Recently I was on my way home from a visit to a friend in Philadelphia, and after I boarded the train at 30th Street Station and settled into my seat, I noticed a man in his mid-fifties across the aisle from me.
His well-dressed, distinguished look suggested to me that he was probably a senior executive en route to an important business meeting in New York, with maybe a round or two of golf or an afternoon of sailing in Long Island Sound on the side.
From the weathered, high-quality leather briefcase beside him on the seat, he took out a thick book entitled, Best Resumes, and with a sigh I added “unemployed or afraid of becoming so” to the description of him I had been forming in my head.
Anyone who chooses the resume path is either unaware of, or is ignoring, at least two experts on work-search—Richard Bolles and me!
For the next three hours, until, as I predicted, he detrained in New York, he was thoroughly engrossed in the study of sample resumes, marking pages he liked, searching for the perfect format for an 8½ x 11 sheet of paper which would dazzle a new employer.
I thought about engaging him in conversation, but I was on break from work, and besides, it looked as if he had already fully committed himself to a course I advocate against—focusing a work search around a resume.
Anyone who chooses the resume path is either unaware of, or is ignoring, the wisdom of at least two experts on work-search—Richard Bolles and me!
For more than forty years, Bolles, one of my most valued teachers, has been emphatically preaching about the dangers of relying too much on a resume with statements like these from his classic career book, What Color is Your Parachute?
Dependence on resumes may create depression in you and vastly lower your self esteem . . . because if you believe in them, and they don’t work for you, you start to think something is really wrong with you.
Resumes make you feel like they’re out there, working for you . . . as though you are really doing something about your job-hunt. But in fact they may be moribund or comatose . . . that is they may not be getting read at all.
Sending out tons of resume and posting them on every resume site on the Internet, and not getting a nibble, may cause you to give up your job-hunt prematurely. Resumes can be a useful part of anybody’s job-hunt, but they should never be your entire plan.
I build on this theme with equal vigor in my book, Ground of Your Own Choosing, challenging the work-seeker to view the resume as a relic of the Industrial Age when jobs were plentiful, a time which has passed. Today the resume is a tool that has lost its edge and is not cutting it!
I ask work-seekers to become entrepreneurial in their approach and think of the resume simply as a business form, not a business driver (or as Bolles says, as a business card, rather than a biography).
I encourage them to shift their focus away from narrow job-seeking and think of themselves as business owners, for whom the resume is a way of building a compelling case for the match between a product—their skills, abilities, and potential—and the marketplace—the particular needs that exist right now in an organization.
This is a process rooted in solid marketing practices, not outdated protocols such as the one represented by the resume. In fact, there are times when the goal of matching yourself to the marketplace may be achieved by something that is altogether different from a resume which serves a broader purpose, e.g., a bio, a promotional letter, or a business plan.
A client who had worked in product sales and distribution for the same company for many years came to me for help in finding opportunities to utilize his creative skills, expand his professional growth, and make more money.
I encouraged him not even to think about putting together a resume until he had a clear picture in mind of exactly what he wanted.
The development of his resume came at the end of a period of self-discovery, exploration and market research, after he had learned enough about himself and the organization he had targeted to be able to match his background to their needs.
It worked like a charm because was able to connect the dots and had complete confidence in his ability to excel in the position before he went for the interview.
His resume became more like a business plan, making the case for launching a product, himself, successfully into the marketplace. This is how it should be in today’s work environment where it is necessary to think like an entrepreneur.
In another example, a freelancing alternative health care practitioner wanted to explore opening her own practice or establishing partnership arrangements with other practitioners.
The Curriculum Vita she had written was a flat, formal document which did nothing to convey the qualities that had secured her a loyal following among the patients she worked with.
We transformed it into a vibrant biography which highlighted the connections between her past successes, e.g., a 90% retention/referral rate, and the future productivity of her business.
Her bio will become the centerpiece of a business plan if she decides to seek funding to go into business on her own, plus it will serve as a marketing tool to help build her practice. It could also be used to pursue employment opportunities.
Moreover, the act of putting it together has allowed her to claim parts of herself she had not previously articulated, which is giving her confidence and helping her to sell herself as a valued professional in the community she serves.
In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink writes, “The essence of persuasion, communication, and self-understanding has become the ability to fashion a compelling narrative.”
No book of resume formats is going to help you do that. But if you take the time and get the support you need to move beyond a mere recitation of facts, placing your experience within a context which allows you to present it with emotional impact, both you and the people who read it will see your value.