One of the running jokes between the boyfriend and I is that I love spreadsheets. What started out ironically has now become a quite defining characteristic of me when I’m being introduced. The nice thing about spreadsheets is the ability to move, hide, rearrange, and process data in a really efficient way. When you think about looking into a database of any assortment of data, there is almost always far more than you need but, for the sake of a good sample, you would never give any of it up. The rule of thumb that I was brought up with is that if something is no longer relevant to a data set, it should be hidden or moved to another sheet but rarely, if ever, deleted.
ALRIGHT, SO WHY MAKE A SPREADSHEET?
Spreadsheets usually become pretty great systems for processing numbers, but they can also serve as incredible ways to organize and manage work and project experiences. What should start as simple as just a simple list of job titles, locations, dates employed and a reference can easily develop into a strategic chart of experiences to be selected and catered to any client or job application. With a few minutes of formatting, you can copy and paste significant roles and characteristics into a resume template and congrats, you’ve got yourself quite the resume.
An alternative to the spreadsheet is to have a master resume word document, and if you have the time to do this I would recommend it as well. The master resume should include every role you’ve had, details about courses you took that could be relevant to at least one employer, and you can include each extracurricular from your freshman year of college. The model is built so that you can copy the document and delete anything unnecessary—do the heavy lifting once and spend the time in the moment selecting what is most important, not worrying about if you forgot an experience that would cater perfectly to the situation.
While the master resume in a word document is super handy from an editing and formatting standpoint, it does not provide the same detail that a spreadsheet can offer. A resume is meant to highlight your strengths, but it is, by design, not as easy to see your own weaknesses. In my spreadsheet, I have details recorded from conversations with managers about opportunities to improve, and I’ll add a detail about a follow up conversation a week later about how my performance has improved. “Tell us about a time when you received feedback” asks a hiring manager in an interview, and I am confident about a number of such experiences. This tool works as an excellent complement to interview preparation, as well as a sort of diary or log for personal growth and achievement.
For creators of other fields, the spreadsheet can serve as an excellent personal portfolio. It is extremely helpful for artists who can catalog things that are created, marketed, sold, written up, and shared by customers. For musicians, it can be an opportunity to keep track of performances, venues, and rates—perhaps its time to increase what you charge for your unique and valued talents! Even specialists or certified professionals who use continuing education have an excellent opportunity to, on a moments notice, share evidence of credentials supporting their experience and value.
Finally, the spreadsheet serves as an excellent tool for building yourself as a candidate for a promotion or dream job. A great manager from my time at lululemon called me one day after receiving my resume for a job at her new store—the outcome of the call was that I was not as qualified as I thought I was for the position. I felt frustrated at first because I felt like I was a great candidate to grow and teach in the role, so she brought me back to the job description. “Can you tell me about a time when you performed this requirement? Have you coached employees on these tasks?”. Sure that I had done those things, I stumbled trying to come up with examples in the moment. Had I done them or not, I was unable to recall, and when managers are choosing who to add to their team they are craving confidence and a strong ability to rise to the occasion. She shared her strategy with me: take the job description, and make a line for each task or requirement. Any time a conversation or accomplishment matches the role description, add it to the spreadsheet with the date and a sentence or two to give the example. Most important in this case is the opportunity to see where your experience is lacking—how often can we measure our soft skills, and how often can we relay that measurement to a potential employer?
HOW CAN I SET THIS UP FOR MYSELF?
There are a few things that can make getting started really simple. Let’s start with the basics.
My document is created in excel and I’ll attach a link to the document in this post and in the resources section of my website. For the job section, we’ll include all of the information that a job application might need. The references are optional but they do come in handy. Consider adding direct contact information for Human Resources in addition to managers for when a personal reference is not necessary. The salary section is not particularly important, but it can be a nice way to reflect on your own performance. At the end of the day, you get to personalize this however you choose. Perhaps you have multiple references you want to record, or maybe you worked a seasonal job and came back for a number of seasons—this is your space to create what you need.
Here’s the link to all of the templates available for download from this website.
Recording Performance and Skills
In the next section, I’ve included a space to summarize key skills. Much of my personal job experience is in retail, however so much of what I have taken from those roles correlates to event planning, managing employees, strategic planning, and community engagement. Seeing “lululemon” on a resume communicates customer service to an employer, but this catalog of events and experiences is how I sell myself as an excellent candidate for a marketing or event coordinating experience.
There are many ways to customize this. I like to use checkmarks and comments, but you can use the text boxes to write out whole experiences like I have shown in the comment box.
The education section is, again, designed to match what an employer might expect. Remember that the goal is to have more information than you need on this document. I don’t often include my GPA on my resume because, good or bad in comparison to other candidates, it does not communicate much about what I actually accomplished in college. You may have played on an ultimate frisbee club in college and even if you never put it on an actual resume it can feel good to know that that fun experience lives somewhere important permanently.
I use this format to include other certifications of mine as well. This is a space for professional certifications like CPR and whatnot, as is it a place to recognize scholarships, awards, and other personal achievements. As always, adapt and personalize as you choose.
Other sections of this spreadsheet can be built upon, rearranged, and never require you to start from scratch. This section, however, requires quite a bit of used input. Start by finding the job description and role requirements for the job in mind. For this example, we’ll use the Assistant Store Manager Role Description from lululemon.
I’ve summarized the first four bullet points from the role description and put them into five lines here. The experience part is left blank here but do not mistake that this is the most important piece. When filling in this box, add a date, a short summary, and the impact or outcome. Having evidence of two or three experiences is excellent although many more examples can be built out to the right of this section.
When writing about times when you have met these requirements, think about what brings depth and certainty to the story. Customer service letters, performance reviews, special acknowledgments, or successful completion of team goals are the perfect way to communicate success and achievement in these areas. In contrast to my suggestions earlier, there is power in the blank-space in this section. If you struggle to come up with powerful stories for certain requirements, challenge yourself to build in these areas as you return to work. Perhaps your current job lacks an opportunity to improve skills or experience—use this blank space as an opportunity to take on a project or hobby outside of work which enables you to develop those skills. Before long, this sheet will get filled up with all of the rich, in depth information to land you your dream job and you’ll be right back at square one to start a new sheet for your next promotion.
Thanks so much for taking the time to flip through all of this. It is exciting to create and share resources from people who have inspired me—hopefully you think so, too. Please feel encouraged to reach out to me with feedback, improvements, and comments in general. Best of luck to you in your journey!