Grab a seat and let me tell you a story about the time before personal computers, when a Mac was an apple and no one used the word ‘font’ in day-to-day conversation.  Things moved slower back then.  When people wanted to get a job, they typed up a resume on something called a typewriter and then got it printed or copied some place and sent it out to potential employers.  It would be accompanied by something called a cover letter which would explain why the rather general resume showed, if one looked carefully, that the applicant was a particularly good fit for a particular position.  Sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn’t, but people were generally satisfied.

Now that everything has gone to hell in a hand basket, a situation that pretty much started when I finished high school, people can and do produce a new resume for every job they apply for, so they can show on Monday that their entire life has been focused on the monitoring and evaluation of public health projects in sub-Saharan Africa and then, on Tuesday, show that everything they have done has been focused on human rights in Asia, with a particular focus on Uighurs.

And yet, in spite of this new found power, are people really any happier?  Or do they feel they can just chase more jobs (and more disappointment) than before?  Who really knows, but I would say (and since this is my blog I get to do so) that the old way had some advantages:

  • You crafted a document called a resume which reflected you, not a job advertisement, and so may well have been more honest in presenting your capabilities - and honesty does pay, as we all know;
  • You then spent your time on what is the most important part of your paper presentation - the cover letter - and used that time to clarify how you (as more-or-less honestly presented in your resume) truly fit the job requirements;
  • If you realized in doing so that actually you weren’t a good fit, you threw the letter in the trash and saved yourself 14 cents in postage.

Even though you kids may not know what ‘postage’ is and why one would even care about 14 cents (at the time is was enough to buy what we then called a ‘record’ and have enough left over for a malted), take to heart the idea to spend your time on the cover letter and let your resume, once done well, present you to the world as you are.

Upcoming posts:

Applying for consulting positions versus ‘jobs’

How much education should you include?

Applying to US employers versus overseas employers