The Multipotentialite Resume: Part 1
Photo courtesy of Steve.

The Multipotentialite Resume: Part 1

Written by Brenda Scott

Topics: Employment, Featured

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:

  1. Competence, including skills, knowledge, and experience
  2. Compassion, meaning primarily people skills, enthusiasm, and other un-quantifiable skills
  3. 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.

Highlight Themes

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:

  • communication
  • organization
  • leadership
  • 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.

  1. A good resume tells your story.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Remember the three things resume readers are looking for: competence, compassion, and anything disturbing.
  6. As a multipotentialite, one of your strengths is your diversity. Pull together your interests to tell your unique story.
  7. 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.

Your Turn

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.

brenda-bioDr. 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 or follow her on Twitter @brendascottarts.


  1. Em says:

    I think it’s always good to think about the target for your resume. I’ve just read a cool article about it ( which inspired me to download a free template and to rework my own CV. I always check it again before I send it to someone, just to look at it through the eyes of the potential employer, and usually I find something to leave out, some words to change or something catchy to add. I like the advice on going creative if the job is creative, you know, minding the field. I think that’s what makes it stand out. Have your own logo, display some related work in thumbnails, have a nice picture of yourself in the top, don’t be afraid to use a little graphic even in a plain general CV to add some spark, things like that.

    • Emilie says:

      I like those little personal touches as well, Em. I feel like employers must just be bombarded with resumes, so finding a way of standing out and also showing that you understand the culture at the organization seems like a good approach. Thanks for your comment. :)

  2. Brenda Scott says:

    Hi, Em.
    Thank for your comment and for the reference link. I agree – I check my CV and tweak it every time I send it out for something. Having a logo is a great idea, but be careful with photos of yourself.

    I’ve been warned by several folks that photos don’t always help us. Employers are not supposed to be ageist or sexist or anything-negative-ist, but . . . sometimes they are anyway. My career coach in particular warned against putting an image on a resume. Of course there will be jobs (acting, for example) where a photo is needed, and that makes sense.

    Thanks for chiming in here. And thanks, Emilie, for also jumping in.

    • Antje says:

      This also depends on the cultural context – in Germany, for example, they would immideately discard a resume without a photo, thinking that you had something to hide (such as being covered head to toe in tattoos), but we also got relatively good anti-discrimination laws.

      There is also a strong emphasis in it being entirely “without gap” here. When I last wrote one a decade ago, you were expected to cover every month of every year (!) with jobs related to what you were applying for (which of course makes life much more complicated for multipotentialites, and the above advise unusable for anything other than creative freelance work).

      I was shocked when somebody first told me that in the US people could pause their careers, do something entirely different for two years, and then apply for a job that was related to what they had done before, which would have been unthinkable in my culture. I hope things have changed by now, because “how would this look on my resume” is quite a sad principle for decision making (and might be necessary for some people in some cultures).

      • Brenda Scott says:

        Thank you, Antje.
        There are definitely regional differences, and one should take note of these. I have only ever applied for and held jobs in the USA and the UK – so your input here regarding Germany is of particular interest. We have anti-discrimination laws in the USA as well, but sadly I can assure you that discrimination is alive and well. (Re: the tattoos, in my field, I think they are a plus sometimes, so that will differ from job to job.)

        Thank you for making great points on this front. Everyone should take note.

  3. I found it helpful to have something in addition to a resume and cover letter to stand out.

    I presented my story graphically and summarized the themes – size of community, number of people impact, number of projects managed, budgets, etc, etc.

    If you don’t have the graphic design skills, you could probably teach yourself the basics pretty quickly and use this as your first project, or use a website like

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Great point, Catherine Hofmann.
      In the areas in which I work, I have to show a portfolio and/or recording but have always considered that to be separate from an actual resume or c.v. However, I can see how in other fields a graphic like you describe would be extremely helpful. I would tailor this to each job application. Piktochart is a great resource. Others might try to find a highly rated person on as another option.

  4. Alejandro says:

    I have to strongly agree with Brenda regarding not adding a picture to your resume. I have lived and worked abroad in cultures where sexism, machismo etc are much more rampant. In those cultures, the norm is to put your picture on your resume. And if you are female, and you’ve hit a certain age range, I can (sadly) envision scenarios where a particular employer would begin discarding resumes just because they think you look ”too old” for their office or for the job, or they don’t think you’re ”pretty enough”, or they might think you’re ”too ethnic”, ”too dark”, etc etc. Why? Because I’ve seen it happen in other countries that have a resume standard that includes your picture (and birthdate! INSANE!!). Much as we’d all like to think that humanity would have moved beyond such discrimination by now, the reality is a significant portion of it hasn’t. And even if you want to justify it as ”well if they reject me based on my looks then I don’t want to work there anyway”, the bigger problem is if people in general start to use pictures on their resumes, there may come a day where it becomes a standard expectation on a resume by a significant number of employers. And that in and of itself is a HUGE step BACKWARDS as a society, especially for those who have traditionally been discriminated against. Let’s make sure we always think of the bigger picture, and are moving forward. Switching gears here – any marketer these days that’s worth anything knows that storytelling is key to pitching and promoting whatever it is you’re selling. ”Facts tell, stories sell”. This is not to imply that you should make stuff up, simply that you always need to tell a story, whether you’re selling widgets or promoting yourself.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Very well put, Alejandro. It is very sad that discrimination is alive and well. I remember I should have heeded the warning before I flew over the Atlantic for an interview, when I was told, “If you want to know how XXXX University treats women, just ask Professor Beth XXXXXXXX.” Nevertheless, I hope that each generation makes improvements, and I agree with you in hoping that we don’t slide backwards in this area.

      I love your “Facts tell, stories sell”! Thanks for that.

  5. Barry P says:

    Hmm, something to think about. I always struggle with the idea of CV’s. I’m long past wanting to detail stuff that’s some fort plus years past its relevance, so maybe this idea of a resume to sell my abilities could be a way to go. Anyone have similar issues with CV’s? And how do yo address that?

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Barry P.

      I have similar issues. Winning competitions in one’s teens if one is decades beyond that starts to seem less relevant to life in the present – unless of course these competitions are international. (I don’t have any of those.)

      I still have a list of all of my work experience and awards, though, back to high school, as part of my master c.v. That is really more of a c.v. than a resume. Now I don’t include that sort of thing unless it is relevant to the moment. For example, were I to go back to my old high school to talk to kids there, if they wanted a resume, I’d be sure to include all of my high school achievements. They’d be more interesting to the kids listening. Then I’d cut to the more recent achievements.

      I think listing your degrees are always useful, book titles, major papers or articles, international awards – that sort of thing never gets old. (Sadly, this would be an extremely short list for me, entirely lacking in some of these areas, but hey – we all have different experiences here, and I’m sure some among us can list all of these items in multiples.)

      Then I think focusing on the transferable skills, like Dean Blackmon advised, is extremely useful. Plus I’d include experience and skills in the relevant areas for the job at hand.

      I started summing up areas of experience in decades. I was working on my new bio tonight and discovered I’d crossed another half decade in one area. I found myself wondering, “Should I change that to ‘nearly 2 decades’?” Yikes. But then I decided I was very lucky to have been doing something I love for so long.

      You might find that things that happened to you 40 years ago would count as transferable skills and/or X decades of experience. That would be very impressive.

      Good luck and please keep us posted.

  6. Glenn Davis says:

    I have found that regardless of how you organize your resume, most jobs with large companies will require that you fill out their application. The format is structured and you are told that if you leave any space blank, your application will not be considered.

    Therefore I don’t see the point in going out of your way to tailor your resume to the specifics of the job, when you are going to be listing your work experience in chronological order (all of it) and your education. Any gaps will be a red flag. So if I took two years off to do something irrelevant to my primary profession, it is going to show up in the application. If the application and the resume do not match…. you have a credibility problem. So please tell me how arranging my resume is tailoring the content is going to be of any help.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Glenn Davis.

      Great points here. I think the main difference in a canned application form and a resume, is that you get to curate the resume. Of course you wouldn’t want any inconsistencies, but you can use your resume to highlight important aspects of your experience, education, and skillsets. You can tell your story rather than relying on a list.

      Re: taking off 2 years to do something “irrelevant” to your primary profession, I’d say that if it is not irrelevant to you, there is a very good chance that in that experience you could find a way to turn those years into a transferable skill.

      For instance, if you are a business person in a big corporation, but you took off 2 years to work in the Peace Corps, you could show how this gave you experience as a leader, a problem solver, etc.

      Dean Blackmon was really on point when he advised people to concentrate on transferable skills rather than on specifics.

  7. Shelly Hulce says:

    In regards to pictures, I would add that most potential employers are going to seek out LinkedIn profiles as well. Choose your profile pic wisely. A professional pic is a good idea. Nothing fancy, just a quality shot. (Multipods are srrounded by pro photog friends, right?)
    It goes without saying but, carefully tend to your social media presence. You can tell a great story in a resume and destroy it with one bad photo or controversial post.
    Setting profiles to “private” is an illusion. Employers have the tools to get around that. I’ve seen what I would call the “catfish effect” in companies with bad hires.
    That being said, I have trolled potential employers too, finding out who is in their circles and tayloring my cover letter to speak to their sensibilities and what I’ve learned about them online. (Sometimes, what I discover online about a potential employer changes my mind about working for / with them.) Paying attention to this is particularly important in smaller cities where everyone’s circles overlap. Having worked in a Mayors office, I got a front row education on how this comes into play. Resumes are part of your story but there’s a lot that goes on between the time it hits the inbox and your invitation for an interview.

  8. Josh says:

    Glad you put this together. There’s a real need for this, and it makes me think about how I want to structure mine. The main issue for me and a lot of other creatives is that it looks unfocused. My LinkedIn is all over the place. Perhaps emphasize the creative aspect and entrepreneurial thinking, since companies say want people who think outside of the box and yet those people are trying to figure out how to write a focused resume. lol

    Somehow the two need to find each other.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Well said, Josh.

      If the two could just get together, each would learn from the other.

      Re: LinkedIn and other online platforms, I discuss these in Part 2 of this post. Stay tuned for that one.

      I think you’re on the right track, though, with emphasizing creativity and entrepreneurial skills and experience. Dean Blackmon really gave great advice in suggesting we concentrate on these transferable skills rather than on specifics.

      Best of luck. Please keep us posted.

  9. Martina says:

    Coming from the German part of the world, I totally agree with Antje – skip to insert the photo and you might be rejected immediately while it’s on your LinkedIn profile anyway. Skip to insert the date of birth and you might be rejected – but that’s listed on the german job references we often have to add to the application anyway. Don’t get me wrong – I personally of course prefer the version without photo and date of birth, but there’s a weird mixing of german and US application style going on at the moment in Germany, sometimes driving me crazy as active job hunter. What helped me a lot and is generating great feedback for my CV is the platform I like it so much because you can insert a summary, skills with easy but good looking grafics, quotes, favorite books and more. It allows me to show my professional profile by listing my experiences while showing my personal side as well. Disadvantage: the template is online, so there’s only one version. And I have to adjust the CV everytime again when I write a new, slightly different one. But I simply store the finished ones as a pdf and then use them as a source again. As I am not applying for jobs in a creative industry, I asked recruiters what they are looking for first when receiving CVs – and the answer was a CV in a different/style layout. It has to be filled with respective input then of course – but when it’s not looking boring at all without being overdone or too creative, there’s a great chance that they will give it at least a second look.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Really great feedback, Martina.

      Anyone else out there know of other countries where photos and
      D.O.B. are required on applications and resumes?

      Clearly you’ve got to stick to the prescribed format for your region; I’m not suggesting otherwise.

      Thank you for your feedback from recruiters as well.

      I think the initial thoughts by Em in the comments here about using a logo or some design element to make your resume stand out are excellent.

      I just wanted to present a word of caution to areas where you are not required to submit a photo or D.O.B. These facts can often be calculated from degree dates and other clues, but I didn’t want anyone to face discrimination. The flip side is that if you will not be considered in your country without these elements, absolutely DO include them.

  10. Huet says:

    Interesting that we all have moved in a similar direction. I started my Master CV approach with tailored short resumes based on the “parachute” book and I have never had a search for a new position last longer than 3 weeks. The tailored short resumes are the door openers and when they ask for the CV I can tell the they are worth an interview. More recently, I have had recruiters help me tailor the short resumes in order to move to the front of the interview line.

  11. Brenda Scott says:

    I noticed a resume template on It has some interesting design features – including a photo.

  12. Willem says:

    As I am busy with updating my CV this article could not have come at a better time. Thanks for you sharing your very useful insight Brenda.

  13. Jasraj says:

    Wow, what an awesome article. My resume is… interesting lol. The way I have gone is to craft a “theme” or a story. The thread that runs through is certainly working with people in some way, which I have done since the age of 17 (coaching, mentoring, tutoring, selling to, relationship building). There’s some wonderful insights & thought-provoking examples/analogies here. Thank you.

25 Comments Trackbacks For This Post

  1. To read - Beyond | Pearltrees

Leave a Comment