THE BLOG

How to Fill Those Empty Spaces on Your Resume

05/19/2014 06:11 pm ET | Updated Jul 19, 2014
  • Laura Lehmann Dreamer, writer, entrepreneur; founder of 20to30.com
Blend Images - Ariel Skelley via Getty Images

Remember your first trip to career services? Mine was junior year of college and I was excited to enter the gateway to my future. As I waited to meet with my guidance counselor, I was encouraged to look through a shelf of binders with resumes. You know, the kind of resumes with the pretty fonts, 3.9 GPAs and upward career tracks of consultants and bankers. I could feel the pages glaring back at me: what internships have you done? Will any of your extracurriculars live up to those in the binders? I left the premises worried, would I ever measure up?

Throughout most of my twenties, I questioned my resume and its legitimacy. But lately, I have also begun to question the legitimacy of resumes, period. How could I dissect my career, inextricably linked with my life, into one page? How could I translate into bullet-points stressful career track changes, from media, to biotech, to writing back to media? Under what job title or work experience could I place my cancer diagnosis, lymphoma, some six months after my college graduation? The most transformative experience of my life has never even had a place on my resume and yet it has affected every work decision I have made thereafter. It's also probably made me a stronger employee and leader -- at that, certainly a more stubborn one!

If these perfect resumes in career services binders exist, I would like to meet and greet them. I want to see the faces and hear the voices behind these career trajectories, concise bullet points and truncated paragraphs. Resumes feel abbreviated, exempt of feeling, of effort and truth. It is the transitions from job to job, those empty spaces squeezed between inflated paragraphs that tell the story. What do these spaces stand for: a year spent travelling abroad or goofing around? Unemployment? A crummy morning commute to work? A difficult boss?

Because that morning commute can tell me more about a person's patience and her composure facing unexpected road bumps than a fancy job title can. Because working along a difficult boss for three years can tell me more about someone's dedication to his job, to his field and to feeding his family than a work promotion can.

Perhaps it is also how a job applicant deals with these unspoken spaces that unveils his true potential, rather than a line-by-line evaluation of his accomplishments. Do resumes hold a place in the employment process? Until we find something technologically smarter, they stand as a filter and help employers plow through applications. Should graduating seniors worry about their resumes? To the point that it gives their life story a structure that is easily digestible for the hiring party. But, graduating seniors should not have to look to other resumes as a guiding tool for living the rest of their life.

Some 10 years later, I thank career services everyday for never selecting my resume for one of their binders. My resume has failed in more ways than one to rise to the top of the ladder in any one industry. But, at the very least, my resume belongs to me.