You may have come across resumes with a short blurb summarizing a candidate's qualifications. It's similar in size to an "objective," but instead of outlining what a candidate's goal is, it explains who the candidate is. This blurb, often called a "professional summary," is sometimes really helpful on a resume, and sometimes it's a huge mistake. So how do you determine if it's right for you?
Typically, those who have many years of work experience will benefit most from a professional summary. It will allow you to call attention to the number of years you’ve spent working in a particular field and will highlight the key points that could get buried when so many different roles are listed in the body of your resume. Done correctly, the professional summary will give hiring managers of the option of skimming the rest of your resumeinstead of forcing them to dig for information.
A professional summary can also be helpful when a candidate’s range of varied work experiences don’t allow for a clear resume story when listed without context. If you’ve held positions in multiple industries or different types of roles (or if your previous job titles are a little out of the ordinary), you’ll need to classify yourself in a way that makes sense for the position you’re applying for. Even if you don’t have an exact “title” for yourself (i.e. development executive or project manager), try to figure out a general area that aligns with the posting and will allow you to transition into a different type of role if necessary. For example, let’s say you’ve held positions in PR, marketing, and branded content but are hoping to move into a development role. You wouldn’t want to call yourself a marketing specialist, since that wouldn’t directly translate, but you could go a bit broader and classify yourself as a “media and communications professional,” aligning yourself more closely to your desired position.
But if you're still early in your career, we don’t really recommend a professional summary -- especially at the assistant level. It can be limiting at a time when you need to keep your options open. For instance, if you are an assistant with hopes of growing into a higher role one day, and you put “executive assistant” in your professional summary, you’d be indicating that you want to be a career assistant. But you can’t put creative executive either, because that would be untrue. Most hiring managers recognize that people with a bunch of different assistant positions on their resumes are simply trying to break into the industry and can infer from the companies and departments what a candidate is going for. In cases like these, it’s better not to waste valuable space with unnecessary wording. And if you feel that you need to provide a little extra context, you can use your cover letter or cover email to accomplish this.
To say it simply, if your career trajectory isn’t 100% clear or easy to read when you list your experience chronologically, you should include a professional summary. But if a quick glance at companies and titles gives a pretty good overview of what you’re about, you don’t need to worry about it. And if you do choose to use a professional summary on yourresume, remember to keep it short!