Your Resume is Absolutely Worthless Without an Amazing Story

If you want to attract the right employer, put yourself in your resume.

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Photo by Marcus Bellamy on Unsplash

I hate resumes. I used to be so proud of my resume, not because I was qualified for any particularly amazing jobs, but because it was a good representation of where I’d been professionally, even as an entry-level employee.

I was impressed that I’d even been able to put a resume together right after college. I graduated with my bachelor's degree in 2008, during the Great Recession. I had no job lined up. I’d held a few student jobs in school, but that was it. But I still managed to put together a resume that I thought showcased my semi-professional experience in an appealing way.

Boy was I wrong.

My resume, as nice as it looked, secured me zero job interviews. Zero opportunities. I know there was a recession going on, but damn.

Look, my problem isn’t with the practice of putting together a document to showcase your professional skills and experience. Nor is it with the practice of having that document be required by virtually every job out there in the marketplace.

My problem is that the document is so limited in its acceptable formats. Even if a resume doesn’t fit who you are, your personality, or goals, it’s still a requirement.

Anybody can create a list of their previous jobs with bullet points listing things like:

  • number of customers served
  • amount of money raised
  • list of tasks required

Tell me this, though.

How do these points tell us anything about who a person is, what they aspire to do, and what they actually bring to the table?

You might say, “actually, Amy, those bullet points you listed would tell us a lot of those things.”

Hear me out. I think there’s a better way to get that information. Don’t employers routinely complain about having to sift through a huge number of resumes for every job opening they advertise? What if there was a way to stand out?

“A Story That’s Really About Your Purpose”

Oprah Winfrey gave the commencement speech at Harvard in 2013. Here’s what she had to say about resumes:

“But the challenge of life I have found is to build a résumé that doesn’t simply tell a story about what you want to be but it’s a story about who you want to be. It’s a résumé that doesn’t just tell a story about what you want to accomplish but why. A story that’s not just a collection of titles and positions but a story that’s really about your purpose. Because when you inevitably stumble and find yourself stuck in a hole that is the story that will get you out. What is your true calling? What is your dharma? What is your purpose?”

Now that’s what I’m talking about! Tell me, do you get to know a person’s dharma by reading their resume? (Dharma is described as a person’s “moral virtue” or “eternal substance”.)

A resume, according to Oprah (and me), is meant to be so much more than a list of previously held positions. It’s meant to tell a story — your story — to the reader.

And if you can accomplish that in your resume, you’ll get called in for a conversation. (Some people call them interviews, but I prefer to think of it as just talking. Takes the pressure off.)

So the next time you want to polish your resume, ask yourself: does this document tell my story? If not, put some of yourself and your personality into it. You’ll likely attract the right employer that way because people who don’t like your resume won’t like YOU. People who love your resume-story will love you! Give it a shot.

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