Once we realized that the day labor agency was not going to materialize overnight, we wanted to find ways to help our clients, the guys we live with, in the meantime. Resume editing was an obvious service that we could provide immediately.
It was an unexpectedly eerie experience editing that first resume. I used my resume as a template, so the client’s experiences, one by one, slipped over mine. His identity gradually obscured mine. My name became his name. My internships disappeared and were replaced by his work. My time spent researching, analyzing, advocating became his time assembling, stacking, cleaning. The two lines that didn’t have to change were the address. We both lived at the Mission.
As I deleted and typed and tabbed, I thought of all the facets of my life and my personality that could never fit on a resume and wondered what silent successes, missed opportunities, and deeper meanings weren’t making it onto his. I had a sudden distaste for resumes. Technically, they aren’t intended to be statements of personal worth, just the bare bones facts, the necessary evil of eliding the complexities of a life to grease the gears of the human resources machine. But when we get picked up or passed up for a job, it’s hard to leave it at that, to not feel like it says something about us, about whether or not we are good enough.
Working with our clients’ resumes requires some thought and creativity. Without selling short their wide range of skills and positive attributes, many of them have barriers to employment. If you listen closely, you can hear their resumes tell the stories of their struggles. Steady employment gives way to a year-long gap – an unrecorded battle with addiction. No reference available for a good job – an abrupt departure brought on by a quick temper, a broken-down car, a sickness in the family, or any of the thousand other things that can and do go wrong in the real world. That’s what we’re doing when we edit resumes. We’re dealing with reality in eleven point font. And in this economy with six and a half people vying for every open position, we better do a good job of dealing with reality.
One of our clients recently asked us to work on his resume. For some reason, it took a few days and a lot of pestering on our part to actually get a hard copy of his current resume and the changes he wanted made. It took a few hours to reformat and reorient the content. When we showed him the final product, you would’ve thought that we had baked him a cake. Or actually found him a job. He was grateful that someone had taken the time to do something especially for him. And the new resume gave him new confidence. The next day he was out scouring the town for jobs. It was great.
In return, he treated us to a bit of interview wisdom, which we now share with you. Establish eye contact with your interviewer the moment you enter the room, and do not break it under any circumstances. He illustrated the iron-clad quality of this rule by leaving the back porch and re-entering, as if coming into our office. Before his first leg was even through the door, his head had swiveled, locking onto Derek’s eyes. He had to sidle and grope his way to his chair, but one didn’t notice so much because his intent, unblinking gaze held us spellbound.
Now if only you could fit that type of knowledge into a resume.