Stories We Tell: The Resume

Resumes tell stories about us. Our job history. Whether we went to an Ivy League school, a public university or a small liberal arts school. How we spend our free time. Our accomplishments. Areas of interest. Each of those contains stories, too, which come out during interviews.

Sometimes the stories we tell are not the stories others hear, or see.

Mom’s View

My mother looks at my resume with that look that only a teacher can give.

  • 6 months.
  • 1 year and 8 months.
  • 9 months.
  • 1 year and 11 months.

It doesn’t look good to a potential employer.

It looks like I can’t hold a job.

I argue the last stint listed. In total, I spent three years at that company. I started working there in October of 2010, as a contractor, remote. I moved to Vancouver myself in January of 2012 and became an official employee in February 2012. So, technically, combining the time spent as a contractor with the time spent as an employee, I worked for the same company from October 2010 to December of 2013.

Three years and two months, give or take.

My mother, the teacher, looks a little deeper into my resume and says I showcase resilience. The “jobs” I’ve held haven’t always been in the best of work environments, something that is coming to light with gender discrimination and poor treatment of women in tech focal points of conversation today.

She also points out that each “job” has flexed a different writing skill that has been a little bit ahead of its time, either generally or by industry. Online marketing wasn’t yet a thing when I was an online marketing coordinator.

I went into a company as a corporate communications coordinator, documented their processes and found areas to streamline, not to mention building an Intranet from scratch using DotNetNuke so there was central repository of information.

Joining a legal tech startup had amply opportunity before community management was a thing, I leveraged that into a managing editor position with the American Bar Association, taking Law Technology Today from a handful of contributors to 118 before I decamped from legal tech for a Silicon Valley startup looking to do big things for privacy, identity and background screening.

Those all required learning new skill sets, like project management, training and teaching myself enough technical skills to get the job done.

The Mentor’s View

My mentor looks at my resume and says Risk Taker, pointing out the things I’ve done that are “risky:”

  • Freelanced writing user documentation, blog posts, and general website content before it was a thing.
  • Started my own consulting company during the Recession.
  • Moved to Canada to work for a startup.
  • Moved to California to work for a startup.

Each new “job” has been a risk, and not all of them have panned out, yet I continue to take them. That demonstrates fearlessness and wisdom to know when it’s time to pivot. Those are qualities employers want, and can’t often find.

He then points to my list of articles for various publications, signifying my ability to spot things before others and raise questions no one considers or wants to ask. He points to the all the work I did at the ABA and with Law Technology Today, which always makes me a little sad as there is so much more I could’ve done had I stayed. To which he says California called and I had to answer, or I would forever wonder and kick myself for letting it go to voicemail.

My View

To be honest, my view is in flux. I used to consider my job hopping a bad thing. Looking at it, face value, it does look like I can’t hold a job. And yes, I can say some of it is out of my control. Companies lay people off when economies collapse, and startups lay people off when funding falls through.

Some of it has been my choice, too, like deciding that I didn’t want to work in a condescending and insulting environment, or that California life, as much as I’ve dreamed about it, turns out not to be for me.

Right now, at this particular moment, I see my resume as continually building my writing and editing skills. More simply: it builds my storytelling skills while sprinkling bits of project management, strategy, teaching and other “soft skill” lessons throughout.

The word that comes to mind is Experience. Not the traditional “rising through the ranks of corporate America” so I easily fit into a cubbyhole, but experience none-the-less.

Embarking on this new nomad freelance adventure will certainly add new skills, and stretch ones I’ve acquired.

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