If you google “Sysadmin resume template”, you’ll find a lot of resume models filled with roles and responsibilities such as:
- Deploy and configure Windows OS server virtual machines.
- Identify security vulnerabilities and make recommendations for remediation.
- Review and audit log files, researched log correlation tools for acquisition of log management.
- Maintained and administrated domain controllers and file and print servers.
- Installation, configuration and management of Sun Solaris UNIX systems running Solaris 2.8, and IBM Blades running RedHat Linux ES 3.0., 4.0, and 5.
That seems about right, no?
But there’s a problem. A huge problem, actually. Think of the systems administrators that you know. How many of them have done similar things? Probably most of them. Because that’s pretty much what being a sysadmin is all about. There are differences here and there, but roles and responsibilities will often overlap. So if your resume is very close to a typical “sysadmin resume template”, how is that helping you get interviews? After all, the best resumes are distinctive. They make you stand out, not blend in!
So here’s a little something to help you make your resume stand out. It’s based on the 3 Laws of Resume Writing. And it’s not material that I made up. I found it by carefully studying good sysadmin resumes (including some from network admins or systems engineers).
5 Sysadmin Accomplishments to Make your Resume Distinctive
- Manage local and off-shore staff and consultants who support Intel systems. Off-shore staff has allowed better 24/7 support and incident response. (Simply managing staff is an accomplishment in itself, because it demonstrates leadership and management skills. In this case, we also have a positive outcome (i.e. better support and incident response), which makes it even better from the employer’s perspective.)
- Implemented site-to-site VPN WANs for multiple medical practices in the greater [city] area, saving each client nearly $5,000/month. (An employer will be very compelled by most work which saved thousands of dollars, because you might just do the same for him.)
- Resolved system slow-down issues through network migrations, reconfigurations, integrations, and troubleshooting. (Here, the benefit is stated up front. Notice how bland the sentence would be if it only contained the second half. This accomplishment shows that the employee solved a problem, through many operations. It could have been improved by explaining the slow-down a bit more (“recurring”, “daily”, …), to accentuate the problem.)
- Identified 20+ vulnerabilities by testing infrastructure security, using both automated tools and manual testing. (With this accomplishment, the employee comes across as someone who knows what she’s doing, and working hard to protect her employer.)
- Pioneered use of mobile devices (iPad, iPhone, Android) to provide on-call support. Increased employee satisfaction due to new technologies and increased freedom during on-call. (Whenever someone pioneers or initiates something, there’s already a sense of dynamism, a desire to make things better. In other words, it’s an accomplishment. But here, the increased employee satisfaction is a clear benefit for the employer, which improves an already positive statement.)
The benefit is the key component of each accomplishment: improved operations, more money, demonstrated leadership and reliability, … Accomplishments like these are the most critical pieces of your resume. Now read that last sentence again, because that’s the best resume advice you’ll get this month.
If you’re a fantastic employee but your resume is silent on many of your accomplishments, you’ll end up behind a good employee whose accomplishments are all clearly laid out.
And for that matter, an average employee with weak accomplishments better know how to network, since the resume alone won’t pull its weight. (Actually, networking skills are critical to everyone’s job hunt. But I’m more of a resume guy, so let’s stick with the topic, if you don’t mind.)
Accomplishments are where it’s at. When you solve a problem, reduce costs, make something better/simpler/faster, when you show initiative, it has to be on your resume, without being drowned out by too much roles and responsibilities (i.e. the “we’ve-all-done-it” resume template material). In my view, half of the energy and time spent on your resume should be focused on your accomplishments. To write good accomplishments, you need to think of what your potential employer is thinking about (problems solved, better results, and so on) and emphasize that. If you go through 20 resumes of your peers, you’ll certainly find great accomplishments that you could adapt on your resume. I truly believe that is time well spent.
Many More Accomplishments, Just for You
However, I’ve already done that research… The 5 ideas above are just a glimpse of the full list of accomplishments I’ve assembled. If you’d like that well-rounded, unique list of real-world sysadmin accomplishments, for just a few dollars, check out our e-book, Sysadmin Resume Hacking, on Amazon. You can read it even if you don’t have a Kindle device.