I Wish The Resume Would Die – An Open Letter

Dear Resume,

Do not take this personally, but I wish you would die. Not once in my career have you ever really helped me get a job. I know that because there is not a single position I have ever held that I was fully qualified for on the day I started. I did not have everything they were looking for and you made damn well sure they knew it. Fortunately for me, I was lucky enough to find companies and hiring managers who saw beyond your limited abilities and gave me a chance in spite of you. And I feel confident in saying that all of them were glad they did.

The problem, Resume, is that you can only see in one direction: backwards. In that regard, you are like a history book. You are fine at documenting what I have done, but you stink at estimating what I am capable of.

You are exceptionally good at pointing out some software program I have never used, or some skill I have yet to demonstrate, even though I have quickly learned to use dozens of new programs and rapidly assimilated many new skills over the course of my career, and could certainly do so again if need be.

You are no longer a tool, but a hurdle. A hurdle I have to get over to help a company who can really benefit from my service. Today, the only thing you care about, Resume, is keywords. You can literally prevent me from helping some company by the simple omission of a single phrase. That is some mighty influence you wield.

I bet on the day he started Microsoft, you would have prevented Bill Gates from getting a job at IBM. You would have succinctly let IBM know, in that way that only you can, that young Mr. Gates clearly did not have what it takes to work there. Well, you know what he was good enough to do then? Start a business that would go on to dwarf IBM. See, you are lousy at measuring potential, and that is why you need to go.

I do not know what should replace you Resume, I only know it is time for you to leave. You have been around for over 500 years. You have done your job. Kudos to you. Now just sail off into retirement and let somebody find a replacement for you.

R.I.P. Resume.


21st Century Worker

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The Most Valuable Asset in the World

With a title such as that, I suppose you are expecting to learn about a special class of rare coins, trophy real estate in the south of France or natural gas exploration in the Marcellus oil field. No. The asset to which I refer is much more valuable. However, every coin that was ever collected, every property ever purchased and every cubic foot of natural gas ever extracted began with the investment of this asset. And no, it is not money. Money is simply a medium for exchanging one asset for another. In and of itself, money—those little pieces of paper with some ink on them—have very little intrinsic value. The asset to which I am referring is intrinsically very valuable.

Usually things that are valuable are scarce, only a few people have them and they tend to hoard it. Not this asset. Not only is it the most valuable asset in the world, but everyone has some of it. It is how we use it, spend it, invest it, that gives it its value. For this asset, while valuable, is also easily squandered. And once it is, it can never be replaced.

This asset is what Warren Buffett, Sam Walton and Bill Gates all used to amass their fortunes. And you have some of what they had when they started. But this asset is fickle. It can be worthless in the wrong hands and worth millions to those who know how to use it.

The asset to which I am referring of course is time. The great equalizer. The richest man in the world gets the same twenty-four hours a day you do. And everyone has some degree of freedom how they spend it. Even a person in prison can choose how they spend their time using their mind.

You can do what you want with your time: drink a beer, watch American Idol, read a book, work out, write a blog, start a charity. It is up to you. Just don’t lose sight of how precious it is. And if you do not think time is the most valuable asset in the world, just talk to a dying person. Ask them which one of their “real” assets is more valuable than the time they have left.

Time is flexible, up to a point. You can savior it, use it, invest it, share it or even squander it. The only thing you cannot do is save it up. It is like a coupon with an expiration date: use it or lose it. So, what are you going to do with your most valuable asset? The clock is ticking.

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I Wish the Resume Would Die

I have probably had about thirteen different jobs in my adult life, and they have run the gamut. I was self employed, formed a two-man partnership, worked at a three-person startup, a few mid-size companies and one or two of the Fortune 500. In thinking back, it occurred to me that I never got a single job as a result of submitting a resume and waiting for someone to call me back and schedule an interview. Some jobs I got did not require a resume, but the ones I did get that required one, the resume was always presented at the time of the interview, like at a job fair. I had a chance to downplay (overcome?) my resume with a good interview.

I am an above-average communicator and I would like to think a pretty good interviewer, but I absolutely suck at writing my own resume. I am genetically deficient in whatever chromosome is required to catalog and quantify my own accomplishments. One of the reasons I struggle is that almost everything significant that I have ever accomplished working for someone else I accomplished as a member of a team.

Resume experts will point out that you have to frame your accomplishments in terms of the bottom line: how much did you make the company or how much did you save the company. Hey, I am an engineer. I don’t save money or make money, I spend it. I work with a team of engineers, we test stuff and hopefully it works. Not much to put on a resume.

The system we have in place today, submit your resume in response to a detailed list of job requirements, does not work. And the main reason it doesn’t work is that most employers do not know how to specify a job’s requirements. I remember one time seeing a job opening for a program manager. The job required a minimum of 18 years of program management experience. Do you know what they call a program manager with 18 years of experience? Retired. Eighteen years? Are you kidding me? If I needed brain surgery and the brain surgeon told me she had only been performing brain surgery successfully for five years I would let her operate. Who came up with eighteen years? Did they do a study and discover that program managers with seventeen years of experience generally didn’t cut it? If you have been doing your job for 18 years you are more likely in need of a career change than a job change.

The only thing the requirements-resume duopoly of insanity has done is to foster a cadre of people who have learned how to job the system by seeding their resumes with key words. Keywords meant to mimic the requirements that target the obvious, but not the valuable. I cannot help but think the day Bill Gates started Microsoft he probably could not have gotten a job at IBM—didn’t meet the requirements (probably 18 years of programming).

Sometimes the prefect employee comes with an imperfect resume. How many of us would get an interview for our current job if we had to submit our resume? It seems to me there are much better ways to find employees.

Why does any employer hire anyone? To solve a problem. You are not an employee, you are a problem solver. If an employer wants to find their next great employee they should not post the job’s requirements, they should post a problem. Or a test. Or solicit some creative work. See who responds.

It takes nothing to fire off a resume, but it takes some initiative to do a homework assignment. Requiring a challenging submittal would eliminate all but the most enthusiastic candidates. And it would do something else.

I do not know how many job openings there are on Monster.com right now. Let’s say there are two million. Do you know how many of those job openings list as requirements “good communication skills?” Two million! Everyone wants an employee who can communicate. Can you learn that from a resume? Probably not. But you can learn it by requiring it as part of the submittal.

And if the employer finds a candidate who responds to their posted problem with enthusiasm, good communication skills and a creative solution, does it matter any longer what is on their resume? Of course not.

I think it is time to put the resume out of our collective misery and start using the new technology available to us to find better and more efficient ways to match employers and employees. What do you think?

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Why Are You Here?

The surest way to self reliance is to make money doing what you love. ~ Carl Weisman

Why are you here? Not, why are you here visiting this blog, although thank you for doing so. Why are you here? On planet Earth? At this moment in time? Have you ever thought about that? Most people haven’t, which is too bad.

Some people know why they are here and they have always known. I have often thought that the greatest gift you can ever been given is to know your life’s purpose at a young age. The problem is that only a precious few receive that gift. You know them: Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, Yo-Yo Ma. They never question how they spend their days. For the rest of  us, it is a—sometimes lifelong—journey, if we choose to embark on it at all: what is our life’s purpose?

How important you think the answer to that question is depends almost entirely on your age. In your twenties? Who cares, pass the beer. In your fifties? Can’t sleep at night not knowing the answer. Time is running out.

If you are like most people, myself included, the way you spend your days is one giant amalgamation of random events. Maybe it was the major you casually chose in college, or some part time job you took one summer or some charity at which you volunteered. Whatever the circumstance, most of us are in a place we did not thoughtfully or consciously choose. Life chose for us, and we dare not change because we are too busy trying to make ends meet.

When you are trying to make ends meet, it is difficult to ponder the question, “Why am I here?” But if you are struggling to make ends meet, either financially or emotionally, have you ever considered that not knowing the answer to that question maybe the reason why?

Half the people I speak with over the age of fifty cannot wait until the day they retire. Do you know why? They hate the way they spend their days. They want to do something else. They are  not living their life’s purpose.

I have spent the better part of the last five years searching for my life’s purpose (as if it were some treasure, just waiting to be dug up). Am I living it today? I am not sure. I can tell you what I have done in the last five years. I have acknowledged my strengths, identified my passions, narrowed down my genius and I now spend my free time doing what I love: writing. And one more thing: I will never stop looking. The answer is just too important.

I would like to think that sharing what I have learned on this journey is my life’s purpose, along the way inspiring others to discover theirs. Maybe, maybe not. In the mean time, I am pretty happy doing what I am doing and I have a vision for so much more. All the result of the continuous search for meaning. Maybe that’s the key: identifying your passion isn’t a destination but a journey. And there is one thing I am sure of: they key to your happiness and fulfillment depends on your being true to your journey and not anybody else’s. Are you ready to take that ride?

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