With graduation season upon us, I’ve been trying to provide advice to a newly-minted MBA on preparing her resume in order to find a position in the natural products industry. Then, while reading Seth Godin’s new book “Linchpin,” I realized that I had it all wrong.
In one of his many thought-provoking points, Godin says: “Ditch the resume…Once you send me your resume, I can say, ‘Oh they’re missing this or they’re missing that,’ and boom, you’re out.” Even though I’ve reviewed thousands of resumes myself and knew the rules of exclusion (no gaps in employment history, no typos, must-have job titles, etc.), I suddenly realized that I was a lot smarter about getting the right opportunity in the past when I didn’t have a resume.
Fresh out of college with an extra year in a Norwegian university, I didn’t have much to put on a resume. While reading want ads in a trade journal, I found my dream job. The problem was that it was a Director of Advertising position, requiring many years of experience, upward promotions, reference letters, etc., etc. Instead of providing the company with a resume full of undergrad activities, summer internships, awards and honors, I had the chutzpah to apply anyway—with a portfolio.
Isn’t it interesting that management people have resumes and creative people have portfolios? Godin points out in his book that we should all stop working and start creating art. Portfolios, or creative “books,” are works of art that capture the imagination. Not only do they display art, they show how the individual turned a business strategy into results. Saying that you worked for a list of companies isn’t nearly as powerful as showing how that time in position translated to actual results. This is the true measure of success: the value of the product delivered, not the reputation of the company you worked for in the past.
Advertising agencies demonstrate this imaginative problem-solving all the time in the client review process. They show spec creative to the potential client, not resumes. It’s not the C.V. that a client cares about; it’s taking strategy and translating it into art that creates sales.
Necessity and beginner’s mind both yield results that are far more innovative than accepted practices. I’m going to recommend that my graduating friend take a few of the magic moments in her studies and her brief work life, and translate them into something artistic that shows her potential boss how she can solve their problems. Art cuts through rational verbiage and paints an engaging picture of the results.
No, I didn’t get the Director of Advertising job right out of college. But my daring got me hired by the company—before they even considered Director candidates—because of my inventive approach to job seeking.
What art have you created lately?
“Linchpin,” by Seth Godin, published by Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2010