Why My Resume Makes Me Sick
By Jacey Eckhart
There are three documents guaranteed to send your stomach on a plunge into gastric hell: 1) your college application, 2) your mortgage paperwork, and 3) your resume.
These things should be happy papers. Yay! Going to college! Yay! Buying a house! Yay! Finding a better job!! But something about these three documents is guaranteed to send you running for a peppermint schnapps shot with a Pepto-Bismol chaser.
Or that might be a family recipe, so never mind.
Anyway, when you submit to creating these three documents, you know in the deepest reaches of your soul that you will be in competition with all those other people who have been out there taking AP Calculus and living on baked beans and discovering cures for skin cancer while you were watching all 100 million eyebrow tutorials on YouTube.
No matter how sick those documents make you feel, you must complete them or you will never make it through the Next Door. Since I’m in the middle of looking for a new job, I must put together a resume, even though I am quite sure no one ever got a job online only by uploading a resume.
I dug out my most recent resume. It is uglier than I ever dreamed possible. Hagfish ugly. Birthwort ugly. Acid-washed pantsuit ugly.
So after I took to my bed with my Pepto, I made an appointment with Lee, a resume counselor. She invited me to come in even after I warned her how very ugly my resume would be. Lee only laughed and told me that in addition to the Ugly One I should also bring in listings for jobs I might want. I found three and printed them up and put them in a snappy new folder so that Lee would know I was super professional applicant. Woo hoo. I also brushed my teeth.
I thought we would look at my ugly resume first. Not so much. Instead, Lee put my resume face down on her desk. In the most pleasant tone of voice you ever heard she asked, “What job are you looking for?”
My eyes bugged out and my jaw dropped in classic hagfish fashion. Crap. I hate this question.
“Can’t we just look at my resume and then you could tell me what job I should be looking for?” I asked.
Lee laughed again. Lee has a very odd sense of humor. “Seriously. What’s the job?”
After about half an hour of hemming and hawing, we got around to my truth: I’m looking for a training job and I prefer a part-time gig so I still have time to finish the book I’m writing.
I thought I was gonna pass out from so much truth-telling. After all, good people want 80-hour-a-week jobs writing code or drawing blood or studying just what makes that hagfish so by god ugly.
Lee explained that the mistake she sees most often is that people don’t get specific enough about what job they want—even with themselves. Every time you apply to a job, the resume needs to be shaped toward that goal and only that goal so you better know what that goal is.
Then we got to the second biggest mistake. “I don’t see any numbers here,” she said.
“I have numbers. Those numbers are years right there,” I said, pointing to my boldface type. “There are the dates I worked, and the growth in readers we had, and the number of events we put together.”
“These are the wrong kind of numbers. What the resume robot is looking for is the number of years. Like, 12 years of experience training military audiences.”
“Oh. Is that all? That’s a stopper?”
Apparently yes. Lee gave me a bunch of other tips, and I went home and made another resume. It was a lot easier the second time around with some outside support. No Pepto necessary.
Now my resume is, I admit, kind of pretty. Like purple petunia pretty. And new pencil pretty. And pink prom dress pretty.
It will never get me a job all by itself. It does not begin to show what I can do for a potential employer. After all, that’s just me on paper, not in person. But it is a knock on the door, a symbol that I’m here to do business and that I’m moving forward bit by bit all the time. Just like you.