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Stop Trying to Fill Your Resume
Your life isn't defined by your list of accomplishments.
When I transferred to SIU, one of the first things on my list was to find some clubs to join. I asked around to see what the options were, picked the two or three that seemed good for my major, and ran for an officer position in the most prestigious one. They were somewhat interesting to me, but mostly I did it because I felt like it was just what you do when you want to be a good student and get a good job. It took me a few months to realize I had it backwards.
Has anyone ever told you to sign up for x, y, or z thing because it will “look good on your resume”? I’ve been to my fair share of career advice panels and it seems like building a resume is always the top takeaway; while it is certainly true the resume is critical for showing credibility in the job market, I think we’ve forgotten why. It’s becoming a problem for young people and established professionals alike.
Let’s go back to the definition. According to Google, a resume is “a brief account of a person’s education, qualifications, and previous experience, typically sent with a job application.” Okay, I know we all know this, but seriously, look again and think about it. It’s an account of what a person has already done. The resume shouldn’t tell you how to live your life; you should live your life and write your resume to reflect it.
Here’s what I mean by that. When we do something simply to beef up our resume (like me running for office in a club that seemed prestigious), we may or may not enjoy it. When we do something we don’t enjoy, we’re not likely to invest our best effort into it. When we don’t give our best, we won’t have a whole lot of positive things to say about our involvement in the thing. And you know what happens when we have something on our resume? We get asked about it in the job interview. Nobody wants to listen to a job candidate fumble for words when asked about a highlight on their resume, and nobody wants to be the candidate who can’t find anything meaningful to say about their “resume builder” activity.
The good news is we don’t have to live our professional lives like that. Instead, we can focus on joining organizations and accepting roles which allow us to exercise our gifts in a meaningful way. Once I came back to SIU after my gap year, I didn’t run for an officer position in the most flashy club like I did before, because I finally realized I wasn’t in it for the right reasons. Instead, I filled my time with some random, but meaningful, pursuits. Some of them showed up on my resume, others didn’t, but they all made me a more holistically interesting and valuable job candidate when it came time to interview for full-time positions. Many of the things I did in high school and early college in an attempt to build my resume never even made the list; meanwhile, the things I did because they meant a lot to me and gave me a chance to add value to people were what made the final cut.
The best way to build our resumes isn’t to think about what would look the most impressive on our list of accomplishments and do that thing, but to do things that are in line with our gifts and bring us fulfillment. Our resumes shouldn’t dictate our lives; our lives should dictate our resumes.
Journal Prompt of the Week
How do you feel when someone else joins a club or cause you deeply care about and they tell you they only do it to look good on their resume? Have you been that person for someone else?