Résumé Machine

149: Why Entrepreneurs Should Think About Their Résumés


Almost every semester, I volunteer as a portfolio reviewer for graduating artists at one of the local universities. Just as in the marketplace, the talent ranges from “Would you consider a career as a ‘sandwich artist’?” to “I’m glad I’m not up against you for a job!”

Two days prior to this portfolio review, hundreds of college students at other universities boycotted classes as part of the Million Student March. They demanded tuition-free public college and cancellation of all student debt, calling college education a basic human right. One of the sentences I heard was, “A college degree doesn’t guarantee a job anymore.”

As a gen xer, I don’t recall a time when a college degree did guarantee a middle class job. I didn’t even know that was the assumption. I went to college to learn a specific trade (in a place where I could make new friends and have more dating options). I hoped to be good enough with that trade at the end of four years to get a company to take a chance on me. Thankfully, one company did.

When I tried to move back to the East Coast from my first career stop out of college, my bachelor’s degree didn’t help, as forty-two straight résumé submissions proved fruitless. The thirty-some auction-industry awards my graphic design had won already didn’t matter, either. I eventually found an employer only when I applied to another auction company.

Within a year, I learned that my value wasn’t in my page layout skills but in my conceptual approach and understanding of the auction process. Early into my freelancing, I started volunteering to teach seminars and then supplemented those by writing blog posts to demonstrate those qualifications. Fast forward a decade, and those two factors are still the majority reasons why I’m employed.

I reflected on that journey after this semester’s portfolio review.

One of the students had created a product not currently on the market, developed the branding, designed the packaging, and even built the point of sale displays for it. Among other praise, I told him that he had proven commercial value because he had surpassed curriculum requirements. He had learned how to harness his (niche) passions into superior effort, which resulted in more hirable talent.

He didn’t feel entitled to a job out of college. He didn’t assume people or companies would line up to hire him.

Neither should we—no matter where we are in our career.

That week of contrast for me was a wakeup call, a reminder to keep working on my game while playing the game. It was healthy for me to realize talent is chasing me, that the playing field might be more level than ever, that I can’t assume auction companies will continue to send me work.

I can’t feel entitled to my job. I have to keep finding ways to add value to my work, more tools for my skill set.

You do, too.

It might require us to take online courses or college classes. We might need to dive into nonfiction books, marketing experiments, focus group sessions, or a plethora of Google and YouTube searches. We might need to join forces with someone else or create a new entity with a different focus. Maybe this growth will come by joining a networking group or trade association. It might even require physically moving to a different geographic area or spending some time traveling to learn from other cultures. Or it might be just making space for more intentional thought and meditation.

Any and all of that comes with a price tag. These pursuits might cost us some of our favorite entertainment and recreation pastimes, maybe even some relationships. Probably some sleep and dollars, too.

Adding value to our professional appeal can also add value to our invoices or closing statements, though. Getting more proficient and more efficient can lead to more job security or market share, more disposable income or working capital, and more vacation time or more days working remotely. The more we add to our functioning résumé, the more distance we create between us and the entitled.

Take it from someone who got hired out of college because of the “extracurricular” section of my first résumé.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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