I have a repeat client who is among the most accomplished people I’ve ever met. Her performance in a particularly high-profile, high-pressure job is awe-inspiring. And yet, while we were working on the most recent iteration of her resume, she expressed concern that it didn’t make her seem humble enough.
It wasn’t the first time a client had uttered THE H-WORD. Lots of job candidates are uncomfortable sharing their career achievements. They’re afraid a success story could be perceived as bragging.
SHUN THE HO-HUMBLE
I’m here to say being proud of your hard-won wins does not make you a malignant narcissist – especially when they reflect well on the team and the company, too. Not convinced? Peep these synonyms: “unassuming,” “retiring,” “self-effacing,” “unsure,” “unassertive.” All have negative connotations. THE MEEK MAY INHERENT THE EARTH, BUT THEY WON’T GET CALLED IN FOR THE INTERVIEW.
Have you ever read a job listing that cites humbleness as a requirement? When it comes down to you and the other equally qualified candidate with similar experience, does the hiring committee reason, “Well, Julia, is a total ass-kicker. But Betsy is so humble. However will we decide?”
PROMOTE YOUR PROBLEM-SOLVING
What your prospective boss wants to see in your resume is that you can solve her problems. The best way to show her that is by telling a story about how you solved a similar problem for your current boss. How is she going to know you’ve solved problems just like hers if you don’t tell her? Making it known that you are a problem solver does not automatically brand you an egomaniac.
(If you’re concerned that your resume does not appear sufficiently modest, you’re likely a woman. I contend that, for the most part, men are encouraged to vaunt their victories in a way women are not. Think about that guy in your office who’s steadily risen through the ranks, deservedly or not. When he sits down to update his resume, do you think he wonders if his performance stories convey the requisite humility?)
LET OTHERS DO THE TALKING
My client is SO good at her job that senior management has taken notice. They send her emails that say things like, “Without your strategic guidance, this project would have been a disaster” and “Until you joined the company, we could never have done an event like this.” Not only can you project self-assurance without transmitting self-aggrandizement, you can let others do the talking!
Say you have a performance story with a clear-cut problem and your clear-cut solution, but you don’t do the kind of work that allows easy quantification of your results (if you’re a creative, you probably know what I mean). Guess what? “Without your strategic guidance …” is a result. What’s that you say – you’re afraid of being busted busted by the resume police if you include a snippet of testimonial? More likely, your prospective boss will think, “I’m glad she put this in here because I’ll never get around to reading her LinkedIn recommendations.”
TURN BAD-ASSEDNESS INTO BRAND EQUITY
Do you think my client’s humbleness is the reason she accumulates accolades? No. Her virtues are extolled BECAUSE SHE’S A BADASS, which, if you ask me, should be shouted from the rooftops. Your resume is one of the few places where tooting your own horn is appropriate – as long as your horn is more of a trumpet than a tuba.
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