Your Story Is Where Your Resume Begins

There is a spot in our town where merchants gather to display their wares. Tools and equipment to solve every need, clothing to cover even the most challenging figure, and curios to adorn every wall are openly displayed for all to see. Within each merchant lies the hope that each person who passes by their carefully planned display will be tempted to purchase some item ostensibly filling a need or gap in their brief existence. In short, I was at the mall. There, in that bastion of trade and capitalism, I happened upon a phrase that I thought cute enough for the wall of my kitchen. It read simply, “Home is where your story begins.”

This little nugget of wisdom, which fits neatly on a plaque for your home, came from Annie Danielson of Trinidad, Colorado.  She has an online store selling wooden signs adorned with her wisdom and, it seems, others like her wisdom enough to put it on everything from a wall poster to a cheap, pink Bic pen. But the phrase stuck with me throughout the day, not from its simple inspiration but also from the horrific truth which hides beneath it.
It started me thinking about how people were surprised when I, a professional artist with a desire to live as a starving actor all my life, entered the corporate life. Eventually I filled the role of being a “company man” with all that the title encompasses. I traveled so much I didn’t know what city I was in when I woke up in the morning. I put out occupational fires during the day and did the strategic work of my job after dinner. Sometimes from the office, sometimes from my bed – laptop firmly placed where the name suggests, I communicated with peers, executives, employees about thousands of variations of hundreds of issues. I climbed the ladder, worked harder, got really fancy names on business cards, and gathered a great many stories. These tales, legends, myths and discoveries are what, compiled together with all the elements that make a great drama, I now refer to as…my career. For me, the phrase “Home is where your story begins” would have better been titled “Home is where my resume started.”
I have a great story when it comes to my career. The lessons I have learned about strategy, people, and politics have been profound and defining, but when I look at the resumes of the people who reach out to me for help, the story is lacking. A resume is about as fun to put together as doing your taxes by hand and, yes, just like there is Turbo-Tax, so too are there programs and books galore that will help you put one together. Many are helpful in organizing your thoughts around accomplishments, history, and structure, but none are able to create the story of your working life. Normally we save this level of creativity for the interview where you have a chance to connect on a human level and tell the tale of how we went from obscurity to rock star. In today’s market, however, the story has to be told at every opportunity.
I used to say a resume had one function: to get you an interview; and, for the most part, that is still true. Your resume is a marketing piece that tweaks the reader’s curiosity to want to know more. It used to be the movie trailer that brought the audience into the theatre (also known as the interview). But, to carry the analogy further, even blockbuster movies are not stopping with a great trailer. They have a website; they do giveaways at Burger King; they’ll do anything that draws positive attention to their story. I have long spoken of the eventual evolution of the resume. This time has come. The resume has leapt (finally) into your career story. No longer is it a catalog of your history any more than Linked-In is a place to connect with work friends. The frustration is that, not only do we now have to be great writers in our resume creation, now we have to tell our story and allow that story to branch into other communication mediums where the tale will continue to grow.
Eventually we will have most of our career story told through video, blogs, websites, and virtual social networks and the resume will become the gateway of this medium. Because so few resumes ever actually make it to print, we may very well see interactive resumes that change format and data depending on the readers’ requests. Much like a Harry Potter newspaper, imagery will flow with creatively imbedded flash applications which will bring the reader closer to who we are as a person. The nightmare of course would be seeing candidate bobble-head giveaways with each application or finding your resume as a tray liner at Wendy’s or a pop-up screen during our next YouTube search.
This dramatic shift has just started and for now you only have to face what is expected today. Focus on this:
• Your resume must tell the story of how you came from somewhere and how you got here.
• Your resume must hint at the lessons you have learned through the journey and how each lesson made you better.
• Your resume must show action, trials, successes, and how you won in the end.
• Your resume must tell me that the story is far from over and this next chapter (the job you’re applying for) will be the most exciting of all.


With these tweaks, you will capture the person looking at your resume and make them want to hear the whole story. Make the reader ask you how you did what you say you accomplished. Make the interviewer want to know the story behind some of the successes you highlight. Be the star of the film because, for at least in this one moment in your life, it must be “all about you!”
While the catchy phrase “Home is where your story begins” may inspire you to live, breathe, and hold the things that have meaning in your life, the mantra “Your story is where your resume begins” should be the inspiration guidepost for your fascinating tale.

Copyright © 2010 Mike Baumgartner | HR | Consulting | Coach |  Human Resources | Search - CEO, Worklife Survival Center LLC