why does it hurt to write your resume? (i know it does)

You have a resume.

Chances are that you have a lot of feelings about your resume too.

And most of those feelings probably aren’t good ones.

I nod in understanding because I used to feel that way myself.

So what happened to me that changed how I felt about my resume?

Let me let you in on a little secret: My life was not cozy and comfortable when this all happened. I had two months of rent in my bank account. I had $25,000 of student loans I was repaying. I was in a relationship that I emotionally carried because I was terrified of being alone. Financially my partner and I lived like roommates splitting all the bills and, very soon, I was going to struggle to cover my half and start to owe him.

I was (and still am) estranged from my family because my mother is on par with any guest that has ever appeared on Jerry Springer. Years later my therapist helped me to come out of the denial to accept that my mother did not and could not respect nor honour me. For me to just “grow up” and talk to my mother so that we could have a healthy relationship would only be possible if my mother were someone other than who she is.

My father disappeared from my life when I was a four years old without a trace or a word and without ever paying child support. To be transparent he’d surface now and again but never in person nor for very long. Each time we had contact he wanted the same thing from me – to accept him and his choice to leave. And he also wanted the immediate rights of a father-daughter relationship as though he had been there the whole time. To bring the relationship to a resolution after all the times of hearing from him and his family that he didn’t pay child support because he didn’t trust my mother, a couple of years ago I asked him if he was in a position where he could help me pay some of my student loan debt. I knew what he didn’t know when I asked him that – which was, like my mother, he was in a lot of pain and wanted me to heal what was not mine by agreeing to have him in my life on his terms. His response to my request was: “Money talks bullshit walks.” I was to understand that I was the “bullshit.” At that point though I didn’t need my therapist to tell me that he too didn’t respect nor honour who I was.

So the day that I sat down to create my resume because I thought I could manage to return to work in some capacity, no part of my life felt like it was in my favour. There was no financial or emotional support for who I was and I was in the midst of recovering from a life of self-contempt.

I had not worked for nearly a year as my body recuperated from a couple of decades of not living as myself. A lot of friendships literally just disappeared from my life without a tear shed because they were a lot more work than I had been willing to admit. I had nothing and yet I didn’t need anything. Don’t get me wrong, I love things … but I’m also now very discerning about what things are in my life. I didn’t really know what I loved before and owned a lot of things that I didn’t feel connected to. My things burdened me.

In fact, everything I owned could have burned or been stolen and I would have thought: “I didn’t like that anyway.” I was unattached from what I used to be quite attached to.

So maybe that was the year I began my spiritual pilgrimage through everyday life. The year I accepted my hero’s journey. Whatever you want to think of it as, for the first time in my life I felt free to be me. Now I just needed to find a job that wanted me … that I also wanted..

The conditions, you could say, were perfect to create a resume from a new place within. That is to say that ‘perfect conditions’ might look and feel like anything but when you’re in them. Making things right for yourself and with yourself in your relationship to work beginning with your resume can begin whenever you choose.

It was a cloudy day – a weekday in my 500 square foot apartment on a busy street in 2007 when I sat down to do my resume. Late June. And all I remember is that time disappeared when it hadn’t before. Before that, time with my resume had always felt arduous and pain staking. But today was different. On this day, rather than focus on what someone else wanted from me in a role, I wrote my resume without the care of a job posting – rationalizing that it was just a starting point to get my creativity going. I remember asking myself aloud: “Sabrina, what do want to be known for in your work? What do you want people to come to you for? What have people always come to you for that you want to do more of?”

And the answers to those questions are what became the content of my resume. And that’s the resume I took to the interview for a job that I never applied for. I got a phone call a few days after writing from an old boss saying: “I have the perfect job for you.” I was sceptical because my “perfect job” was in my “play resume” which I still had to edit. But to humour her I asked what she had in mind.

Turns out that she did indeed have the job in mind that matched my “play resume” perfectly. I was a little freaked out because this felt a little too “fluky” for my rational mind to accept. But it was all real. The next week I started a job that I actually wanted to get up and go to work for that was part-time with nearly the same pay as my previous full-time job.

Reality, I realized, was alterable because I’d never worked so little for a job that felt so easy and fun. I literally thought to myself: What the fuck is going on here?! Because “life”, I had always believed, was supposed to be and feel way harder than this.

“Maybe I’m onto something here,” I remember thinking … “just maybe.”

But I don’t want to give you the impression that I suddenly grew an interest in resumes overnight. It’s not like that at all.

That day in my apartment was a tipping point. Only I didn’t realize that to be the case at the time.

When I was a teenager, I came upon my mother’s resume and I was fascinated by it. It was such an important document that she had lied on it. Not a huge lie, but a lie is a lie. I was amazed to see her insecurity shored up with details that were an attempt to make her seem more seamless and more desirable than she obviously felt. So right from the start, I realized the weight of the world on these two pieces of paper (+ a cover letter).

And from then on, if there was a career workshop somewhere – anywhere – I went because I wanted to know how you decided what to put on this very important piece of paper. And so I learned what you learned and what my mother had clearly learned: How not to be yourself on your resume (aka “appear perfect” feeding a sense of shame that you exist in error of how you were supposed to have lived).

Basically, if you know how to get a job that you don’t like that much and that’s frustrated you enough, the Resume Project’s method is the alternative.

You may not know how to be authentic on a piece of paper, but this method shows you how + what that means on a resume.

This article and many others (shared as part of the budding Resume Project library) will first and foremost address how your mind works. In other words I’m going to share about what needs to be understood philosophically as well as practically in order for the resume to come out of you differently.

If you don’t change your mind about what a resume is, you can’t change what shows up on paper.

To do this you’ll need to contemplate what it is that I’m sharing as part of doing your resume. And yes, your ego will find this annoying because it still wants to think it knows what a resume is and all I’m here to do is show you a really good sample to work from. And of course, you can do that. There’s no resume police to stop you from seeing something and making it work for you somehow.

But this method then won’t get you the results that I’ve intentioned through sharing this body of work. And so whatever you can do to become present to the process is in your best interest not only for the immediate future, but the foreseeable future, and the distant future.

Some of the articles I write will have exercises and real life samples. While others – like this one – will end with contemplation, reflection and/or journaling prompts.

You don’t work on a resume, your resume works on you.

Here’s the first reframe I’d like you to consider as you erase from your mind what you have been taught thus far and hold true about a resume. From this day forward, a resume is (pick one as your mantra moving forward):

A visioning tool.
A road map pointing to your wholeness.
A way to make sense of you.
An act of co-creation.
A re-imagining of work.
Story telling.

The more you accept these qualities and capabilities of a resume the more you will like the results of the resume that you create. Period.

Right now, the reason your resume doesn’t yield the results in the physical world that you want AND like is because you were shown what a resume is – rather than actually taught how to make one for yourself.

“Here are samples … okay, now make your own.” Something like this happened right?

You intellectually grasp the concept of what a resume is, but not spirituality and not with the benefit of self-awareness. Given this, a resume doesn’t need to feel boring or disjointed or uninspiring to you and your reader. Your ideal reader being the person you are trying to get a meeting with in person that you want to offer you a job that you want to show up for.

Sadly, more than likely, the person that introduced you to the concept of a resume didn’t treat the process with a lot of reverence + probably didn’t like their resume much either.

In fact, have you ever seen the resume of the person who taught you?

Probably not.

When I used to teach my resume workshop, I used to pass around my own resume and cover letter for people to see and to know what “feel” we were essentially aiming for (authentic + professional was the goal). I wanted people to also witness for themselves what got me the job that they were seeing me do right before their very eyes. I wanted them to judge for themselves if I was someone they wanted to learn from. And if not, they could keep doing what they were doing with their resume because ultimately you need to do what works for you.

It would be irrelevant to show you that resume now since I don’t have a traditional job and I haven’t for a while, so the value of that information feels outdated to share. But I still think that knowing how to talk about yourself professionally is what this process is all about. So to be open if you want to grasp what I’m advocating, read your own resume or LinkedIn profile and then visit mine and study it a little. Add me as a connection and when you do (so that I know you’re a real person) mention the Resume Project so that I can add you back (and un-add me anytime too). If you do look at my LinkedIn profile notice how I use the boxes + note the language I use and its relationship to what I’m doing here and now. It’s not a resume, but I think that if you’re going to learn from me, it’s fair to show you something that represents what I’m going to teach you how to do for yourself in a way that is you.

Ultimately you need your content and a format that works for you.

Having said that, I don’t think that anyone is bad for what they taught you or what you took away from your experience when you learned how to make a resume the first time. I mean, you know how to get a job, but you don’t necessarily like how the jobs you get turn out. So it’s time to evolve the concept of the resume (and likely your definition of “work”) since it determines not only what kinds of jobs you apply to but also what role you fulfill on the job and what salary you negotiate and/or are offered, not to mention your general and overall happiness (and how happy your loved ones are with you).

The resume is linked to so many other aspects of what it means to work at all. It’s ground zero.

Because here’s the funny thing about that piece of paper – a piece of paper that some argue we don’t even need anymore:

When you tell someone who and what you are – they believe you. When you tell someone that this is how you see yourself – they do too.

So you’d better believe for yourself what you tell others and you’d better like what you say – whether it’s on paper or in real life practice.

And because I know this to be true, I also know of no better way to learn how to speak about yourself professionally + authentically + to be on course with your career fairy tale come true than to create a resume that represents the real you.

Like I said … in bits and bites I’ll explain to you the whole process.

Here’s what to do for now:

:: If you’re game to create your resume in alignment with what I share make a file on your computer called “The Resume Project.” And know that over the next while you will need to dedicate 40 hours to the creation of a resume that truly works for you. That’s how long the whole process takes when I work with someone one-on-one.

:: Collect these articles for yourself and share them with others who don’t like their resume or how they made it either – because giving is the best way to receive.

:: Mentally begin the process of self-compassion for why you don’t like your resume and/or why you don’t like resume writing. You know as well as I do that you feel like:

You don’t get to be yourself on paper.

You have to talk about yourself in ways that you don’t like.

You don’t sound like yourself – you sound boring, all over the place, or boastful or [insert trait you find distasteful about your experience of you and your resume].

You are presenting yourself as less than human or beyond human. And what have you done with your humanness? You’ve tried to minimize or hide it or shove it down.


Knowing this, it’s really a wonder you managed to get something on paper at all in the form of a resume. Those are cruel conditions to work under.

Next …

:: Erase from your mind what you think a resume is. Or at least acknowledge that it’s not what you have thought it was and so you couldn’t create one that you actually delight in using. Yes, I said “delight.”

:: Reflect on the one purpose of a resume. It’s not to summarize your achievements. It’s not to capture you professionally. It’s not to chronicle all the work you’ve done. But you’re forgiven for thinking that. The resume has only one true purpose and it is this:

To get you an in-person meeting (aka an interview).

Reflect. Ruminate. Reset. Reread even what’s here and await your next set of instructions.

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