I’ve never had a resume. Ok, that’s not entirely true. I have written resumes in the past, but I’ve never used one to land a job.
The first reason is simply my circumstances. My career has been driven, for better or worse, not by an overriding strategic vision of who I am and what I want to do, but by where I have found myself along the way.
My first job after college, as employee #1 and technical founder of a marketing agency, came about because I knew the two other founders through previous work; they already knew my work and my personality, so a resume would have been duplicative at best.
I knew them because after a high school career so successful that my parents saw fit to have a priest friend come talk to me about my current performance and future prospects, I took two years “off” after graduating to help my father start a brick-and-mortar business (which is still in business today, I’m proud to say). I met, and worked with, my future founders during this stint.
Then I went on to do some teaching and consulting, as one does after staying in the same job for over a decade straight out of college. No resume required.
After that came the obligatory technology startup, because it was 2009 and being a startup founder was what all the cool kids were doing. Pro-tip: VC’s don’t ask for your resume.
I build that up and burned myself down until most recently, in 2013, I decided to help a friend lead his 35-year-old communications firm through some major changes. We cemented that deal over beers.
No need for a resume in almost twenty years of professional life. Frankly, I’m proud of that. Many people would say the above is how you’re supposed to find work. That is, through your network of friends and colleagues, guided on your current set of skills and passions. I agree.
Because the second reason I’ve never used a resume to get a job is…
Resumes are a horrible way to introduce yourself.
Imagine you’re single, or maybe you are single, and you’re in a bar or perhaps a park. Across the way, you see someone you’re interested in getting to know better. (i.e. You think they’re hot.) Now, in this situation, the acceptable thing to do would be to walk up, introduce yourself, and, ideally, embark on a free-flowing conversation, gradually uncovering layers of information about the person in order to get to know them, their values, etc.
If this were a job search, the situation would go like this: Instead of that organic, enlightening, croissant-like (the layers) conversation, before you could even show your face to that hottie across the way, you’d have to deliver to that person, electronically, a sheet of paper, one page only of course, that summed up everything about you, your past, and your goals. More accurately, you’d have to deliver that piece of paper via a not-so-close friend of that person, who would, based on computer-generated keywords, decide whether you two were potentially soul mates and would be allowed to talk.
That’s utterly ridiculous, you say. Once again, you and I are of like mind.
Treat your resume like a $100 bill.
Years ago, a recruiter colleague of mine, gave me a great pithy bit of advice that I’ve been passing along as my own ever since: Treat your resume like a $100 bill.
Meaning, don’t just give your resume out to anybody. In fact, in a job search, it should be the last bit of info you hand over, and hopefully simply to tick a checkbox on some hiring manager’s list.
Your first instinct, and admittedly mine as well, when finding an interesting job listing, is to search for the big “Apply” button (even better if it’s the “Easy Apply” on LinkedIn, amirite?!), attach your resume, cross your fingers, and be done with it. I know, it’s tempting. We all do it. Hell, I did it yesterday. (The first step is admitting you have a problem…)
But you should not click that button. Yet.*
Your first task when finding a job posting that interests you should be to search LinkedIn to see if you know anyone who works at that company and can give you intel. Why? Because this is the equivalent of being at that bar and asking a mutual friend, “hey, that person is cute. Are they crazy?”
Talking to someone at the company about the position can save you a lot of time, and it can save you from a position you don’t want. Maybe the department is in disarray. Maybe the boss is an… .
Even if it’s not worst case scenario stuff like this, you’ll be able to find out much more mundane, but useful things, like, “the job posting is really just for show, they’re going to promote from within,” or “I know it sounds great, but the position really doesn’t have as much autonomy as the posting leads you to believe.”
On the flip side, what you hope will come from reaching out to someone on the inside is something along the lines of, “This is a dream job. I think you’d be perfect for it.” Of course, their next line will usually be, “I’ll see if I can get you in front of the right person. Can you send me your resume?”
Ugh. I know, it’s exhausting. So maybe you do need a resume, what do I know?
Keep pushing for the personal connection to someone at the company. Spending a couple hours working your network for a personal introduction will yield more demonstrable results than spending that time obsessing over your resume. They call this a “bias toward action” these days.
* The truth is, at all but the smallest of companies, you’ll likely need to go through some official application hoops, which may include submitting a resume. Do that, but also try to cut the line by using the above tactics.
A note to the kids.
When I talk to younger people just starting their careers, they push back and say, “I need a resume. I don’t have any experience.”
Come again? That’s precisely why a resume is even more useless for you: there’s nothing to put on it! You think I care that you were a tour guide during orientation at your college or worked the midnight shift in the computer lab? You think knowing Photoshop, “the Office suite,” and a having a working knowledge of HTML will set you apart?
Use your “status” as a Young Person in college to land a conversation. From personal experience, I find it hard to say no to an email that begins, “Hey, I’m about to graduate college, and I’m really interested in learning about your company/position X/your industry.” Add some light flattery and a personal note about your connection, and I almost guarantee you’ll get a meeting.
If the person you’re meeting with has any belief in karma or couth, they’ll even pay for the coffee (always coffee, don’t ask to go to lunch – too much of a time commitment).
I hate resumes, but I love LinkedIn.
So, what’s a job-seeker to do? LinkedIn is what.
Many people hate LinkedIn, and for good reason. Their newsfeed is nothing but self-promotion pablum and empty wisdom, but it is the go-to tool for recruiters. And this is a good thing.
Convention is your friend
For one, it forces a layout and a structure on you. How often have you sat down to write your resume and starting messing around with alternate non-chronological ways to present your career, or worse, trying alternate page layouts and font sizes, or worst of all, unproductively Googling “alternative resume formats”?
None of that is necessary. This is one time when convention is your friend. Just fill in the blanks LinkedIn gives you and move on.
Richer media = richer you
Second, and this is key, it provides a richer set of information about you. So, now that lone piece of paper you’re handing to the hottie across the way (if I ever start a career consulting business I will name it “Hottie Across the Way”) has a bunch more context.
People can quickly click on a company name in your profile to see more about it. They see your connections – “”Oh, we both know Doug, and Molly too. I’ll contact them to find out more about this person.”
Third, you can see who’s looking! Even if it’s just “Someone with the job title recruiter,” this little bit is helpful in gauging the success or your job search. At the very least, you’ll get a bit of a dopamine hit that might keep you going through the soul-sucking process that is looking for a job.
Be a good fisherman
Finally, follow the advice of fishermen everywhere: fish where the fish are. LinkedIn is THE tool for recruiters, so you might as well put your personal history where people will be looking for it anyway.
There’s a second, very useful, part of that aphorism that most people don’t know. The whole thing reads: fish where the fish are, but use the right bait.
Useful words for singles and job-seekers alike. Happy fishing.