Modesty Sucks.

Modesty Sucks.

by Kerry Scott on 15 January 2009

It really does.

Lately, I’ve heard from a number of friends who have either lost their jobs or will soon.  A few of them have asked me to review their resumes before they start sending them out.

Now, I live in the Midwest, where people tend to be self-deprecating.    Wisconsin is, generally speaking, not a state filled with flashy people.  These folks are raised to avoid tooting their own horn at all costs.  The ones who fail to hide their light under a bushel move to places like New York, or LA, or someplace else where the culture is more accepting of self-promotion.

As a result, I have seven resumes I’m reviewing here, and five of them contain descriptions of people I barely recognize.  Most of these are friends I worked with at one point or another, and I thought highly of their work.  That’s how we became friends.

But when I read things like, “Responsible for the ____ department,” or “I work with managers to fill jobs,” well, no.  That’s not going to work.  Nobody wants to read your job description.  They want to read what you achieved, what you overcame, what sort of difference you made to the client or the company.  Language from your job description has no place on your resume, because you’re not supposed to describe your job.  You’re supposed to describe yourself, in terms of what you achieved.  That’s an entirely different thing.

I sent an email back to one friend, and asked him to tell me what he was most proud in each of the positions he’d held.  He wrote back with some GREAT material.  It was the kind of stuff that would absolutely make you want to hire him.  Modest people, though, tend not to think in terms of what they’re proud of when they write resumes.  Pride makes them uncomfortable.  They tend to write about what they were responsible for, which is meaningless.

Modesty is a great trait in a friend and in a colleague.  No one likes working with a egomaniac.  But when you write your resume, you’re writing to someone who doesn’t know you, and may never know you if you don’t make them understand why they need to meet you.  This is no time for modesty.

Think in terms of the three or four things that you achieved that made you most proud, in each job.  Those are the things that belong on your resume.

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{ 2 comments }

Mo January 15, 2009 at 2:19 pm

This is a great post. I have a pretty decent resume in terms of the positions I’ve held for the last 16 years, but I don’t think it really captures what I’ve accomplished. I don’t think I’ve thought of it in these terms before—I’ve done exactly what you said not to. I rehashed a job description, and as is usually the case these days, job descriptions are pretty inadequate because everyone is doing everything. I will definitely use your suggestions to beef mine up while I’m thinking about it.

Mo’s last blog post..Grace In Small Things #1

Mary Nowak January 19, 2009 at 10:40 am

Great Post!

One thing that has helped me with this in the past is “swapping” resumes with another friend who’s work you’re very familiar with. It can be very difficult to come up with great things you’ve accomplished in a position, especially if you’ve been there for any length of time or are in a non-numbers driven role. Your friends/work collegues are generally your biggest fans (and you theirs) and can get you a great headstart!

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