Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.
In the job getting process, your résumé serves a very specific purpose: it gives the hiring organization a measure of comfort that you are “for real.”
It doesn’t make you friends, open doors, or get you the job. In fact, the résumé can’t do anything except one thing: it can get you cut. As in, if it’s not perfect, if it has a typo, or if it’s missing the particular phrase someone has in mind for the position, you’re out.
So, I’m wondering, because I know perfecting this document is where most people spend the majority of their job-seeking energy, why divert so much time from things that can help you move forward and spend it on something that can only help you stay in the game?
Have you ever bought a car? How much time did you spend studying the list of standard features? How much of your decision was based on the glossy? Haven’t you ever seen a glossy and thought, “Great glossy, too bad the product is crap. If they spent a fraction of their marketing budget on product development, they’d be dangerous!” (Like in Apple’s Bean Counter spot.)
Your résumé is a list of features. A marketing glossy. Nobody but you really cares about it because it’s about you, not them, and what they care about isn’t you, but them. They’d rather be looking at their own résumés! Once people see that your résumé generally fits their mental model of what they expect, and has no fatal flaws, they’re done with it. The problem is, the résumé often becomes all-consuming for the one person most interested in the subject matter: the person whose name is at the top.
To keep from getting captured by the “résumé time suck,” remind yourself frequently to treat your résumé like a sales glossy. As much as possible, have other people help you shape it; they’ll be far less likely to spend hours agonizing over whether the first word in a line should be “Facilitated” or “Helped” or “Assisted,” meaning you’ll have more time to improve what really counts: the underlying product.
Generally, you’ll want a résumé that’s as short as possible while still being complete, easy to read, and easy to understand by a human, for when you work your way into an opportunity through a connection. Your résumé should be short on jargon. In addition, for each position you apply to, you’ll want a customized résumé that is stocked with the relevant buzzwords to survive being scanned by a machine, and that emphasizes the wording of the job description. That’s a different résumé for each application.
A few tips:
Got more to say than fits on your résumé? Invent a new document. Call it your strengths document, if you must. Use it to facilitate networking connections and to move the job getting process forward. (Remember, the résumé doesn’t move things forward, it only prevents them from sliding backward.)
Ever ask someone to take a look at your résumé? How silly: (1) it puts the other person in control of the situation, (2) it elevates the process of exchanging the résumé above the results of solving a problem, and (3) it’s socially awkward. The social equivalent of “can I send you my résumé” is “Hey, can I send you a letter explaining why I’m a great person to hang out with?”
Tell your connection that you think you can help solve his or her problem, and back up your claim with your strength document. A strength document is not a formal document. In fact, you’re going to make it up. As such, it has no defined format. It can be anything from a stylized version of your résumé to a block of code to a grid of past jobs and your accomplishments from each to a list of references to something no one’s ever seen before.
I know you don’t like ambiguity, and you want more direction than that. Sorry, Charlie, but I can’t give you more direction… because one of the skills I’m hiring for is the ability to take action in the face of uncertainty. If I tell you more, then I won’t get to see how you handle the uncertainty inherent in the hiring process!
Create your own strengths document. I know you want a model to use… resist the desire to copy from a formula! This is a document you are creating to showcase your skills… and more than that, your ability to communicate those skills! The very skill you most want to demonstrate to a prospective employer—beyond your ability to do the job—is your ability to go beyond the job, right? Well, here’s your chance to show off those skills! Watch the video and create your very own strengths document… but be forewarned: the instructions are loose, and there is no model to copy from. This is on purpose. This gives you a chance to show someone how you can both do the job (in this case, create a resume) and go beyond the job (in this case, recognize where the resume falls short and figure out how to plug the gap… all by yourself). Take a risk, and have fun!
If you’re bold enough, post a draft. Time permitting, I’ll take a look and offer some quick comments…
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