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The resume versus the “about me” website page

One of the coolest aspects of being a solopro is that in communicating the talents you offer in the marketplace, you are not tied into the conventions of the resume.

This is good because demands upon the simple resume are becoming ever more stringent—and contradictory—in a competitive job market.

For instance, the experts say you should:

  • List your achievements and include lots of keywords in a way that builds your story, but also keep the length down to two pages or even one.

  • Customize your resume for each job you apply to but don’t let even the smallest spelling or formatting error or inconsistency slip in.

  • Be scrupulously truthful but disguise your age if you are “too old.”

That’s why the resume game is so frustrating and plain crazy.

My last good corporate job was as a financial writer for a mutual fund and asset management company. It was a type of marketing communications but with a twist: many of the writing assignments were dry reports on investment performance and all of the writing was subject to stringent regulations preventing “promissory” claims.

The books on how to write a resume love examples from salespeople. Their achievements are exceptionally measurable and clear-cut. “Led region in sales for six consecutive quarters.” “Sold over $5 million of product in 2009.” But in all my years as a resume writer, I don’t recall seeing any published volume of successful resumes that had examples from financial writers.

Let me illustrate some of the problems in writing a resume using my own as an example. (By the way, I’m a certified resume writer and I still faced problems.)

The point of a good resume is to show how you solve problems and contribute to profitability in a measurable way. However, in practice my contribution to corporate performance was slight at best.

A financial writer plays an infinitesimally small role in sales figures. Sales success is determined more by the financial markets, fund performance and even the sales team’s efforts than it is by the writing. Not only does the writer have no input in the factors that determine investment results, but even when results are good, regulations prevent dynamic copy that could drive sales. Even when returns are impressive, so many footnotes are necessary that design and readability concerns also play a role in determining what is printed.

It’s really important to issue quarterly reports on time, generally during the first month of the following quarter. But no matter how diligently the writer strives to meet deadlines, on-schedule publication is at the mercy of executives and other departments that review and re-review and re-re-review each number while the writer has little influence.

A financial writer succeeds when she pleases management and meets her deadlines (even if those higher up the chain later prevent on-time publication). That’s it!

In writing their resumes, some people in such a situation turn to the only numbers available: number of copies printed or number of subscribers or readers. Not a meaningful measure since the writer has little impact on these numbers. Writing a single copy is the same amount of work as writing for a run of one million copies.

Solution?

I’ve helped many marketing communications people with their resumes and regardless of their industry, their problems are similar to mine.

The best that can be done sometimes is to insert prestige names, such as national publications in which a press release has been quoted or big-name clients and corporate partners.

And what does this all have to do with websites?

The point is that a resume is a totally prescribed format. It’s extremely difficult to write because of conflicting advice that must be incorporated into it. For instance, document that your life has been an unbroken chain of dynamic triumphs but at the same time, never lie.

In contrast, if you have a website, you can write your “about” page / bio however you wish. Your age and the interruptions in your work history can be omitted with impunity.

Hurrah for websites! And hurrah for soloproing, which allows greater flexibility than resumes in telling your story.


Originally posted 1-12-10

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