Feeling unremarkable? Rewrite your resume

In the coming weeks, some of my largest long-term contracts will be wrapping up, and I’ve found myself wondering if I should try to put myself into the workforce as a full-time employee at a single company again, rather than as a freelancer on several different projects.

Of course, the main thing that keeps me from applying to the full-time grind is a reminder of the horrors of the application process: the rejections with no explanation, the clear lack of a recruiter or hiring manager even looking at your experience, the understanding that only people who knew people could get in to an interview, and even then, you may be disregarded as a piece of human resource rather than a person with feelings.

But another of the hardest aspects of diving back into the application process for me is having to rewrite my resume.

I have gone through dozens of iterations of my resume, from the text-only format that my college boyfriend’s father recommended in my early 20s to the eye-catching, sky blue template a friend found for me after we were all laid off from a tech company in my early 30s to the crammed-full CV I have tried on and off throughout my 15 years looking for work in the real world.

With a possible interview pending, I decided to just bite the bullet and Google “best resume layout” to see what I could do. I found a straightforward article on Medium by Marc Cendella, the founder of The Ladders. It recommended several absolutes to write a winning resume, the biggest piece of advice being “use only success verbs in your work experience” (and a limited list of verbs at that).

I don’t know about you, but my resume has generally just been a list of the work I was assigned to do, plus my extra curriculars and community involvement (which, given my unemployment history, has been far more compelling than some of my day jobs). Having to think about it as a shortlist of my accomplishments made it a lot more interesting. It was also extremely difficult.

This exercise revealed to me that I have rarely taken the time in my full-time jobs to truly consider my successes. I’ve been so downtrodden by the drudgery of cubicle life that I’ve lost sight of the fact that I’m really actually quite good at a lot of things, when given the space and resources to do them, and even when I don’t enjoy them. I’ve gained mastery of certain skills over the 10 years I’ve been working in marketing, and it shows.

Because I’ve been laid off or let go or looked over so many times, I had forgotten that I actually have a list of accomplishments under my belt that is worth recognizing. I’ve been so focused on the people who haven’t understood my abilities that I forgot to focus on what those abilities were. While my “resume” that was just a list of past tasks has been called “impressive”, my list of successes is even¬† more so.

And so I have created a new resume that, while I don’t think encompasses everything that’s great about my capabilities, is at least possibly capable of getting past the junior recruiter whose keyword-seeking software is going to be crawling my hard-earned document.

My advice if you’re feeling unremarkable: rewrite your resume as a list of your accomplishments. It’s a great exercise in remembering what you’re good at.

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