Here’s the point of your resume:
Ability to self-attune = self worth = career satisfaction
What we see in the career landscape of today is that resumes that are supposed to represent your self-worth (and also determine a monetary worth for the work that you do) are actually resumes filled to the brim with shame about who we are. This and this explains. But I’ll also tell you a story:
I used to offer a 90 minute service where I would sit down with someone and look at their resume with them. The feedback I offered was promised to be geared toward their resume (as in not generic) and I would offer tips and strategies that they could use to revise their resume as they saw fit. Since I had been on the hiring end as well as career counselling end of viewing resumes for many years, and since employers are scared (understandably because we’re not as great at receiving feedback as we like to believe we are) and/or not open to offering specific feedback (because what they share can be misconstrued) and/or it’s not their job to do that (so they shouldn’t feel obligated), this service felt really useful. So people contacted me, we booked in a time and we would “resume talk.”
I would ask them to send their resume to me beforehand + asked them to answer a few simple questions via email + requested a job posting that spoke to them in some way (if there ever was one). I remember meeting one of my clients in person one day. It worked out that I happened to be in the neighbourhood and rather than talk over the phone, we met at a cafe. I put her resume on the table between us and asked her this:
“Is your biggest fear that all that you know and all that you’ve done isn’t enough? And are you struggling with where to point all of your job searching efforts?”
I was met with a blank stare and silence. I waited. Comfortably uncomfortable. Had I said something wrong? Oh god. I said something wrong.
And then she spoke. Asking me this question: “How did you know that?”
“Well …” I started. I was trying a new approach with how to connect with someone over their resume and I was feeling a little uncertain about how she would receive the end of this sentence, ” … it’s kinda written all over your resume.”
“How do you see that? … Where? Are you some kind of psychic?”
And that’s when I knew that we were connecting over her resume. Probably for the first time ever. Because even if I’m not the employer she’s applying to, people use more than checklists and key words to assess candidates for interviews. An employer can sense what I sense from your resume too and sometimes, at the end of the day, it feels for them like they’re just picking from the least of all evils – the person that is the most qualified is often the one that showed up the most emotionally healthy or the one that was the most honest feeling in the resume and in person. A prospective employer may not be able to name your exact fear on your resume, but it’s there if it’s in you – between the lines staring them in the face.
In our culture, we are willing to do a lot of negative pretending for the sake of survival even though we’re not in survival times.
So we turned back to her resume and I explained that she had the right formatting, she was well educated (as all my clients are). Technically there shouldn’t have been a single reason that she ought to have been insecure about.
How then did I freak her out about her own resume and see her fear enough to name it? Well … the second thing I noticed was that her resume didn’t look like her. She was so stylish, I felt dowdy in comparison sitting across from her. She had one statement jewellery piece on that was tasteful and even artistic and her coat that she had taken off was elegant and classic. Her hair was short and suited her so well. This resume did not look like it belonged to this person. At all.
The first thing I had noticed was that her resume was crammed. The design had very little breathing space and it read as it “should” be written. It was “listy” and dry to read and impressively full of bullets that seemed to compete or contradict one another – but with all the right titles, education, associations, extra designations, etc. It also had ugly formatting.
There was no theme, no flow, no thread to the look or language that suggested that who I was going to meet in front of me was who was going to show up. I had seen this strategy before. I call it the “maybe they won’t notice that I really feel directionless about my life” resume look combined with “maybe someone will see what I’m good at and tell me what I should do and offer it to me.” We live in a culture that turns away from our fears and makes them into monsters under the bed that won’t ever go away with strategies and resources and time-manufacturing for more credentials and better titles and increasing our high standard of living.
You’re scared to be yourself on paper. And you’re scared to show yourself in real life. And the process I am laying out here, done with integrity, will ask you to face the fear that you are some kind of mistake walking around on legs and breathing.
To be authentic on a resume means risking being vulnerable, which means experiencing the long ago instilled shame of being who you are – the parts of yourself that your family of origin didn’t quite embrace and perhaps even outright rejected to keep you safe through socialization. And I’m telling you that the feeling of shame just needs to be felt. Breathed through so that it can travel through your body and be liberated. The feeling wants to leave your body, but it needs you to stop blocking it’s path. It will feel like forever, but it’s literally less than five minutes. It’s safe now. I’ve done it quite a few times myself. When you write your resume authentically you’ll notice the shame feeling come up and that’s when you liberate it by feeling it and breathing. And once the feeling is liberated, you can look and actually see your content and yourself with clarity.
I’m going to be logical for a moment and you will see how emotional you are about this, but given your past experience, you use “the evidence” to support the idea that no one wants who you are or would want the real you. When really isn’t it that you’re really attached to who gives you approval? The actual “evidence” is that there are 7.1 billion people on earth that can help you meet your needs. You choose who and how your needs get met and it doesn’t have to be anyone or anything that forces you to act against your authenticity or true self.
In other words, you have the ability to now consciously decide how you want to feel at work and in your work because, up to now, that’s all been unconscious. And to decide how you would like it to be from now on, you are going to have to be more discerning about who’s approval and acceptance you want.
I told one of my clients one day: “Let’s just think about what would make your mother and father happy … not pretend happy. Really happy. Now pretend that you became all that they wanted. You fulfilled both of their definitions for success. You validated who they were by living this way. You weren’t a disappointment at all. In fact, they completely approved and accepted you. Imagine that all that stuff that they want for you that feels so unattainable right now actually came true … How do you feel about yourself knowing who you have become?”
Ideally you would feel sick just thinking about it. And know this – even though you may not like where you are in your career right now – you are where you are at this moment because you’ve made a compromise. And a compromise is never a substitute for clarity.
In your current life you’re actually living a version of what your family of origin can handle that you too can live with. But they were never meant to have that kind of real estate and influence in your life.
Re-drawing your blueprint for working happens by becoming more discerning about whose opinions matter to you. Find those whose opinions align with you moving in an authentic or “right for you” direction in your life. Value the opinions of those whose approval is aligned with their wisdom and their attunement of who you are.
Because here’s the thing – don’t be one person on LinkedIn or in your resume and a whole different person in live conversation. Your attempts to be inauthentic don’t work for very long because your longing and desire and preference is to be authentic. You have to work to keep inauthenticity up and it’s confusing for the people around you.
When you think of what you want in someone else, consider that they want that from you too. People want a clear and consistent sense of someone. You want to trust that the person you’re talking to today will be the same tomorrow generally speaking. Not that what was okay today with you tomorrow is going to result in an argument because you were “trying to be nice” and now you “can’t take being taken for granted for one more day.”
Those that approve of you without your trying want you to be more you. But commoditizing yourself is treating yourself as subservient to your career.
So let’s begin the process of attuning to yourself – facilitating your desire without attachment as to how that comes about and learning how to see and be with what is.
You’re not going to believe me at this stage, but when I finish working with a client and their resume using the methodology I’m writing about here, they really do accept, love and approve of themselves. You are going to really admire who you really are when you meet yourself on paper and then show up as that in-person! It’s impossible not to.
It’s time to work a little on your resume now. I want to show you some things about yourself that I think will be of great interest to you (I said interest, not judgement):
Take out your existing resume – any version if you have many as long as it’s yours. With a colored pen, cross out / erase / get rid of anything that meets the following criteria:
:: You never, ever want to practice that particular behaviour or skill again.
:: You don’t actually like doing that particular thing – even a little.
:: Anything that wasn’t your most favourite way to spend your work day.
:: Anything that doesn’t feel truthful or authentic (even a little).
When you’re done, reflect on what you’ve crossed out and journal about it.
What do you see? Who was on your resume – you or what version of you? Who from your past or present influenced how you show up on paper?
What or who influenced that version of you on paper? How do you feel about that? What can you do, think, or say to release these influences from you?
What values did your resume represent that are not you? What values did your resume represent that are you?
Was the content a reflection of tasks you did for most of your workday rather than a reflection of the parts of the job that you actually got some pleasure from?
What do you think about the idea that you could make a resume that was filled with tasks from a job that you enjoyed rather than your resume being organized to highlight how you spent your time? Does that thought seem to break some unsaid rule? If yes, where did that rule come from?
What are the limitations of presenting yourself the way you are currently?
Do you understand why you are frustrated with your resume when you consider all this? What have you been thinking that you weren’t aware of now that you think about it?
Consider what no one has asked you to ever consider before:
When you give someone your resume, you aren’t giving them a list of your competencies – even if it seems like that’s the case. You are actually offering an instruction manual (not unlike plant care instructions) for how you want to be of service, for what you would thrive doing day-to-day.
And if what you actually want to be doing isn’t what’s on your resume then you’re handing out something that doesn’t feel truthful. But this is really how we lie on resumes – naming what we don’t want to do rather than what we do want to do. But typically “lying” on your resume is thought of a just embellishing or making what you did sound bigger or better than it was – calling yourself a “director” when you were actually a “manager” for example.
But the untruthful nature of your resume that’s really going on isn’t because you’re a bad person – that’s shame talking, it’s because you have yourself believing that someone “out there” actually wants you to suffer gravely on a daily basis.
The only person who expects that of you is you if your resume isn’t filled with all things that feel truthful to who you are.
Most people say they want to go to work at a nice place doing work that fulfills them – work that makes an impact. But very few of those same people know how simple it would be to influence this desire into the creation of reality.
If you represent yourself as a potted fern in the interview process with accompanying care instructions (your resume) but are actually a cactus, and show up on the job as such, there’s going to be a problem. It would be understandably difficult for you to thrive. Give a cactus too much water and it rots.
So in real life practice, you represent yourself as someone who “loves multitasking” and “rising to challenge” but in reality you’re someone that delights in focusing on tasks and bringing them to completion. It’s not that you don’t have moments of multitasking and rising to challenges, but having that be every moment of your entire work day is actually incredibly stressful because that’s not how you gain a sense of contribution from what you’re doing. But since you advertised yourself as such, your employer then thinks that they’re “rewarding” you with time sensitive tasks that are challenging, and since you like challenges, they want to keep you, so they pass off the challenges to you to keep you in the wheel of multitasking that they genuinely believe you enjoy.
It’s not useful for your resume to be as accurately presented as the picture of a frozen dinner on it’s box.
But consciously I don’t think you actually want such a mismatch for yourself. You just don’t know how to approach work differently. And like I said, the resume is ground zero. It’s a visioning document you can craft to create your future. Beginning on paper, if you approach yourself differently than you have, change will be inevitable at work.
Remember that the content you choose and how you share it reflects only how you want to do your work (not how you have done your work). If you want your work to reflect who you are we start with you resume.
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