Posts Tagged ‘The anti-resume’

Here’s a thought – given that convention demands that people must apply for jobs by submitting their CV, why are we so obsessed with the idea that the best way to show another person where we want to go, or even where we are at now, is through a ritualised presentation (a re-presentation, actually) of where we have been?

I have two answers to this, and then a suggestion (which I don’t suppose for a moment too  many will adopt) of how it could be different, and how a person’s work-life could be more pregnant with opportunity than laden with disappointment if we did.

First, two reasons why we all do what we do:

1. Once upon a time, a long time ago, finding new work was generally a matter of direct experience, word-of-mouth or being vouched for in a letter of recommendation from a reputable person. The world of work was simplified; guilds, crafts, apprenticeships, professions, hands-on knowledge, family firms and local enterprises.  We now live in a world very separated from such close ties, where in order to find employment people cannot rely on knowing or being known to each other in person. A letter of introduction used to serve the purpose of connecting people who didn’t know each other, but now the reality of a personal connection has been replaced by the illusion of one. Thanks to the industrial revolution, which created the need for management of humans as though they were just a resource, the notion of identity has also shifted gradually. In this mechanised, hierarchical and depersonalised world the presentation of one’s credentials needed to become something more portable and bureaucratic, hence a paper-based autobiography.

2. In our post-industrial, post-personal and (according to some) post-modern world the function of this autobiography is now very definitely expected to present an identity – in the form of a list of transferable work qualities. A good resume merely reduces in the mind of the reader the risk – to them – of selection against other contenders. The more predictable, the better, though there are a plethora of books, articles, workshops and ‘consultants’ out there who will tell you all you need to know to make you feel totally inadequate in this regard. But here’s the thing – no-0ne actually can make any real prediction of future job success on the basis of a chronological presentation of the past.  How many of us have found out, to our regret, that a person hired to a position of higher resposnsbility on the basis of their past turns out to be a flop, with their best behind them. Often the greater the shine in the CV the greater the shit everyone has to deal with when they’re in post. And yet, do we have any choice? Mostly we don’t, is my guess; the parameters of the job search game are set.

I think this is a shame. What we should be producing for ourselves are anti-resumes. I did not invent this idea, by the way, but just came across the thought when reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book ‘the Black Swan’.

There are two ways of defining what an anti-resume is, and the Web has examples and supporters of both. The first is simply the attempt to present a version of the traditional CV that is non-traditional, mostly using multi-media, animation or a non-linear telling of past exploits. The idea is to stand out from the crowd. I don’t really see how this is a game changer.

The second is a position that is the antithesis of what the classic resume stands for – a list, yes, but of all the things you can’t do, haven’t got, haven’t done or have yet to achieve. This makes it risky, of course, but also makes it future oriented and shows a potential employer the space into  which you can grow.

So what is it you haven’t done yet? What’s out there for you to achieve? What’s your real passion, your drea: your true “life project”? How could you communicate this, if not instead of your past, then at least as well as on your resume?

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