Stop Relying on Your Resume

What if you promise yourself that when pursuing your next job, you won’t provide a resume until after you’ve had a meaningful conversation with the hiring manager? That’s right, no resume until both parties believe there may be a match.

I admit that I’m still under the influence of Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, in which he highlights resumes’ propensity to hide the very attributes that make individuals truly valuable. Instead, he writes, “a resume gives the employer everything she needs to reject you. Once you send me your resume, I can say, ‘Oh, they’re missing this or they’re missing that,’ and boom, you’re out.”

This isn’t as crazy as one might think. A resume is frequently just a tool to get past the initial screening by the HR department. Its format is designed to make you look much like everyone else in the field, and is not a good way to make yourself stand out. On the other hand, if your reputation precedes you, or if you establish rapport with the hiring manager before there is even a job opening, you’ll be ahead of your competition for the position.

If you promise yourself to only use the resume closer to the end of the interviewing process as a mere formality, you’ll motivate yourself to showcase yourself in other ways. You’ll have no choice but to take on projects that make you stand out from the crowd in ways such as:

  • Developing tools that showcase your creativity and technical prowess
  • Maintaining a blog to share insights in your specific area of expertise
  • Sharing your knowledge with members of your favorite professional association
  • Releasing a regular podcast that discusses the topics relevant to your field
  • Organizing informal meet-up events to help build a community related to your expertise
  • Participating on off-line and on-line social networks related to your profession
  • Self-publishing a mini e-book that shares your perspective with the world

This isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work.

Maybe making a promise to yourself is what it’ll take to not only become incredibly good at what you do, but earn a job that appreciates and nurtures your skills. Just a thought.

If this is interesting to you, read my earlier writing on IT careers and the interviewing process, which includes my thoughts on why depth of knowledge in IT is not enough to excel.

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About the Author

Lenny Zeltser is a business and tech leader with extensive experience in information technology and security. His areas of expertise include incident response, cloud services and product management. Lenny focuses on safeguarding customers' IT operations at NCR Corporation. He also teaches digital forensics and anti-malware courses at SANS Institute. Lenny frequently speaks at conferences, writes articles and has co-authored books. He has earned the prestigious GIAC Security Expert designation, has an MBA from MIT Sloan and a Computer Science degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

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