Six weeks ago, the headline here said, “Stop messing around with your resume’s objective.” In essence, I was highly critical of the practice of changing your objective to match every job for which you apply, and I gave what I think is strong rationale. For reference, here’s what I said:
“It causes you to lose focus, blurs your self-image, weakens your resolve, encourages you to stray from your mission (I sure hope you have one), pigeonholes you, muddles your identity, makes you appear indecisive to others (when someone who can help you asks how they can help you, what are you going to say?), actually makes you less decisive to begin with, creates a challenge just keeping track of what you’ve sent to whom, and – in case you worry about things like your ethical compass – makes you less than truthful on all but one of these resumes.”
By the way, I referred to an objective, not a profile or summary, because I was addressing people at the beginnings of their careers. However, this conversation extends to everyone.
Anyway, I expected pushback on that article, and boy, did I ever get it! I got lots of agreement, too, so putting it all together, it got to be a pretty big deal, so today I’m stepping up to take another swing at it. Not that I thought (pre-feedback) that it wasn’t such a big deal – I wouldn’t have written about it if I did – but this appears to be one of those things where a lot of people have their heels dug in. And you know how it is when attitudes and beliefs get entrenched. Wars get fought over less. So it’s a big deal. But it shouldn’t be.
Yes, I know I’m in the minority. I know almost every job counselor, recruiter, blogger, and anyone else with two cents to put in disagrees with me. I know they’re all adamant about customizing (I call it compromising) your objective for very job. And I know many of them categorically dismiss my advice. However, though I’m tempted to say, “Yeah, but I’m right anyway; case closed,” I’ll be a little more reasonable, decorous, tactful, and fair by quoting Mahatma Gandhi, who often said, “An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.” I think the truth I speak just needs to be seen – and pondered – by more people.
So for example, Allen (name changed), a reader who took the time to call me, which I appreciated and enjoyed despite his taking a couple of whacks at me, delivered an impassioned monologue about applying for 200 hundred jobs (200!) over the course of his long, 11-month unemployment, and changing his objective for each one. “How’d that work out for you?” I asked. “Great, as you can see. I landed a job, didn’t I?”
A moment of silence, if you please. Allen, what would have happened if you’d have stayed on track? It reminds me of the guy who fires a shotgun against a wall, blowing lots of holes in it, painting a red circle around one of them and saying, “See? I hit my target.” What’s worse, Allan’s new job is a different occupation in a different industry at the wrong level – and he’s now earning 14 percent less than his previous job eleven months ago.
So I asked Allen to email his resume to me, which he did, and sure enough, two things hit me between the eyes. One, Allen had an impressive career, up until the job he lost 11 months ago; and two, as expected, the objective (in his case, profile) at the top was not in sync with the whole resume. See, that’s what I mean by muddling your identity. Everything on your resume should be supportive of what’s above it, and a carefully crafted resume is built not only top-down, but at the same time, bottom-up. Change the objective or the summary, and you immediately lose the contiguity a resume should have. Sometimes this loss is subtle but other times it can be “about as subtle as a cowbell,” as my country cousins like to say.
In Allen’s case, I’m willing to bet a kilo of fine Dutch chocolate – and to double down on the bet – that his outcome would have been far better had he stayed focused. And I’ll place a side wager that his search would have been shorter, too.
Now, I don’t have any broad, longitudinal studies to roll out in defense of my position, but I have, at least, offered my reasoning (paragraph 2), which is more than can be said of the suggestion to “customize” your resume. That’s one of those things that so many people say and that everyone listens to without seeming to question why. Please, when someone tells you to change the objective (or summary) on your resume, ask why. As elsewhere (stock investments, medical procedures, real estate, diet, etal.), don’t you question advice before you take it? Don’t you make the advisor defend the advice? Don’t you then think it over? Maybe even seek a second opinion?
It’s time to do that with your resume’s objective.
Because yes, it’s a big deal.
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