It’s no secret that we aren’t fans of resumes at Praxis.
It’s not that they’re totally useless, it’s just that there are better ways to signal the value you can create in the market. We’ve written here on the blog about pitch decks, free work, and value propositions as effective alternatives and they work really well.
The thing is though, these are all highly specific to the opportunity you’re pursuing. The most valuable professional asset you can invest in is something that is highly transferable. A good story, for example.
The other day I read this quote by investor Chris Sacca: “good stories always beat good spreadsheets.” I’m not sure I agree with this in full, but what I do know is that good stories always beat good resumes.
Whether you’re a student applying to your first job or professional making a career change, your ability to tell a compelling story about your life, your professional interests, your accomplishments, and your abilities will go way further than your resume.
I know this from personal experience.
I wrote about why people should drop out of college for a long time with almost no results. One day, I decided to try a different tune — rather than telling people why THEY should leave school, I’d share with them why I did and what I’m doing instead. It worked. It worked so well my inbox was flooded with speaking opportunties and messages from young kids asking for advice.
The truth is, though we give a lot of tribute to being able to check off boxes, employers don’t really want that in practice. They want to attach themselves to stories and narratives. They want a living, breathing, dynamic human being, not a list of bullets that you put there because the resume template you downloaded said you should.
Praxis CEO Isaac Morehouse wrote this about stories in 2015:
Your story is fun, entertaining, unexpected, and lively. It’s the narrative arc of your life, your motivations, your goals, what wakes you up in the morning, and why you do what you do. It’s not a summary of past accomplishments or even current activities. It’s not a hobbies list. It’s a description of the theme playing out in your world.
If you described the movie The Matrix with the typical cocktail party status approach it’d be a few bullet points like, “Guy quits job. Trained in martial arts. Solved agent Smith problem. Reads code”. Contrast that to the inspiring, unforgettable power of the same facts in story form.
Likewise, contrast your standard resume with a compelling story about why you do the kind of work you do, how you created opportunities in your life, or a time you had to overcome a particular professional challenge.
Bullet points and checklists don’t hold any weight next to “I dropped out of college because it wasn’t offering the experience that I needed. I spent the next two years studying and writing on economics, practicing ping pong and taking on freelance marketing clients.”
In a world where everyone applying to jobs is submitting a resume, your story becomes even more important.
What makes you different from the masses of other people applying for the same position? Do you really think one extra bullet point is going to make the HR person jump out of their seat when they review your resume? Think again.
The side benefit to recognizing the importance of story in your professional life is that things will become a lot more fun. No longer will you be stuck to a narrow range of pre approved activities that you’ve been told look good on a resume. Suddenly that trip to Rome to study Latin looks like a much better investment than spending time at a boring, coffee getting internship. Suddenly your decision to leave college or do Praxis looks a lot more interesting to an employer than your friend’s decision to play it safe and follow the rules.
Whatever your story is, live it, own it, and share it with the world. You are not a resume and you are not a bulleted list.