Most of my articles usually involve me trying to defend one side of an argument. Instead, today, I’d like to go over one of the internal debates I’ve been having. I still haven’t picked a side, but I thought I’d share some of my ideas, and some of you can weigh in your opinions.
The question is simple:
Should you try to boost your resume?
At first, this doesn’t seem like a difficult question at all. If you’re planning on getting some form of employment, shouldn’t you try to work on getting those credentials and experiences that look good on paper? Especially in highly competitive job or school applications, those key talking points could be crucial.
But, like most of these types of question, I’m not really asking about resumes. Resumes are just one example of a bigger set of problems. Namely, should you do things because they look impressive to other people?
An Argument for Not Trying to Please People
My first reaction to these problems is to say that you shouldn’t try to please other people. This means that you should never work on something if the main purpose is to add it to your resume. Imagine that you could never tell anyone that you have a University degree, would the education still be worth the tuition money? If your answer is no, this argument says you shouldn’t bother.
The benefit of this outlook is it makes you highly independent. Instead of basing your quality of life on others’ opinions of you, satisfactions comes from within. In the Fountainhead, Howard Roark bases his life off an internal purpose, trying to please other people plays no role in how he lives his life.
For a real life example, my closest picks would be someone like Steve Pavlina. For those of you who read his blog (and if you don’t, why don’t you?), it is clear that he doesn’t give much weight to trying to please people. When switching from a games business to personal development, I can’t remember more than a handful of people in the development community that thought it was a good idea. In fact, I seem to remember most people thinking he was an idiot.
The downside of this outlook is that, like it or not, you need to deal with people. Trying not to please people in anyway might just isolate you and your ideas. If your dream job requires a degree, you might need to get a degree. Even if the degree itself is worthless.
An Argument for Marketing
My second reaction to this problem is that the world is driven by marketing. Unless your goals involve living in a cave by yourself, you need to interact with people. And when you need to interact with other people, you need to know how to sell yourself to them. From this perspective, it makes perfect sense that you would want to fill your resume with activities that look good.
A person who might fit this perspective is Seth Godin. I don’t think anyone here could claim Seth is a people-pleasing suck-up. But his ideas are driven around marketing. Instead of being focused on yourself, you craft an authentic story around yourself that is driven by a strategy.
The downside of the marketing approach is that it is hard to draw the line. Where do you separate independence from what other people think of you, with the fact that you need to market to them. If you’re focused on marketing yourself to others through a resume, doesn’t this rob you of your independence in deciding what activities work best for you?
I’ve already said that I haven’t yet been able to come up with a satisfactory answer to this question. And although whether you should boost your resume is a superficial question, it hits on something much deeper. That deeper question is how you can focus on independently deciding your actions and quality of life, when so much of our lives are spent interacting with other people.
Here are a few solutions I’ve been pondering. Feel free to weigh in on these, or your own, in the comments:
1) Cycles of Independent Action and Marketing
This solution says that independence and marketing can coexist. When deciding where to spend your time, you do it entirely for yourself. This means I pick the activities and strive for the awards I find interesting, not because they look good on a resume. Then, when it comes time to write the resume, I take what I already have and put it in the best light possible.
This solution is mostly the one I work with now. For example, I’d never pursue something in personal development just because it would make a great blog entry or e-book. But once I’ve started something, I try to find a way to turn it into an idea others might be able to use.
2) Start With Your Goals, Then Work Backwards
The other solution is to figure out what you need to do to reach your dreams, then work backwards. If some of the intermediate steps involve pleasing people with no intrinsic benefit, do them. If some of the intermediate steps involve pursuing your own actions that might piss people off, do those too.
I could also sum up this solution as saying, “Do what you need to do.” I’m not a huge fan of this solution because it basically suggests the ends justify the means. It doesn’t matter how you get your goal, whether it involves sticking with your ideals or pleasing other people, as long as you get there. Where’s the integrity?
3) Be Yourself
The third solution I came up with was that you could just “be yourself.” This means that you take whatever actions you feel are most within your nature. And, if you’ve been reading this blog for more than a few months, you already know what I think of this advice…
What are your thoughts on this problem? Have you solved it in your own life? If so, what was your solution? If not, what are your thoughts on the three possibilities I presented?