• Daniel K. Berman, PhD

Life Is Like a Resume: Five Rules to Write By


How is life like a resume? As a long-time resume editor and writer, let me count (some of) the ways:

1. You get out of it what you put into it.

As a general rule, the people who get the most out of life are the people who give the most of themselves, proportionate to what they hope to receive in return. As it is in life, so it is with resumes. Amazingly, many people think that they can somehow skimp on the time and resources they invest in their resumes—and still expect that it will reel in all kinds of wonderful offers and opportunities. “As you sow, so shall you reap,” in life in general, as in the world of resumes and job hunting. Phrased in the negative, as the late great Billy Preston first intoned in 1974, “Nothing from nothing leaves nothing.”

2. Honesty is the best policy.

Being honest is not the same as emphasizing your flaws or failing to put yourself in the best light possible. Rather, it means refraining from that which is not truthful. Many are the stories of successful—even famous—people who fell abruptly from grace after falsehoods on their part were exposed. The great irony in most of these cases is that their prevarications were unwarranted. There are plenty of honest ways to talk yourself up—even to explain failings convincingly. If you don’t yet know how to do this effectively, you can always find someone who does, to help you.

There are plenty of honest ways to talk yourself up—even to explain failings convincingly.

3. Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes yields huge rewards.

This is really just a restatement of the classic Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you were tasked with screening resumes, how would you feel about reading through several pages of a resume that could have been cut down to a one- or two-page format, if only the writer had taken the time and made the effort to do so? You probably wouldn’t be very happy about it, to the point that it would decrease the favorability with which you regard the person behind that resume. On what basis, then, could you expect someone else to feel or react differently? The world would be a better place—and job searches would be smoother—if we extended to others the same element of consideration that we would like to be shown ourselves.

4. It pays to be focused.

People who approach their lives with focus tend to be much more successful—and happier—than those who do not. And so it is with resumes. A good resume is targeted clearly to a specific type of opportunity. “But what if I’m interested in more than one type of opportunity?” you might be wondering. Answer: Prepare different versions of your resume, each targeted to a specific niche. To anyone who might say to that, “But that takes too much time,” I would refer them back to item number one above. To anyone who might say, “But there are so many niches I want to target,” I would say: You would probably be well advised to sharpen your focus, maybe with the aid of some career counseling or life coaching.

People who approach their lives with focus tend to be much more successful—and happier—than those who do not. And so it is with resumes.

5. Longer is not necessarily better.

Life is best measured, as the saying goes, not by the number of breaths we take but rather by the moments that take our breath away. Quality, in other words, trumps quantity—and so it is again with resumes as it is with life in general. All the more so, in fact, for a number of reasons. In the world of resumes, less is more. This overlaps with what was said in item number three above. A shorter, more concise, resume beats a longer, verbose resume, any day of the week … and it does so hands down. The people I’ve worked with over the years, to pare their multi-page resumes down to one or two pages are not only pleasantly surprised to see the improvement in the presentation. They also feel a tremendous sense of relief, the way that someone who has been carrying excess baggage (either physically or emotionally) does when that weight comes off their shoulders. Go ahead and take the challenge if you feel up to it: Strike out whatever verbiage impresses you on close inspection as unimportant. You, too, will breathe a sigh of relief—and be impressed by how much better your resume looks.

These five ways come first to mind, though there are doubtless others, which may be described in future posts.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr Social Icon
  • Instagram