Turning the Resumé on its Face

Resumés suck. They suck bad. Somehow, you need to convince a prospective employer that you are, in fact, the right candidate for a job. Or you might be and they should take a second look at you and maybe give you the time of day to put up a phone interview.

You have to convince someone that you are entirely worth the time and effort without ever speaking to them. It’s all got to be conveyed on this little 1-2 page document that gives a snapshot of everything you are and can do professionally.

And you have to do it in a bad economy when people with Masters degrees are also looking for work. Maybe you too have a Master’s degree. That’s okay, you’re still competing against all the rest of them.

The traditional way of building a resumé is to provide a chronological context of every school and degree you’ve received along with every professional role over the last 7-10 years, give or take.

What do you do when you’re in the tech space and the requisite skills are constantly changing? What do you do when your role at the last 3 companies were essentially the same with little deviance in the job description?

Do as I do… flip your resumé on it’s face.

Let’s face it. If a company is going to hire you into a role, they want to know that you’re going to be innovative in your approach to the job and that you’re willing to think outside the box to do the best job you can. If they don’t, you probably don’t want to work for them anyway as they are plainly hiring you to just follow marching orders and that, let’s face it, sucks ass. There’s no place to achieve and rise to the top because you’re just doing things the way you’re told, by the book, all day every day. Sounds like a reason to drive off a cliff, if you ask me.

Let’s provide some context as to how this concept has worked for me for years.

In 1994, I graduated from a private high school in Annapolis, Md. I hated school but I went to a community college and decided not to do any general education coursework, as is typical. At the time, this school was piloting a program that shifted all the coursework from the police academy to the school with only firearms training being done at the academy. This was the county’s idea of slimming the budget. So I decided being a cop sounded like fun and I pursued a bunch of criminal justice work in my first year of college.

I dropped out after a year and pursued other interests.

Years later, I was given the opportunity with little experience to work in a federal data center for a government contracting company. I spent three years in that windowless data center watching my life slip away from me. It gave me a shot though.

As I started looking to move up inside the company, I realized that to do so meant punching some certification cards. I put a few small ones under my belt – enough to get a promotion to work desktop IT support as a contractor for the U.S. Navy. I did well in that role, consistently rating among the highest, knowledgeable techs on that contract.

When that contract expired and I was RIFfed (Reduction in Force), the company scooped me up into a similar role on the corporate side. Again, I was able to perform at a high level and by the time I left in 2006, I was single-handedly responsible for the IT support of 7 offices around the Baltimore/Washington area.

I still had no formal education, so during this time, I went back to another community college and worked toward getting coursework under my belt that would allow me a 4-year degree at some point in the future.

That was until I said, “Fuck it”, and went into the startup world. For the past 6 years, I have worked at or started 3 startups and ran my own consulting business in between (as I still do today). I did some advisory consulting with the Air Force, wrote a book, and even taught some classes at the post-graduate level at major universities including American University. Not bad for no degree.

Today, I still have no formal education. I’m a few credit away from a 2-year degree which wouldn’t be worth the paper it was printed on. When I went back to school, my experience was such that I was teaching the teachers.

I can go into a diatribe about how higher education is broke in this country, but I feel like I would be preaching to the choir. While some of my experience can be translated as college credit, most is ignored despite the fact that, in my field, I am 5-7 years ahead of what they are teaching in colleges today. And while a 4 year degree would be fairly useless to me as the industry is ahead of academia, a Master’s could be quite handy. Sadly I can’t get a Master’s without a 4-year, but I digress.

Coming back to the point about the resumé. I have tremendous chronological gaps if I were to formulate my resumé in traditional fashion. Am I ashamed of having no degree? No. Do I want to highlight that fact? Hell no. It’s unfortunate that America’s HR departments have been trained by buffoons who play to the checkboxes instead of actual skill, but those are the rules we play by.

Instead, I present to you an achievement/skills-based resumé. Instead of discussing formal education or companies that have been worked at ad nauseum, try laying it out to highlight the things you’ve accomplished along the way. I begin my resume with several one-sentence paragraphs that describe achievements I’ve made professionally – not for a company, for me.

I then mention companies I’ve worked at, purely for the sake of context. I also use LinkedIn recommendations I’ve received over the years to highlight what others say about me.

These three steps provide the context needed for employers to decide if they want to talk to me. If I can humblebrag, I usually get phone interviews for the companies I want to talk to and they usually go deep into multiple rounds. I’m still working for myself because timing, pay or perks are off in the end, but I rarely fail to get the attention of someone who I want to work for.

Try this concept. Maybe A/B test between a resumé of the format I’m describing and a more traditional one and see which one gets more traction. It can’t hurt, right?

Oh and here’s my resumé.

User Generated Hiring

I was not at the latest incarnation of Social Media Club Austin. I stopped going to SMC back in DC. The reason is… Marketing has usurped social media.

Today, when someone mentions a social media job, it’s almost always a marketing job. This is all wrong. Social media pertains to every industry. Not just marketing. And I’m tired of it being bastardized by coat-riders.

I was using social media in 2000 on forums. It’s how I learned my art. Or the beginnings of it. I started blogging in 2003 long before Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

When panelists say, “I’d look at LinkedIn” or, “I’d look at Facebook” when asked what source they would look to if they could only choose one in the hiring process… I want to smack my face!

Why are you going to rely on user-generated content to validate an employee. Ask Yahoo! And their board how that worked out for them.

I can say anything I want. CS degree from University of Maryland (Go Terps!) and 6 years of experience using social media (true, I was a Twitter early adopter and a Facebook member in 2006 when they opened up their walled garden to non-college students). It doesn’t make it true!

But I’m not the guy they want. They want someone with digital marketing experience.

So why the fuck are they looking at FB or LI??

I mean, the bar is set low, right?

I’ve got 10kish followers on Twitter. I must be important. Maybe not as important as, say, @katyperry, but I must be an awesome communicator…

Hahah. Do you see the bullshit I tweet? And my follower count keeps going up! And people still want to hire me for their bullshit marketing jobs!

Common sense… Checked out.

Ronald Reagan said, “Trust yet verify”. Clearly Yahoo! didn’t do that.

And here’s the crux. You’re trusting marketers looking for a job to paint an accurate picture of themselves on social networks that are infested with self-aggrandizing?

“Oh I know the CEO of Startupr… The instagram of photo sharing”.

O RLY? Do tell!

Fuck that noise.

There’s a reason the FBI, CIA and NSA do extensive background checks and polygraphs. And the polys have to be re-upped. Every 5 years. Do we still trust him? Can we verify? Has he cheated on his wife and is he susceptible to blackmail? Same with credit checks. If he needs money, what will he do with our secrets?

(I’d fail)

So stop blowing smoke and hand-jobbing people. That communication intern may be cheap but he’s got 6 months experience and has no LinkedIn quality.

Look at GitHub. That’s social media. Oh but damn… It’s not marketing. Yeah but the code is public and you can bet on ACTUAL data rather that user-generated data.

By the way… I graduated from Stanford.

How Has Social Software Changed Your Life?

This is an open comments style post, so I want your comments.

The thing about my “beat”, as they’d call it in the newspaper business, is that I’m not really all that interested in “the news”. I’m not trying to cover all the stories, nor am I trying to cover most of them. I’m not trying to “break” anything or peddle products. I want to understand how social software affects my life. And yours.

Text comments will be deleted in this thread as I want video comments. ;) Click on the Sessmic Video comments link below. If you don’t already have one, grab a free account over at Seesmic.com.

This is what I want to know. How has social software benefited you? This is open ended and I want you to define what I mean by this. Some example questions might be:

  1. How you got a job using LinkedIn
  2. How you found an old crush on Facebook
  3. How blogging helped you gain support for a good cause
  4. How you used Flickr to communicate to your family on the other side of the world
  5. How you used Brightkite to track your migration habits
  6. How Twitter made the World Series special for you
  7. How you had a brilliant entrepreneurial idea from a discussion on FriendFeed
  8. How you used VC portfolio companies to attract the attention of a VC and get funded
  9. How you made a career by offering advice on a blog

These are easy examples. I want you to offer your own insight on how, sometime, somewhere, social tools have enhanced your life. Tell us your story on video. If you don’t, I’ll look like a complete idiot for this format – but I’m okay with that. :)