Oct 10, 2011

The Curse of the Resume

According to this Mashable blog post and infographic below the birth of the resume dates back to Leonardo Da Vinci in 1482.  People have been handing each other resumes for various reasons for 500 years.  As the infographics below shows, the content of a standard resume has evolved over the past five centuries. 

However, the question I've been asking myself is that: How can a human being summarize/describe him/herself in one page?  Job applicants and coaches have been wondering this the same question for many years and there are many templates and guides on what information to include and what not to include depending on the nature of the job.  This is no easy task, because in order to write the perfect resume, the applicant must have a good grasp on what the employer is looking for but also what his or her own relevant strengths and qualifications are.  Most of the resumes I've come across are pretty standard, full of standard language, phrases and keywords.  On the applicant side, the human being has been reduced to a piece of paper but now days the employer side is also non-human.  Most companies now use automated systems to find candidates among thousands of resumes they receive.  This means that the already reduced-to-paper human beings are evaluated by a machine/program.  Hope is not all lost, however, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin, candidates can create a personal profile which gives them more space and means to showcase their personality, qualifications and experience.  But again, our online profiles are the versions of ourselves we like to be and not necessarily the version we truly are.  Beyond the resumes and online profiles there is a person that is often illusive and hidden.  Even during one-on-one interviews people tend to highlight only their strengths. 

So what is the curse of the resume? The curse is that resumes have reduced us to a piece of paper and since resumes judge people based on certain academic or professional accomplishments, more and more people are focusing their careers and education based on what will look good on a resume.  People are choosing schools, field of study and experiences/internships based on what will be impressive in the future to a potential employer, instead of doing what makes them happy or following their passion.  If an Ivy league education looks good on a resume, then an Ivy league education is what people will seek.  My belief is that that we should not be defined by the schools we've gone too, majors we've studied and previous companies we've worked for.  Every human being is unique with their strengths, weaknesses, insecurities and egos and no resume or social networking site can capture and define a person as a whole.  


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