Living for your Resume

June 16, 2010 | resume writing,Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Written by: admin

There’s something I need to get off my chest and that’s how puzzled I am seeing some people making decisions based on “how it looks on their resume.”

Do you do this?

To me, that’s life imitating art. Or something warped like that.

You may be surprised to hear me say this – as the resume expert – but come on folks! Do you really want to relinquish that much power to your resume?

What I see happening is people making career decisions – sometimes life decisions – primarily based on how it will look on their resume.

Of course, there may be situations where you don’t have a big preference for the options you’re considering, and if one of them looks a lot better on your resume, then it could makes sense.

But this living for your resume mentality is sad.

Here’s the thing: there probably is a reason you are driven to do something that you think is not going to look very good on your resume. It may be that you want to do something completely different, or take a sabbatical, or take a step back, or a few months off…

So do it!

The feelings and intuition and passion that guide us on our paths in life are hard enough for most of us to follow anyway. You don’t need another self-imposed, made-up reason why you can’t (read: won’t).

Because you know what? There are plenty of people in great careers at great companies with not-so-perfect resumes. And there are people with these so-called “perfect resumes” sitting at home being unemployed right now.

It doesn’t matter!

Who knows? During your sabbatical or your trip around the world, you could end up with inspiration to start your own business, meet your future spouse, or realize you want to switch careers altogether.

I’m not trivializing the role of the resume here. I’ve yet to meet someone who moved from one job (or career) to the next without having to produce a resume. And it’s true that hiring folks frown upon large employment gaps and stuff. So yes, it may be more challenging for you to create a strong resume next time around.

However, your resume is just one way of introducing yourself to an employer. There is so much more to you and how you present yourself. My advice is to hire a resume pro for any kind of challenging background anyway. (Full disclosure: I will gladly take you on as my client as working with people with not-so-standard backgrounds is my specialty).

But for crying out loud…don’t put off life out of fear for the “almighty resume!”

If you’ve got an interesting story to tell and you know what sets you apart, and if you can market and present yourself; “perfect resumes” be damned!

Resume Schmesume.


Now, I want to know…are you guilty of “that won’t look good on my resume” talk? What have you NOT done out of fear it would “ruin” your resume? Tell me! And I’ll tell you whether you could revitalize that old dream or side step without fear from the resume gods.  ;  )


  1. Perhaps it’s not so much “how it will look on my resume” as it’s development opportunities, delayed gratification, etc. If someone can work for a company that will invest in their development, or put a premium brand name on their resume, or provide some other future benefit, that might be a good choice. Only the individual knows what’s right for them.

    Comment by Donna Svei — June 17, 2010 @ 11:26 am

  2. Nope. It’s literally “but if I do (xyz), it will look bad on my resume.”

    If a choice represents a clear advantage to someone, then it’s simply doing what makes sense…for their life, their career, AND their resume.

    I’m talking about people whose primary motivation is how something will look on their resume and who will refrain from going after what they really want based on this fear.

    How do I know what’s in their head? They’ve told me so! : ) These statements are coming from (past) clients, people I encounter, people that email me, and friends of mine.

    In the majority of cases, it’s about taking time off to do something else or making a move that is more in line with what they want to be doing but not very “strategic” or prestigious.

    Thanks for commenting and letting me clarify!

    : )

    Comment by careerbranches — June 17, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  3. So do you see “living for your resume” as a cop-out? Is there ever a valid reason to live for your resume?

    Comment by Monica — June 17, 2010 @ 6:28 pm

  4. I can safely say I’m not one whose decisions and changes have been affected by how it might look on a resume.

    Of course, that may well be the reason why my life experience account is overflowing, and my bank account is on life support.


    Comment by Cran Herlihy — June 17, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

  5. Monica: I see it not so much as a cop-out but as a misguided approach to life and work.

    I think living for your resume never makes sense.

    You’re either strategic or you’re not; if you have a specific goal in mind and you know what it takes to get there, then it’s a wise thing to follow that path.

    But what I’m talking about is folks who will literally have nu use for a specific experience, but will get it/do it only because it looks good on paper OR who really want to do something different from what they’ve done so far but won’t out of fear for what it will do with their resume..

    Mind you..they’re not concerned about what the effect will be on their lives or careers, just their resumes.

    Comment by careerbranches — June 18, 2010 @ 5:04 am

  6. Cran: LOL! Now for the million dollar question: Are you happy? Do you wish you’d done things differently?

    Comment by careerbranches — June 18, 2010 @ 5:06 am

  7. The short answer?
    Yes … and yes …

    But, for a million dollars, I can expand on that –

    Yes, I am happy with the decisions I made at the time I made them, and would make each again under the same circumstances; I’m happy with the person inside who was molded^ by the experiences – the adventures, and the people I would not have otherwise encountered.

    And yes, with the benefit of hindsight, there are some things I wish I could go back and do differently, in order to avoid the unnecessary bad spots (have to keep the necessary ones for the lessons they taught); more to have argued myself out of the moments when I hesitated and consequently missed out on something I really wanted and was being offered but I was too nervous to see it; but mostly, I wish I had signed and sold the movie rights – I see Keifer Sutherland playing me…

    ^ yes, it’s a play on the word – it’s true, I’m a fun guy

    Comment by Cran Herlihy — June 18, 2010 @ 8:28 am

  8. This reminds me of Garr Reynolds’ presentation based on a book by Daniel Pink about career choices : successful people make decisions for fundamental rather than instrumental reasons (see slides 83 and following).

    Comment by Lionel Ancelet — June 19, 2010 @ 1:53 pm

  9. Haha! Too funny. But also great input.

    It’s interesting how regrets seem to typically revolve around things we did *not* do; risks not taken.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Cran!

    Comment by Ilona — June 27, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

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