Just back from Scotland for recruiting. Same universities as last time, St. Andrews and Edinburgh. Last year, this is the trip that inspired the A Glimpse and a Hook article, so it’s appropriate that this year’s trip forces a revision.
I bagged on the objective section of the resume in the Glimpse piece, using the argument that I found objectives pointless, but after a solid week of scrubbing, thinking, and talking about resumes, I’m prepared to get proactive. Sure, many objectives are crap. The question is, why are they crap?
A crappy objective section in a resume suffers from the same issues as the rest of the resume: standardization. Your first resume started with a question: “How do I write it?” A kind person whipped out a resume, showed it you, and it resonated with you so you copied the structure. Problem was, you didn’t stop there. You also copied the style of the writing. You borrowed the boring, vanilla language where you described your hopes and dreams in the language of business. “I am a motivated team player looking for a high growth opportunity at a company which does not blow.”
Yuck. The only interesting word in that objective is blow.
I’m a fan of grabbing the bright ideas of other people, but I’m a bigger fan of you tweaking their ideas and making them your own. Your resume, like your objective, should give me a sense of you and where you’re going. I want to see a little ego and I want to see your character because I’m not hiring a flat piece of paper, I’m hiring a person. But when I start, all I have is the paper.
I update my resume every six months whether I’m looking for a new gig or not.
A resume refresh gives me perspective. I don’t get a report card much anymore, just a yearly focal review which pretty much tells me what I already know: grew a little here, fucked up there… a bit more money.
A resume revision doesn’t remind me of how I’m doing, it forces me to think about where I’m going. Your objective, like your resume, is a snapshot of your professional life. In a few brief sentences, you need to clearly describe your professional goals in your own voice. You need to explain where you are professionally pointed.
Here’s my current objective:
I need to work with bright people who don’t take no for an answer and are crazy about well-designed software. If these people aren’t there when I show up, I work hard to find them.
Is this everything I’ve ever wanted to achieve? No. Will the reader understand all of my skills, all of my capabilities? No. Will they get the idea that I value design, people, and might be a little crazy? Yup.
When you’re thinking of your objective, I want to think of yourself sitting at bar. You’re two drinks in and you’re pitching a friend about what you want to do with your life. While this casual, egotistical, mildly trashed tone may best suit high tech gigs, seriously, what do you have to lose being yourself?
You’re stressing as you work on your resume because usually when you’re updating your resume, you’re in need of a job. In this stress, you fall back on convention — on standardization — because getting the resume done feels less important than the job hunting and being original takes a lot of work.
Problem. There are a bazillion people out there who are looking for the same gigs you want. The barrier to entry is not that someone can hunt down a job opening; the barrier to entry is getting noticed amongst a sea of mediocre resumes.
Here is an audacious goal for your resume: to get you to a point in your career where you no longer need a resume. It’s the point that in your chosen industry people know who you are and what you are capable of. And they want you doing it at their companies.
It’s a tricky lifetime goal, one that I’m still working on, but that’s the goal I want you to think about when you’re stressing about your professional objective. It’s not your next job you need to stress about; it’s your career.