Exceptional Person Required
Photo credit: Exceptional Person Required by sansfaim, on Flickr

In 2008 Seth Godin wrote this blog post: “Why bother having a resume?” I particularly remember reading it at the time because I was actively looking for a job and every conversation I had ended with “Please send a copy of your resume to..”

I remember thinking, “what a nice thought… but yea-freakin-right Mr. Godin. ”

So I probably don’t have to tell you Seth Godin is a pretty smart guy. Now I sort of feel like the poster child for exactly what he’s talking about. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a resume, but I’m fairly certain my last few employers had already decided to hire me before they even looked at my resume. They may not have ever even looked at it in fact. It probably just went into some required HR folder never to be seen again.

A pretty sad fate for a document I put a lot of work into right? Nah, doesn’t bother me. I hate having a resume. Like Godin says, it’s basically an excuse to reject you. It can also be dangerous if you’ve followed a career path like mine. I haven’t worked for any big name companies–I’m completely grateful for that–but it’s also a detriment in the old school HR way of thinking. “Ooh so-and-so worked for [insert impressive company name] that must mean he’d be great here, [even though we are and do *nothing* like that!!]” (Seriously, tell me you haven’t  heard that before!!)

No matter how much I jazz up my resume, it’s not going to impress those types of people. Meh, I’m over it. I don’t think I want to work for those people anyway. Point is, stop worrying so much about your resume and start worrying about the things that really matter if you want a completely kick ass job. What are those things? Probably exactly what Godin mentioned:

How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?
Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
Or a reputation that precedes you?
Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

OK so that last point is something I need to work on. I have the blog and I’m working on writing more insightful and compelling content and especially more regularly… However I think I’m doing pretty well on the rest of the list, and I think those are exactly the types of things that have landed me probably any job I’ve ever had. And even though there’s no big impressive company names, I’ve loved my career dearly.

So exactly how do you accomplish these things? For starters if you’re currently working somewhere you hate, that’s definitely not how. Get out and volunteer, get involved in community events. Find what you’re passionate about and figure out how to work it into your career. I promise you that no matter how busy you think you are, if you find something you really LOVE, you’ll effortlessly and automatically be able to make the time for it. Finally, follow through on your commitments and help people out as much as you can.

Easier said than done? Yea, probably. But hard work is usually the key to happiness and success, so if you’re not willing to put in, don’t expect to take out.

7 thoughts to “What does your résumé look like?

  • Andrei

    Kelly, you’re absolutely right. I wrote a similar post, but yet to publish it. Trying to find my old notebook 🙁 It was hand written while I was attending a seminar. It basically focuses on the same premise that in order to get the job you want you need to go beyond a resume. Start a blog, build something, connect people, etc.
    And finally, you hit the nail on the head. ’employers had already decided to hire me before they even looked at my resume.’ This happens more often than we think.

  • Parker

    I think part of what Seth was saying in his original post was that all resumes have tended to look the same, and that none really stand out any more (kinda like pre-social corporate websites).

    I don’t necessarily disagree with him, but I think that we still need a document that has our work history and experience. I think that document can be interesting, and doesn’t necessarily have to fit the format of a standard resume.

    Maybe that document is something like those QR-code type, talking resumes I’ve seen. Or maybe it is a business card with a built-in USB drive that opens an interactive site highlighting your experience.

  • Kelly

    Hi Parker,

    I think more accurately his point is your resume doesn’t get you the job… But you’re right doing: something unique and different can really help too.

    Actually what motivated to write this post (besides a direct request from @samarwiseman) was the story in Tech Crunch about a guy creating an infographic resume.. Fantastic Idea and well executed. Obviously it worked because he landed a job at Huffington Post with it.

    Of course when I started writing the post I went off on a tangent and then totally forgot about it, here’s the story though:


  • Zaki Usman

    Kelly, great post and I like this idea. There are two types of resumes, ones that know what they are talking about, and the other is… well thats the other type. I’ve found that people who know their stuff usually don’t need to say too much, but have strong enough keypoints that get the idea across. This is why you see services like Zerply.com come into being. They are simplifying what LinkedIn started. Which is also that resumes are not just paper-based anymore but also a reflection of your social footprint.

  • Matt - @emailkarma

    Who needs a resume anyway 🙂 … Isn’t that what LinkedIn is for.

    In the past (when I was looking) I would usually just go download the PDF that contains work experience, expertise, references/recommendations and all that jazz… but I think my social foot print speaks volumes more then the dead tree version of my work history.

    Good post Kelly – hope to see you in TO again soon.

  • Samara

    Hi Kelly,

    Thank you so much for this post! It is exactly what I was looking for!

    It is so true that a strong reputation, a fantastic completed project, and letters of recommendation are more powerful then your typical two page resume. Volunteering on projects that you’re passionate about is definitely the way to go. Your passion for the industry is what drew me to you in the first place and I am grateful to have female mentors like yourself who I can follow and bounce ideas off of.

    Thanks again lady! =)

  • Glenn Schmelzle

    Being around engineers a lot has shown me that substance trumps snazziness. In It circles, especially web development, candidates are often evaluated by the code in the websites they’ve made. Their problem-solving and creativity are usually visible by the code they write – often available in plain site via your browser’s “view source” option.
    This kind of evaluation has the added ability of bringing peer votes to your aide. It’s not uncommon for one coder to use another’s code, when that person has written code which everyone agrees is clever. So in the IT world, certain developers are known by the sheer number of times their snippets of code have been reused. As some YouTube uploaders are known by the number of times their content has been viewed.
    The moral of the IT hiring story is to present yourself professionally, but focus on the output – it’s the real resume that people judge you by.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.