I want you to review your resume like Thomas Jefferson would: what have you done that’s really far more impressive than it seems? Everybody got good grades, but how many people did it with a learning disability? Everybody worked at an i-bank or a consultancy, but how many people achieved X? What’s hiding in your resume that deserves more attention?
Don’t get me wrong: you don’t need to upsell them on your college or your employer. You don’t even need to upsell them on your achievements; it’s all about you and what you learned. Heck, Newton figured out gravity from an apple and a tree (I know that’s not quite true, but literary exaggeration is fine!) You might have done things that seem fairly ordinary, but what did you learn from those things – that’s what matters.
You might have the most extraordinary insights from the most ordinary of things. Heck, Steve Jobs always claimed that studying fonts was key to Apple – fonts? Could anything be more boring, and yet…
That’s how I want you to approach your resume; I want you to think about how you demonstrated something more significant or learned something more profound than the plain facts of your resume imply.
I’ll be honest: I don’t care that you increased sales 11% because you might have been lucky; heck, your colleague may have boosted sales by 12% -- the facts aren’t that interesting or persuasive. But maybe you learned that you had to focus on your customers’ needs, that you had to worry about THEM before you could take care of YOU and, thus, you implemented Z policy. And now you’ve seen how that focus on others could help your business solve Problem Q, which had nothing to do with sales. And so on and so on.
As you build out from one small story to an insight to another insight, you reveal more and more about yourself, and your story becomes more and more interesting. I remember one of the most interesting speeches I ever heard was a recipe – literally, he told the audience how to make a mint julep, but that wasn’t really the topic of his speech. In fact, he was talking about his own yearnings, his own love of beauty, grace, and simplicity, and – rather than tell us he valued those ideals – he showed us, through his meticulous language and presentation.
So it’s not the “facts”; it’s your insight, your presentation that matters. You can be a very boring astronaut or a very inspiring janitor (Good Will Hunting, anybody?)– which one do you think is going to get in?