I approached my art table the other evening with a strong urge to make something.
I knew there was something that needed expression, but nothing emerged in my brain.
Instead of abandoning the enterprise, I looked at what I had already been working on. I love making doodles and filling them in with pen or watercolor, and sometimes I add ephemera to the pages to make collages. I keep folders of scraps and images that I can use for this process.
I don’t always have a plan, but in nearly every case, I see some pattern or idea take shape and can build on it.
This time, I decided to use what I had already created as a starting point. I picked up a pair of scissors and a small knife and began cutting out a bunch of my doodles. Then I began arranging them on a piece of thick watercolor paper to make a scene.
It was fun. I could play with the elements, place them in different positions, and see what the picture told me.
That picture drove my decisions about whether to add background shading or bring in some additional elements, phrases, or words. (See the image above for the result.)
While I was working, I reflected on the process I use with my clients who are in a job search. I realized that it’s not unlike my collage process.
In fact, a resume is kinda like a collage.
It’s a curated composition of what you have achieved in your career. It is designed to convey a unified message or theme.
Maybe you haven’t thought of it this way. But let’s break it down:
During your career, you have accumulated experience. You have learned skills, then used those skills to achieve results.
Along the way, you have used what you know to shape your career, leveraging knowledge to acquire more, develop ideas, solve problems, and create solutions.
That means that you have a collection of accomplishments, understandings, and insights.
When you go after a new role (or start a business), you must prioritize the value of those elements and use them to create a “picture” of that value in a particular context.
So, when you read a job posting, your brain starts to work:
How can I put together my career history in a way that satisfies the talent manager or recruiter?
How can I assemble the “right” elements from my career collection and form a picture that resonates with the reader?
How can I communicate why I am the right person for the job?
Creating this document is in a sense, an art. It’s sorting through your “materials” (accomplishments, skills, certifications, degrees, awards) and putting them into perspective.
You have to make decisions about including some things and eliminating others. You have to decide where the eye should focus and lead it there.
Resumes have to do several things all at once. Just as a collage addresses composition, medium, and material, a resume must address employer needs, reader habits, and nod to the technology that often is used to assess them.
Format matters. Design matters. Content matters.
And the task is further complicated because there is no one way to do that.
There is no one way to shape a career history. Resumes can be as different as their subjects. (Sure, there are some technical guidelines, but really, lots of different things can be on a resume.)
Like art, the process of making these decisions is valuable.
It teaches you a lot of things about yourself.
Art teaches me that I can see things from different vantage points. It shows me I can employ different methods to achieve chosen effects.
When you break down your career past and re-form it, you, too, are likely to make some discoveries.
- Make a list of all your jobs.
- Now write next to each one three to five things you achieved at that job that helped the employer.
- Take a pair of scissors and cut up all the achievements and spread them out on a table.
- Now write down your skills, degrees, and credentials and do the same thing.
Now, look at these elements.
- What do you see? Are there relationships between these items? Do they sort into categories?
- Are you seeing trends?
- Do they tell a story about something you are good at or a way that you think?
- How would you organize these to tell the story of your capabilities?
Now consider this:
- What does your target employer need? Is it there in your pile?
- Is there anything extraneous in the pile? Anything you can discard?
- Is there anything that is not there? Something you need but can’t provide right now?
- Go back and see if you can add anything.
I suspect by now, if you have chosen to try this little experiment, you have realized a few things about yourself. Chiefly, you are a work of art yourself and unfinished, malleable, and adjustable – and it’s all part of the creation of your story and your life.
You may discover the following:
👍You have had diverse experiences: You have accumulated a range of knowledge and expertise that contribute to your understanding and help you make decisions. Collaging requires reflection, and this kind of thinking is important in setting a future course.
👍Your unconventional background is a bonus: You have honed transferable skills and expertise that you might have overlooked by considering your career in a linear or “traditional” manner. (Picasso played with perspective to open new views of a subject.)
👍You are creative and flexible: This exercise may have demonstrated that you can explore unconventional paths and remain open to unexpected possibilities.
👍You see the story: A collage can tell a story, and your career is a narrative of your professional journey. You might now see the key moments, turning points, and milestones that have shaped your career. It can help you shape your “pitch” to employers.
I strongly believe that a process like this “artful” one can help you get clarity about what you offer professionally.
Most job seekers have difficulty explaining why they are a fit for a particular job. A primary reason for this is failure to relate the individual actions—the problem-solving moments, the flashes of inspiration that dissolved barriers—that have worked before and could help the target employer improve business.
This is why they are hiring, after all!
A creative process like the one used in making a collage can be extremely valuable for you, and help you unlock these “secrets” you are holding.
Remember, you are an artist, of sorts: connector of ideas; crafter of solutions. Your experience and qualities define you.
It’s time to share the art you have created and win that offer!
Need help? Just ask. Email me at Ruth@confidentcareersearch.com.