Uncharted Waters

Dec 18 2014   2:11PM GMT

You Can Live Without a Resume!

Michael Larsen Michael Larsen Profile: Michael Larsen

Let’s try a thought experiment. Imagine that any reference to any credential, work history or licensing body you or I might have was housed on a central server. Now imagine that server suffered an irreparable meltdown. Boom! In one instance, all the proof of our schooling, our work history, any certificate we ever earned, any certification or credential we may have ever held, is now irretrievably gone. Oh, and we are both looking for work.

What would you do?

Resume with generic text

Is a resume really all you are?

Matt Heusser posted a well rounded commentary of “Zero to One” last week, and in it, he asked us to consider and discuss “a counter-intuitive truth” that we know or believe to be true, but flies in the face of convention or current practice. I’ve determined that my counter-intuitive truth fits in with the above thought experiment; those of us who forgo traditional resumes will do better than those who relentlessly polish theirs.

In the scenario above, I asked “what would you do if any proof of your work history or credentials vanished?” I did not say that your work vanished. To me, this is the real differentiator. If we have a beautiful resume, but little we can show for it, then the credentialing and resume we care so much about is virtually worthless. What we should care about is the work that we do, and make efforts to put the work we do front and center.

I first discovered the idea of “Living without a Resume” from Seth Godin, when I read his book “Linchpin” in 2010. In it, he asked how people would find work if they didn’t have any paper proof of what they could do. His suggestions were as follows:

Have three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects,
Or have a sophisticated project they can see or touch,
Or have a reputation that precedes you,
Or have a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up.

Some say, “well, that’s fine, but I don’t have those.” Seth responded with “Yeah, that’s my point.”

question mark

Encourage questions, have them want to know more!

I struggled with how to achieve the first three options, but the fourth option? That I could attempt to do. My software testing blog went live the next week.

Over the past five years, every project, employment offer, or opportunity to get involved with initiatives stemmed from that decision, the decision to put my work and my ideas in a place that transcended a resume. I haven’t had an official resume now for five years. I point people to my blog and say “here’s my resume. Read it for a half an hour. If you are interested, let me know”. That may sound cocky, but it’s not meant to be. I want to have anyone that would consider hiring me understand what I actually can do and what I can’t do. I want employers to see me for who I am, nothing more, nothing less. I also do not want to give them prefabricated reasons to say “no” to working with me. If they are going to say no, they will say no from more than a bullet point on a piece of paper.

This idea is scary, I understand that. However, I have to say the past five years have proven this approach to be effective. I can also claim a “loophole” in that I do have a LinkedIn account, and it does have a job history, but it also has links to many of my presentations, recorded talks, published articles and initiatives. In short, it’s a real representation of me, good and bad, and much more complete than any resume will ever represent. I encourage those looking to embrace a counter-intuitive truth to do likewise.

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