What can you do?: have a mental resume

You need to know what is special about you. Now.
You need to know what is special about you. Now.

You have a resume, clips, maybe even a standard cover letter you dust off for applications or to forward to new contacts. But do you have any idea what it is that actually makes you special – if you think you’re special at all?

Get on board and get yourself a checklist of the qualities or experiences you have that make you special, that you can share in an interview or even in a casual conversation with a potential network. You need a mental resume.

Back in March, Seth Godin made the claim that if you really think you’re special, you shouldn’t have a resume at all.

A resume is an excuse to reject you. Once you send me your resume, I can say, “oh, they’re missing this or they’re missing that,” and boom, you’re out.

Having a resume begs for you to go into that big machine that looks for relevant keywords, and begs for you to get a job as a cog in a giant machine. Just more fodder for the corporate behemoth. That might be fine for average folks looking for an average job, but is that what you deserve? [Source]

If I have a moderately functioning blog, some good clips and great references, then I should be just fine, at least according to Godin. Recently I debated whether business cards are getting outdated, so why not question resumes, I suppose.

I agree with him that a generic list of your work experience and education isn’t the best method for selecting the best candidate. To be sure, I tend to think similarly about cover letters, which are often full of what I think an interview should cover.

I think it’s more valuable that, in addition to knowing and believing what’s on your resume (if you list Microsoft Excel as a skill, do you know how to quantify a list, can you speak about the merits of Google Documents?), you need to be able to recite what is it that you can do any differently than anyone else in this world.

Don’t train to recite the same collections, but brainstorm some experiences and skill sets that make you a little bit special. Not that you worked at your college newspaper, but tell me you worked at a big urban college newspaper and fought with professional media for coverage at a big event. Not that you interned at a small town daily, but tell me the small staff forced you to pitch and operate independently.

Did you travel to a different country or region of the States and come away with a different perspective that enlightens your coverage? Tell me about using Google applications in a newsroom to improve work efficiency or how you banded together with some friends to create a series of blogs and personal Web sites that had improved search engine optimization.

These are things you likely wouldn’t toss in a bullet-pointed resume and might not merit a full cover letter, but if you’re speaking with an established journalist or interviewing for an internship or job, this is fresh fodder that might help you win the spot or respect you want.

Part of this process is really knowing what it is you really want to do – if you even want that job for which you’re applying and what kind of reporter – or whatever – you want to be. If you’re looking for a new gig, like I am shopping, you need to be able to promote yourself. Having a mental resume is a big part of that.

Like learning to e-mail better, it is something that needs to be added to your journalism tool box.

Oh, and apologies to Mr. Godin, see my online resume here.

Photo courtesy of Escape from Corproate.