You know what a metaphorical “blind spot” is, yes? It’s a person’s inability to see something or understand why something is important.
One of my own blind spots is around selecting situationally-appropriate attire. I usually err on the side of too casual. I lack some basic understanding or sense of when it’s customary to dress up and when that’s overkill, and it’s something I struggle with even in midlife.
The first time I missed the mark, I was in 8th grade. I was 13 and at peak self-consciousness. I was on the girls basketball team that year – coach rarely put me in, but I put on that old satin uniform and laced up my blue high-top Converse All-Stars on Saturdays, and that entitled me to say I was part of the team.
I was not a child who showed athletic promise. By this time, it was obvious my gifts were elsewhere, and I was at peace with that. But all sports team members were invited to the annual athletic awards banquet held at the junior/senior high school, and this would be a chance to hang with the cool kids, I thought. My dad said he would take me.
I don’t remember what I wore – I think it was probably shorts and a tee shirt. Something… sporty. After all, I reasoned, this would be a room full of athletes, eating a meal at folding tables set up in the high school gym. How fancy could it possibly be? I remember my mom saying, it’s an awards banquet, don’t you think you should wear a dress? And I remember pushing back and saying, nah, it’s a bunch of jocks, they don’t dress up. I’m sure I was sassy about it, and my mom probably shrugged and figured this would be one of those lessons I had to learn by experience.
But Mom was right. In the early 1980s, athletes DID dress up for awards banquets. I remember walking into the gym, a little late, realizing everyone was dressed up and feeling as if they were all looking at me. I turned right around to leave, hot tears of embarrassment stinging my eyes. Because when you are 13, the last thing you want to be is the kid who sticks out because they wore the wrong thing. My dad, bless him, took me home.
While the details are hazy, what stays with me 40 years later is the vivid memory of feeling humiliated and mortified. I should have listened to my mom. What made me think I knew better than her?
How does my confession relate to your resume?
There’s an abundance of information out there about what makes a perfect resume. Perhaps you received guidance from the career services department at your university. How long ago was that? Your parents or other trusted adults might have given you some advice along the way. But when was the last time they changed jobs?
You depend on your resume to get you invited for an interview; it has to be fresh and compelling. Customs and conventions are always changing. With resume writing, there are some generally-accepted best practices, but it’s important to understand the nuances particular to your industry and your audience, and to stay in tune with evolving guidance.
There are exceptions to all the so-called rules. Here are a few:
- Lots of people say that a resume ought to be one page. That isn’t gospel. Certainly no more than two pages – anything more than that and you risk losing the reader’s interest. But one page simply is not a requirement.
- In the United States, we generally don’t include photos on resumes. But in some industries it’s preferred to include a headshot. Is yours one of them?
- Remember printing your resume on “good” bond paper and mailing it? This is no longer necessary. In fact, doing so makes you seem out of touch with the times. It’s nice to bring a copy along for an interview, but regular printer paper is fine. (They’ll scan it anyway.)
- Hiring managers tend to prefer a chronological resume, but sometimes, a functionally-organized resume presents a more comprehensive picture of a candidate’s capabilities. Have you considered whether this would work for you?
Understanding the customs and conventions of resume-writing can be as tricky as knowing exactly what to wear in every situation. How confident are you that you’re doing it right? If your mom isn’t around to steer you right (ahem), perhaps you would benefit from the services of a professional resume writer who makes it her business to know what’s appropriate to a variety of situations. I can help you overcome your blind spots.