A show of hands: who here struggles with presenting their diverse skills and experiences on paper? Yes, I’m talking about the dreaded resume; the bane of many a multipotentialite’s existence.
As a multipod, how do you share all that you’ve done/can do in a coherent way? Should you include all of your “past lives,” or leave things out? How do you communicate what you’re capable of without coming across as a dilettante?
In this post, we’re going to look at the elements that go into a strong multipotentialite resume.
The advice that follows comes from a few different sources: suggestions from the Puttylike community, my own professional experience, career guides, and the advice of two deans from Duke University.
A good resume pulls together aspects of your life to tell a story
Mulitpotentialites in particular will not find a “one-size-fits-all” or “fill-in-the-blank” resume to complete in a book or on the internet. Each person’s story is different, and this makes each person’s resume different, if done well.
Of all the books I consulted, by far the most useful one to me as a multipod was What Color Is Your Parachute? Guide to Rethinking Resumes by Richard N. Bolles. Rather than having example resumes to copy and alter to suit your needs, Bolles has helpful information about resumes in general, and a list of questions to answer in order to help you tell your story.
We’ll be coming back to the importance of telling your story later in this post. It’s a theme that runs through much of this advice.
As a Multipotentialite, Should I Have Many Different Resumes or Just One?
Chances are, you’ll need more than one.
There are two sorts of written resumes: the general and the targeted. Each type of resume has its proper place. According to Bolles’ clever anaology: the resume you metaphorically nail to a tree in the village green for all to see is a general resume, whereas the resume you deliver to someone’s doorstep is a targeted resume.
The focus of your general resume is primarily about you – your life up to this point.
Your targeted resume, on the other hand, is mainly about them – the needs of the employer.
On the Puttylike Facebook page, many of you suggested choosing a theme for your resume. Another popular suggestion is to tailor your resume for the job at hand, in other words, to craft a targeted resume. I agree this is useful in some instances, but not possible in others.
Personally I have both kinds of resumes. When I worked with a career coach, she called my general resume a “master resume,” because it included everything. On the advice of this career coach, I had several targeted resumes as well, one for each type of job (music performance and teaching, curatorships, academic music jobs, fencing coaching, photography, and writing). She then had me further hone and streamline one of these targeted resumes for each job application.
To pull all of this together:
The General or Master Resume
- What does it cover? Just about everything, i.e. your life up to this point.
- What’s it about? You. This type of resume is for anyone to read, but has no specific reader in mind.
- How do you use it? Keep it as a record for yourself, use it to pull information for your targeted resumes, and possibly shorten it a wee bit when you need to post a general resume somewhere.
The Targeted Resume
- What does it cover? It focuses on one subject or career path.
- What’s it about? One aspect of your multipotentialite life. With further editing you can make it about the needs of an employer.
- How do you use it? Keep one targeted resume on hand for each area you need for applications. Before using one of these for an application, further focus it to show you meet the needs of the employer.
So, as a multipod, do you need to have multiple resumes? There’s a good chance that you’ll need at least a general one and specific ones for the professions/jobs you’re pursuing. How narrow you choose to go on your specific resumes depends on what field you’re applying to (is it interdisciplinary?), and whether you think the organization will be receptive to your diverse background.
Your Resume as the “Guided Tour of a Museum”
Think of your written resume as an image, and yourself as a painter. Your goal is to paint a picture of yourself that allows readers of your resume to visualize you. I’m going to take this a step beyond Bolles’ metaphor: think of yourself as a curator and your resume as a guided tour of the museum that consists of your life’s interests and works.
If you imagine yourself as a living museum, then your many skills and experiences are artefacts and exciting exhibits. Many of the best museums would be overwhelming to visitors without some sort of assistance through labels, information panels, and guided tours. Think of bullet points on your resume as these labels and information panels, and your overall resume as your guided tour.
Like a museum that only has display space for a fraction of its collections, your targeted resume will only show a fraction of who you are. You must work to curate what others see, using skills and experiences to tell others the story you want them to hear.
How Employers Work with Resumes, and Does Anyone Really Read Resumes (or Are They Only Read by Bots)?
Again I turn to Bolles’ advice for resume writers. He says there are three things resume readers are seeking:
- Competence, including skills, knowledge, and experience
- Compassion, meaning primarily people skills, enthusiasm, and other un-quantifiable skills
- Anything disturbing
All of the sources I consulted agree that we only get a few seconds to make an impression on the initial readers of our resumes. Some Facebook readers suggested that resumes are only read by bots or software in the early stages of selection, and this is true in some cases. However, according to surveys of Fortune 500 companies, about 60% reported that they do not use an ATS (applicant tracking system) or ERM (electronic resume management) software.
Whether first seen by a human or by software, resumes are initially used to eliminate the bulk of the applicants in order to reduce numbers to a feasible handful for interviews. Only once this elimination process has taken place does the goal become selection, rather than elimination.
Here are a few suggestions to follow to try to make sure your resume stays in the “keeper” pile:
- Present yourself as you want to be seen on the first third of the first page. Do this in part by using an effective career summary to catch the reader’s attention.
- Actively use keywords to represent yourself. Software will search for these words, and people are attuned to the use of keywords these days, too.
- Use the first part of your resume to pique the reader’s interest and make them want to read more. Select the content on this part of the first page carefully.
How to Integrate More of Your Multipotentiality into Your Resume
I interviewed two deans from Duke University specifically about resume writing for multipotentialites: Dean Norman Keul, the retired Director of Program II, and Dean Milton Blackmon, a dean at the Academic Advising Center.
For many years Dean Keul has worked with Program II majors at Duke University. Program II offers students the opportunity to create their own interdisciplinary majors that offer experiences they would not be able to get through the standard (Program I) majors. This sounds like a dream major for multipotentialites.
Rather than being scattered or unfocused, Dean Keul describes these students as quite the opposite – as interdisciplinary but very focused on what it is they want to study. In other words, these students pull together multiple areas of study under one theme. Dean Keul says it could be argued that Program II students actually have more focus than the conventional student, because they are the ones who played the greatest role in designing their own majors.
Creating a Program II major allows students to present themselves as distinctive and to speak and write with excitement about their undergraduate experiences. The nature of their studies requires a great deal of contact with faculty members, and this results in students having great poise and confidence on graduation. It also means these students are at ease with (and not intimidated by) faculty members.
Although Dean Keul was speaking about his experiences with Program II students, his ideas carry over very well for multipotentialites: we have many areas of interest that we pull together to create our lives. In choosing to pursue so many areas of interest, we are designing unique lives rather than allowing ourselves to be pulled through life with only one focus.
Like the Program II students in their studies, we as multipotentialites learn to interact with people in different fields, which can result in giving us confidence in working with people in multiple contexts. Overall, the take-away message for me in talking with Dean Keul was that by describing how and why we pull together our areas of interest, we can tell others about our theme(s) and areas of focus. In other words, a good resume highlights and focuses on aspects of your life to tell your unique story.
As we discussed in part 1 of this resume series, Dean Blackmon suggests considering four areas (personality, values, skills, and interests) before thinking about choosing a career or writing a resume. The best resumes are narratives that tell the story of who you are and what you’ve done. To students, Dean Blackmon emphasizes that your choice of a major does not necessarily shape or determine your career. The same is true for multipotentialites: your major areas of study or focus don’t have to determine your career path(s).
Focus on Transferable Skills
If you get hung up on writing your resume, Dean Blackmon suggests concentrating on these transferable skills rather than on specific interests in order to focus your resume for an employer:
- people skills
Consider jobs, internships, and other experiences you’ve had in terms of the above when writing your resume. For instance, on your resume, you can use running your own business to demonstrate your organizational skills as well as your people skills.
Creating a resume that highlights your value can feel especially daunting to a multipotentialite. Here are the takeaways from this post that will help you craft a resume (or, more likely, resumes) that gets you noticed.
- A good resume tells your story.
- Think of yourself as a curator, your life as a museum (with lots of exhibits), and your resume as a guided tour, telling your story.
- Choose the type of written resume according to your needs: a general resume focuses on you, while a targeted resume focuses on a specific potential employer.
- Make readers want to learn more based on the first third of the first page of your resume, using a strong career summary and targeted keywords.
- Remember the three things resume readers are looking for: competence, compassion, and anything disturbing.
- As a multipotentialite, one of your strengths is your diversity. Pull together your interests to tell your unique story.
- As a multipotentialite, you’ll have many diverse experiences and skills. If you get stuck, think about how these areas show the following transferable skills: communication, organization, leadership, people skills.
In the next post in this series, we’ll be looking at “Google search resumes,” another important aspect of the job hunt in this day and age.
What advice would you give to multipotentialites who are struggling to write their resumes? What has worked for you in the past?
Thank you very much to Dean Blackmon and Dean Keul. I enjoyed our time together immensely and look forward to speaking with you again. Many thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion on Facebook.
Check out part 2 of this series on multipotentialite resumes.
Dr. Brenda Scott is a fine art photographer, writer, and cellist. Originally trained as a musician and organologist, she has worked as a curator of a small musical instrument museum and her Stagville: Black & White exhibit has been displayed at the North Carolina Museum of History and is currently on tour. She enjoys teaching and holds degrees from the University of Oxford, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Auburn University, and the Academy of Art University. View her work at brendascottarts.com or follow her on Twitter @brendascottarts.