Stop with the Resumes

via Flickr / hanzabean

Have you ever read an article like this, this, or this? None of those links are spam — certainly not the highly ranked Career Services Office (CSO), US News, and the popular But what these sites have in common is that the checklists and bulleted items lure you into a false sense of security that you are searching for a job or internship. Let’s be honest, you are doing nothing but reading.

So, instead of doing nothing, do something real to kick start your job hunt.

Chances are that it starts with walking into CSO, resume in hand. Good for you. Chances are you’ll walk out with an edited resume but still at a loss. The game is easier played if you know what you want. And, if you’re a good little liberal arts student like I was, you don’t know what you want. Professional musician? World traveler? Journalist? Foreign service? Entrepreneur? Economist? Blogger? Ski bum? I had no idea what industry I should look in or what marketable skills I possessed. And the overwhelming number of question marks made it easy to fire off resumes and cover letters to all sorts of places instead of focusing. That is a recipe for a lot of frustration.

You probably shouldn’t start with a resume and cover letters.

And yet, that’s often where we’re told to start. Countless students are staring into their computers looking at example resumes, worrying about formatting, and trying to whittle down relevant experience. Stop. Just stop. At some point you will need your groomed resume and cover letter but it’s not now, not when you don’t have a sense of what you’re looking for. And while you’re at it, do not search various online databases of job listings. All those do is suck you back into the resume-cover letter game.

Doing something real is taking stock of yourself.

This tough step is the real start of a career search because you have to go out and evaluate what you’re good at, what you have experience doing, and how you want to talk about yourself. To qualify as actually doing something (step one), you have to do real work to get yourself beyond the “I don’t know what I want” phase. You don’t have to come out with an industry or an entry-level position title. But you do need to focus your search and you do that by reaching out to those around you (friends, family, alumni, professors, etc.) and also reflecting inward, something that doesn’t happen enough at Middlebury. Sounds kind of wishy washy, but it’s for real. Seriously: what is your passion? What do you feel proud of? Where do you come from and how did you get where you are? What problems keep you up at night? The strongest job searchers are those who understand themselves and have a story to tell.

So, to review: don’t start with your resume/cover letter; instead, get off the Internets and do something real like start talking to friends/family/profs/alumni about your passion. Taking that feedback and crafting your job “story” is what I will expand upon in my next post.

I can’t profess to be an expert in the job hunt. But I did graduate, I have a job, and that’s a start. Over the next few weeks, I am trying out a series of posts that breaks down the job search process for seniors, recent grads, and onlookers. If it’s successful, I might continue. If not, I’ll stop. It’s a touchy subject, so stick with it and please leave comments. I read all of them. Thanks. – Ryan


11 thoughts on “Stop with the Resumes

  1. “Countless students are staring into their computers looking at example resumes, worrying about formatting, and trying to whittle down relevant experience.”

    Exactly what I just spent all day doing.

    “Chances are that it starts with walking into CSO, resume in hand. Good for you. Chances are you’ll walk out with an edited resume but still at a loss.”

    That also happened to me today.

    It seems like a lot of your kinda-maybe-options before graduation were the same as mine, too. This post spoke to me and was a definite comfort.

    • Glad the anecdotes spoke to you. But I’m not aiming for the post to be comforting. In fact, I’m aiming for the almost opposite — for seniors/grads to take real action. If someone left me a comment saying that they’ve come a realization of what they think they’re good at based on conversations with people who know them…now that I would applaud.

  2. I found this post comforting because throughout this year I have been reflecting on my story.. As narrative psychologists would say, at any difficult point in life, such as a transition, it is important to envision how we would like the next chapter to go. Who do we want to be? In this way we take agency and motivate ourselves to look at our situations positively. After all, uncertainty is not a bad thing. In other cultures, people are more comfortable exploring uncertainty until the right direction becomes clear. In any case, back to my first sentence– I’ve been surprised by how my own story and goals have developed much slower than expected by CSO, my peers, or my professors. I wasn’t ready for graduate school applications! But now I do have a narrow and exciting focus that I feel very ready to explore next year– and that helps me apply for a variety of jobs that would contribute to that path.

  3. A last note– I don’t think you have to worry about how your posts affect the moods of individuals so much as whether they are honest and salient. With experience often comes wisdom, and I found your writing to be generously wise and relevant.

  4. Hi Ryan,

    Great post, and I’m looking forward to keeping track of your series. I agree that it seems there is little time for reflection at Midd, and that is indeed a great place to start in the career development process. Self assessment can feel “wishy washy” or overwhelming, but doing some of the things you mentioned can certainly help.

    I particularly wanted to comment a little about the storytelling idea. I facilitated a J-term workshop called “Skillful Storytelling to get the Job you Want” and came across some really fascinating resources in the course of my research and preparation. In the spirit of sharing for all, here are a few links to take a look at if you want:

    I was inspired about this topic from paying attention to things like the MOTH radio show (and on campus too I know), TED talks, and even things like public radio and how NPR tells stories. There is tons of information out there about how to tell a story in general, and I think there is equally tons of potential to craft and angle that topic towards storytelling in the career context.

    Thanks for contributing and keep in touch,

    -Tim Mosehauer
    Center for Education in Action
    Middlebury College

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