What You Can Learn From An Entrepreneur About Building Your Resume

Are you struggling with a blank resume? You are not alone. This happens to many people—especially those who don’t think much about their resume until they need a job. I would like to show you what we can learn from start up entrepreneurs to help you build the resume employers are looking for.

I have the privilege to sit on the board of venVelo, one of the most active early-stage venture funds in central Florida. I get to see entrepreneurs at work up close and personal, with our investments at stake. I have to say I am filled with admiration for them. Their passion, determination and problem solving skills are off the charts. (Characteristics all employers love!)

Let’s look at some of the parallels between entrepreneurs and job seekers.

In a start-up there is no corporation with a powerful reputation and lots of resources to help. There is nowhere to hide and no one to blame. It’s all down to the entrepreneur’s skills and effort to get things done.

Entrepreneurs have to find customers and convince them that they can solve an important need. They have to differentiate their capabilities enough for the customers to select them rather than their competitors. They have to deliver on their promises so that they retain their customer.

This is also a very accurate description of your efforts to find a job, succeed in it and launch your career.

You will need to differentiate your abilities, win customers (employers) and retain your services with them in exactly the same way.

So let’s take a quick look at how successful entrepreneurs do this.

  1. They begin by analyzing the market, selecting a segment and developing a deep understanding of what the target customer needs.
  2. This information is turned into a specifications document of what services they must be capable of delivering to a client to win the business. This becomes their competitive advantage.
  3. These specs then provide the focus for a plan to build and provide those capabilities.
  4. When they are ready to sell their services, they write tailored proposals to show how their services solve the specific needs of their target customer in a way that is better than their competitors.

Successful entrepreneurs do not just decide to build services based on what they like doing. They do not write generalized promotion material describing themselves instead of their services and resulting benefits. Any attempt to do business on this basis, especially without any understanding of what the potential clients actually need, would have little chance of success.


Whenever I ask this question, everyone agrees!

Yet this is exactly what many individuals do when it comes to both developing their skills and when they market themselves through social media and their resumes. Way too many people select majors and complete various interim jobs without any market research and then go on to describe themselves using mostly meaningless unsupported claims.

There are many benefits to viewing yourself as a one-man start-up and applying the same four-step process in building and selling your capabilities as an employee.

It helps you understand who needs what skills and why so that you can develop yourself for a purpose.

You can then use your resume as a tailored proposal for what you can do to meet the specific needs of specific employers—rather than hoping for the best with a historical summary of what you happen to be most proud of.

I would like to challenge you. If you have a resume already, look for any generic and unsupported claims. These are descriptions that include very, highly or extremely followed by results focused, loyal, hard working, persistent, fast learning, detail oriented etc. You can not differentiate your competitive advantage in these overused terms. Replace them with specific examples of achievements that show you can do something you know your target employer needs.

Note – If you are unable to do this you are very likely to lose the job opportunity to a person who can.

The good news is you can use the same four step process entrepreneurs use to achieve this.

Through extensive networking you can find out what people actually do in their jobs every day and find ones that appeal to you, both in terms of what they do today, and in terms of how this experience positions them for future jobs—their career.

Once you have the data to identify a type of job you want to target, talk in more detail to successful people who are doing those jobs and their managers.

Understand what results they are responsible for and how they are measured. Find out their most common challenges, how they deal with them, and what skills are most essential for them to succeed.

Networking like this, is when you do the equivalent of a start-up’s market research—step one.

Armed with this information, go to step two by creating the ideal model resume. Use their examples and get confirmation that it would meet their needs. Ask them:

“If I could demonstrate these skills and achieve these results for you would you hire me?”

This model resume becomes your personal “services specification”.

Then go to step three and make a plan to build your capabilities to match your services specifications. This is how you align to their needs. Become obsessed with executing the plan. Remind yourself every day that you have competition. This will drive the choice and intensity of your studies. It will drive the work experience you seek to gain through internships and intermediate jobs and ensure you get the most out of them.

This way, rather than scrambling to “write” a resume when you need a job, you will “proactively build” it for the jobs you want.

This is how you build the real substance employers want to see.

When it comes to step four, which is selling the actual capabilities you have developed, you focus only on the relevant benefits that meet their needs.

Highlighting how you can help a future employer with one of their specific challenges is the quickest way to get their attention and differentiate yourself.

Remember your resume has less than a minute to achieve this or it’s in the shredder. So don’t waste valuable seconds with irrelevant achievements or empty claims.

The point of all this?

You should become “resume conscious” as early as possible. Use it within the above four-step discipline as a “capability specification document” to drive your self-development.

This takes time!

Do not leave these actions until just before or just after you graduate or you risk becoming part of the 83% who graduate with no job lined up and then part of the 49% who take two years to land a career job. The day you start college is the day you start the four-step process with networking—if not before! Failing that, start now.

Meet, build relationships and collaborate with your future employers to become their ideal candidate—in exactly the same way successful start-ups do with their customers to become their ideal supplier.

You continue this process with your boss once you have a job. Treat them like your most valued customer whose loyalty you have to earn everyday. Repeat the process as you get promoted, all the way to the top.

Employers will look for evidence that you have done so your entire career. When they ask why you want to work there they are not looking for a meaningless answer about how great they are and how cool it would be to work there.

They want to see evidence of the actions you took to build the skills, attitudes and results you KNEW they needed.

Employers are looking for people who constantly work on their competitive advantage in the same way their business has to. Asking you to describe how you have done so recently and how you plan to do so going forward is therefore a common interview tactic. They want to know how motivated you are because the job in question is part of a plan you are committed to and can demonstrate consistent progress against. You can use the four step approach as a framework to build your plans, execute them, and describe them in interviews.

Who would you hire?

The person who networked with you, asked what you need on your team in terms of qualifications, skills, attitudes and achievements—who returned several times to show you relevant evidence of progress against a detailed personal development plan to meet your needs? Or would you hire the person who only shows up for the interview with some generic skills but claim they will be a fast learner once you give them the job?

Thinking and acting like a start-up entrepreneur in the job hunt will serve you well.

Final thought. Employers are increasingly turning to temporary contractors rather than offering permanent job positions. This entrepreneurial four step approach will also serve you well in today’s environment where many jobs are becoming increasingly temporary.

Alex Groenendyk

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