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Roger Wright

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The Resume Has No Clothes

Posted: 12/11/2013 4:52 pm

When do resumes fall short?

Every time we think they are enough to make a decision about who should fill a job.

Say you're looking for a baker. How does the world's best baker put the smell of chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven, on a resume? Resumes, for all the work done on branding and skills or experience lists or formatting, are never the full picture.

Resumes drive the giant, sputtering, dysfunctional job search machine -- costing untold dollars in wasted time. All while we assume they are telling us a story.

A resume is a data dump. This is a story.

True story. I can remember reaching down into the grey, soapy bathwater slime, grabbing the veteran with no legs under his arms, pulling him out to sit on the side of the bathtub, and handing him a towel.

That leaves an impression. Teaches you something that would never in a million years wind up on a resume.

None of what follows is on any resume. It's part of my story.

Once I worked for a long-term care facility. A yellow brick fortress of the elderly plunked down in front of a lovely green park in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb just north of Chicago.

My job changed a lot as the months passed. As the green rains of spring tapered off to memory, I was paid to sit on a park bench all day and make sure none of the old people did anything weird. There were "community concerns." I was the answer.

Max was my favorite old guy in the park. We'd sit on the bench together and he'd tell stories of his tailor shop on the West Side of Chicago in the years after the Second World War on up through the sixties.

Max told me once about a local civil rights leader who later went on to national prominence. Max knew him when he first came to Chicago, started a ministry, started feeding people and providing hope.

One day this leader was making his rounds. Flanked by his muscle, two blank faced walking redwood trees, they pushed their way into Max's tailor shop. The little bell on the door tinkling and then crashing to the floor because they opened the door so hard.

The civil rights leader looked around the shop, looked at Max who had stopped sewing, standing ready with his needle, and the civil rights leader said in a monotone, "You want this place to stay safe, you give me some money."

Max understood. In the wake of Dr. King's death and in the general tenor of the times, the business being transacted at that moment was called "protection." The way it worked was that the vulnerable paid the powerful "protection" money.

And no one's store got burned down.

It was business as usual. It happened a lot. Not just in Chicago. And the man standing in the gold silk pants and open orange shirt staring down Max was not the only "provider" of protection.

Max said to the man, "I don't have any money."

The man looked around the small shop and said, "Then make me a pair of pants."

Max nodded. The entourage trooped out. Max made the pants and his store did not burn down.

Most of the rest of the block was destroyed.

Max and I spent hours on that bench. And when the golden swirl of autumn came and no one sat outside anymore, after Max was gone, I became a janitor.

Mostly I painted and mopped. I was terrible at both. Even when I tried my hardest.

Then an "Activities Director" quit so I traded in my mop for a shiny blue smock and I became an Activities Director. Part of that job was to help the residents keep clean. So I helped give then baths. Part was to keep them busy. So we did "Geriatric Improv" games. Perhaps a first.

Another part of that job was pocketing a fist full of dollars from the Facilities Director, being handed the keys to his powder blue Lincoln Mark VI, and driving to a racetrack called "Sportsman's Park."

Having being given detailed instructions on what to do once I got to the park, I almost always came back with lots more money than when I started. Once there was so much money that a $100 bill was peeled off the roll I handed in and given back to me with a wink and a nod.

Probably a good idea to leave that off the resume. Or maybe not?

Truth told, the job was so long ago that it would never appear on a resume. Only go back 10 years on a resume. That's gospel. Today, when everything about work has changed except for the thinking about how people connect to work, resumes are the unit of currency.

So the important stories of our lives are submerged under bullet points of dates and duties. Made into data.

Truth without heart.

And the inborn, hard-wired talents we're born with are drowned out in facts.
Back then, when I worked at the yellow brick fortress for the aging bodies with summer young hearts, I could go from job to job immediately because everyone knew I had a talent for "getting things started."

Years later, The Gallup Organization did the world wide research for that talent and put language around it. They called it "Activator." The "activator" always has one question: "When can we start?" An Activator can work from the blank piece of paper.

A valuable talent? Maybe. Depends on the situation. But it would never come across in a resume. Only in a talent.

When do resumes fall short? When do resumes have no clothes?

When we assume they really tell a person's story.

 

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