cultures, languages and timezones. Unfortunately, the conversation will probably also be peppered with the words that devalue and undermine those characteristics – “I only” “I’m just” or “I haven’t worked for so long, I wouldn’t know where to start”.

Today, thanks to a guest post from Anna Sparks, you’re going to reignite your self belief, and start taking your first steps to realizing your own potential. I’m always banging on about creating a Back Up Plan, and it starts right here, with you taking ownership of your awesomeness and (finally) writing that resume. 

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Moving every few years, some places you’re able to work and some places you’re not. We gave up jobs we loved in order to move along with our families. The decision was the right one but now when it is time to go back to work or start looking for a job, the whole process feels incredibly overwhelming and it seems easier not to do it at all.

Not doing is always easier than doing in the short-term. But will it really be easier in the long-term?

Not at all.

Going back to remember what you did a year ago let alone five years ago is really hard. And that’s exactly what you have to do with your resume, a crucial document in the job search. Without a resume, it’s going to pretty tough to get a job. But if you haven’t worked in the last ten years, creating the resume seems insurmountable.

The good news is that you don’t have to be in the job search to have an updated, solid resume. A great resume will serve you well for the simple purpose of documenting what you’ve done with your time., but it will also remind you of what you’re good at and what you could do to earn money if you had to.

There’s a huge amount of confidence that goes along with having a resume at all, let alone a really powerful, and spectacular resume that makes a fantastic impression.

So, do you have an updated, powerful, spectacular resume in your arsenal of documents?

If not, now’s the time to get on it.

Whether you haven’t updated your resume in a year or in ten years, there are a few things you can do to get it in order quickly.

Step 1: Find whatever you have.

Do you have an old version of your resume somewhere? Do you have any prior evaluations, awards, or letters of recommendation from previous employers? What about job descriptions?

Grab all those docs and put them in a folder. Step 1 done.

If you are thinking, “Oh crap. What am I supposed to do if I have nothing? Like, really no resume”, don’t worry. Take baby steps. You can choose one of the simple resume templates in Microsoft Word or Pages or head over here to find a list of some fancier options and start filling it in with any of your past experience. Scoot on to Step 2 to see what I’m talking about.

Step 2: Make basic updates.

Are all your paid and volunteer positions reflected on your resume?

If not, add them now. Don’t worry about perfect language or formatting yet, just get the dates, titles, names of organizations, locations, and a few basic bullets of what you accomplished down.

Have you taken any classes, gotten another degree, or learned a new skill or language since you last updated your resume?

Add those elements under Education and Skills on your resume.

Worried about having nothing to show on your resume for years when you couldn’t work? Wondering how to represent your time parenting? The best place to do this is in your cover letter or in an interview.

If you’re just entering expat life, do your very best to stay connected to your career even when you can’t work or you’ve taken time off to parent. Great ways to do this are to pursue additional education, volunteer, or write while you are not technically in the workforce.


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Step 3: Brainstorm what you’d like to do.

What you ultimately include on your resume will depend greatly on what kind of job you want to get. Not sure where your passion lies? Check out this blog. Need some help figuring out where your skills lie, now that you’ve been out of the workplace for a while? Hop over here.

Once you’ve decided where you’d like to work or where you could work, you’ll be in a better position to move on to step 4.

Step 4: Figure out if this is the resume you need.

Do you think it’s strong for the kind of jobs you’d like to get?

If not, what can you do to learn the skills you need or get the experience that you need to get those positions?

If you don’t have what it takes to get the job you want*, hit pause here and make a plan of how to get there. With tons of online study programs, opportunities to interact with people anywhere in the world, and volunteer opportunities in every country, you can get up to speed relatively quickly and it doesn’t depend where you live.

Not sure exactly how to do this? This blog will walk you through the steps.

If you do have what it takes to get the job you want, move on to Step 5.

Step 5: Decide whether you like it.

Do you like how resume looks in terms of format?

Do you like what it says about you? Not sure? Go back to Step 4 and get some experience that you can add to your resume that you feel proud of – you have to be happy with the first impression your resume makes to feel confident in your own skills and abilities when you submit it.

Bear in mind that women are less likely to apply for jobs that they don’t feel confident that they will get, so also own the expertise you currently posses, and try applying anyway.

Don’t trust yourself to know whether it looks good or not? Take a look at this guide which walks you through a checklist you can use with your resume to see if it’s in good shape or not.

Step 6: Get some help.

Your resume is one of those documents that you don’t want to have any errors. You also want to make sure you are doing every single thing possible to make sure employers take notice of you.

The longer it takes to get a job, the tougher it is to keep up your self-confidence and the more time you spend without a paycheck. A shorter job search is better for everyone and having a resume that is strong enough to get you called for interviews goes a long way.

Ask someone close to you to look over your resume for errors, and take note of any location based grammatical or spelling differences. If you have any friends that are involved in hiring, ask for their feedback, but bear in mind that resumes are usually tailored to the industry that you are applying for too.

Consider getting professional help too – you don’t have to try and figure it all out by yourself. Your resume is only one step of the hiring process, but first impressions count, so it makes sense to get it right.

Step 7: Repeat.

Repeat this every time you have an update for your resume or every two years at minimum.


Anna Sparks is a career coach who helps professionals create attention-catching resumes and prepare for successful interviews. She works with people with international experience and those who need help fitting a unique job or employment gap into their work history. She has lived and worked in six countries in the last fifteen years. Anna currently lives in Quito, Ecuador. Get her free guide on How to Edit Your Resume Like a Pro to take your job hunt to the next level and get the job you’ve been dreaming about!

* N.B. Studies have shown that while men will apply for a job if they have 60% of the requirments, women will only apply if they meet every. single. one. of. the. flippin’. criteria.  Bear this in mind before you spend every waking hour getting all the experience and qualifications – you may well find that the job has been given to someone who was less qualified to start with…