Disrupting Your Resume

By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

“I feel like the resume is a good book I want to read again. It looked great the first time, but I know I’ll get more out of it when I read through it several more times.”

The above quote was the BEST gift I could have received during any given business day – any day at all, in fact. Not only am I imbued with joy that my client is satisfied with the work I performed, with the results of our collaboration, but I am delighted in the way in which he described the experience.

You see, the resumes I write truly are short story “books” that are communicated through brief, focused and headlined sections that guide you through the careerist’s individual, pithy career autobiography. Wikipedia defines this process as “the art of written works.”

Illuminating Your Je Ne Sais Quois

Your career essence is like the wind—very onerous to harness in writing. However, it is possible to do so, with the right focused effort, the rigorous investigative process and the full-on collaboration between writer and careerist.

I know I am not alone in articulating this, as other career writer friends have shared privately with me, or in their blogs, that career writing is a highly expressive and creative process (akin to painting a portrait, as Master Resume Writer Dawn Bugni and owner of The Write Solution, and I avidly agreed upon recently). Careers Author Miriam Salpeter and owner of Keppie Careers, wrote about the artistic process of career presentation development here.

Resume creation requires protracted spaces of quiet thinking time to unearth our client’s inimitable qualities that are the DNA building blocks of their story. An hour here, two hours there, an unbroken 30 minutes to tarry with a single bullet or paragraph to untangle the knotted ideas develops mellifluent story points that illuminate the careerists’ je ne sais quois.

With the soul of a careerist’s talent enmeshed among the challenge stories, the action steps and the measured results, we aspire to net a book-like prose that begs re-reading and immersion by the audience.

Showcasing Your Disruptive Talent

While we consistently counsel careerists that the resume is “not about you,” that you are “targeting the needs of the employer audience you wish to attract,” we must silence that drumbeat once in awhile to pronounce:

Your resume must elicit a response to YOUR brilliance in what you do differently and how you do it all while also cleverly connecting the dots for the reader as to why this matters to them. In this regard, the resume most certainly is about YOU … AND about THEM.

If it feels a bit complex, that’s because it is!

I like how Whitney Johnson delved into the “soul” of careerists’ value proposition when she spoke to “disruptive skills” in her blog post: To Get Paid What You’re Worth, Know Your Disruptive Skills over at Harvard Business Review blog. In this article, she describes those disruptive skills as the skills that are our “apparent strengths,” the “innate talent” that we perform without even thinking.

She says, “Translating this to our careers, when we proffer to the marketplace a disruptive skill set, focusing on our distinctive innate talents rather than ‘me-too’ skills, we are more likely to achieve success and increase what we earn.”

She goes on to say that, “The trick is to lead with unique or disruptive skills, offering the hard-won skills as a kicker. When you know exactly what your value proposition is, rather than perpetually trading at a discount, you’ll command the premium you deserve.”

Contemplating Your Overarching Value Proposition

At the time I read Johnson’s article, I was in the throes of contemplating my client’s overarching value proposition, his “disruptive talent,” if you will – what would really set him apart from other senior-level operations executives vying for the same roles he had set his sights on. I needed to figure out how to convince the reader, through the right, distinctive phrasing that this careerist wasn’t yet another high-powered “me-too” executive expressing the same old “strategic leadership” skills.

Johnson’s article hit the nail on the head: Lead with my client’s unique skills, and it was my job to ensure as my client’s story unfolded, that at the center of the story were those disruptive skills that made him successfully advance in his career in his own way that was different from anyone else’s way.

With each sub-story that was expanded upon, with each challenge/action/result that was layered into the career painting, with each headline and sub-headline and poignant phrase that swept its way onto the canvas, I had to run it through several filters:

Did it support, enhance or otherwise show congruency to his disruptive talent?

Did it add value to the audience’s needs?

Did it market him well?

Did it have a wow factor, or at least, did it combine with other resume layers to build the wow momentum?

Career Story Doodling

For me, this meant a series of process steps, some of which involved doodling on my bare bones resume canvas, lifting word notes from a 25+ page client worksheet as well as 60-minute phone interview notes, pausing to reflect, flooding portions of my page with free-flow thoughts that interjected my insights into my client’s actual words, and then flipping them around, revising, massaging, trimming, expanding and so on.

A Multilayered, Compelling Career Painting Emerges

The ultimate goal was a rich, multi-layered career painting, but I was challenged how to blend his rich palate of career colors. The gradations were many and figuring where to start, what to blend, how to maneuver the word strokes around the pages and then how to make small adjustments to fine tune my work was rigorous, to say the least. With artist’s beret on, and available time for mind and fingertips to intersect, an appealing and compelling word story evolved.

As resume artists, our obligation is to the careerists in the throes of some sort of career change, whether by choice or by force. They depend upon us to distinguish them from all the other candidates flooding the market place. Whether approached as a book or a painting, your resume most certainly deserves the in-depth time and attention to story-building that will result in a work of word art unlike any other resume, ever.

As careerists, it is your job to address your career goals with prudent introspection in order to lift your career to new levels and attract the compensation you deserve for the value you provide.

12 Responses to “Disrupting Your Resume”

  1. What this post highlights is that Rome wasn’t built in a day, or more to the point, that a book isn’t written overnight.

    I think about a particular resume of mine from so long ago. Hastily cobbled together, it was a dry, life-less piece of paper that chronicled my work history. What it didn’t demonstrate was that there was a life behind that paper – a person that had much to offer.It is obvious that the process you use is carefully crafted to tease out even the most hidden of talents and skills that the careerist possesses.

    I have a question for you, Jacqui. How do you know when your client’s “painting” is done?

    By the way, I love your choice of images – rich, vibrant and full of meaning – Just like a well-crafted resume! 🙂

    • Marianna,
      Drinking in your word comments is like enjoying a rich, hot cup of gourmet coffee – so satisfyingly delicious.

      I love the, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” reference (apropos and impactful). You ‘get it,’ as that was intended as a key takeaway of the post. Thank you.

      “Hastily cobbled together” resume = yes, yes, you are not alone, I am sure, in that memory. And, indeed, the nuanced ‘life’ behind that paper, your value offering was likely absent.

      Gosh, the answer to “how do I know when my client’s ‘painting’ is done?” Over the years, I’ve gained a sense of the time (in hours and days) it requires to create, from a blank slate, the client’s story, and I schedule a due date based on that, then work towards it, in chunks of time. Somehow, with schedule in hand, I’m able to flesh out a full story ‘book’ in scheduled blocks of creativity.

      Grazie mille for stopping by and conversing with me here again!


  2. Wow, Jacqui, I’ll never think of a resume the same way again. You made me realize my resumes were boring, not a piece of art. If I were in need of one again, I’d come to you.

    Now, on my about page and when I talk with people about speaking, I mention the power of the story and in narrative form that seems relatively easy to me. I can’t imagine doing it in a resume format. But, then again, that’s why it’s your job, not mine. Thank you for an excellent, thought provoking post. Cherry

    • Master Resume Writer says:

      Nice. Your reaction is greatly appreciated.

      This brings to mind the ‘below and after’ process, where at the closing of a project I line up the client’s ‘before’ resume on the left-hand of my MacBook screen and the ‘after’ on the right-hand to quickly see the difference in the two! From lifeless to visually illuminating with content that lifts the impact message to new heights (at least that is my hope and intent; it’s such a collaborative process, and I am not taking the full credit – my clients’ rigor in articulating their value to me is central to the project success. ; )

      Cherry, your about page, and all you do through the various channels of communication exemplify your story-telling prowess. I know this first-hand from collaborating with you!

      Best – and thank you for your pithy comment!


  3. Fun post! I think the point about it taking time is a well made point here. It can seem quite overwhelming to think you need to get a CV/resume drafted in one sitting, especially if there is a looming deadline or application due. I like your suggestion of breaking it up over a period of a few days/hours, perhaps when you are not needing to apply for a job immediately so there is more time for reflection and editing.

    In short, good stuff – thanks for sharing the info and ideas!

    All the best,


    • Master Resume Writer says:

      Thanks for your comment, Patrick, and for noting the value of ‘reflection and editing.’

      I’m also pleased you found the ‘fun’ in the post!


  4. Karla Porter says:

    Beautiful expression of the creative process a true professional resume writer embarks upon in what is usually viewed as a very ascetic and technical endeavor and document. Most resumes are so ‘me too’ they look like rap sheets….

    • Master Resume Writer says:

      Hi Karla,
      It’s very nice of you to add value to this post with your analogy of me-too resumes and rap sheets. I love it.

      You also are spot-on about the all-too-common view of resume writing as an ‘ascetic/technical endeavor,’ when in fact, it’s a robust, creative process!

      I appreciate ‘your’ appreciation of this post and the artistic process that I am so passionate about.

      Thank you!

  5. There’s some excellent advice in this post.

    With so many candidates applying for available positions, standing out from the pack is more important than ever before. A top notch C.V (tailored specifically to each role) is

    a great place to start.

    When not in work, it’s important to stay productive. Volunteering or internships with relevant organisations are an excellent way to gain experience; whilst ensuring the are

    no gaps in your CV. If in doubt, why not consult a professional career coach who can help you to explore your options further?

    Best wishes, Alex.

  6. As a recruiter providing Staffing Solutions and Staffing Services, I read hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes every day. I found this article to be extremely useful and insightful, I wish more people would take your advices, it would make my job easier as well as more enjoyable!

  7. […] the foundational layout of the profile limits your ability to disrupt the content with splashes of colour, differentiating fonts and other graphic enhancements. In a creative resume, you can paint […]

  8. […] your executive resume can be similarly disruptive, particularly if it has been more than a year or two since you last […]

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