July 13, 2011| 0

Looking for a Job? Consider Writing a Personal Biography

by John Terrill and Donovan Richards

We all want to grab the attention of someone we hope to impress, and we’re tempted to do just about anything to be noticed. Remember Elle Wood’s pink and scented resume in Legally Blonde? She is not alone; officious employees have tried a myriad of attention grabbing techniques over the decades.

Photo by Jason Tavares

With a new crop of fresh graduates submitting resumes on the open market, Michael Margolis at the 99% suggests in a recent article entitled, “The Resume Is Dead, The Bio is King” that job applicants should reconsider submitting a weighty resume in an effort to impress. Instead, a well-crafted narrative will do a better job of piquing the interest of potential business associates.

On the surface, the reason for the shift in viewpoint seems simple: thumbing through a large stack of resumes can be a daunting and mind-numbing task for potential employers. A captivating bio can break the monotony of an endless sea of self-reported accomplishments, former employers, and schools attended.

Richard Nelson Bolles in What Color is Your Parachute writes, “an employer is going through a whole stack of resumes, and on average he or she is giving each resume about eight seconds of their time… Then that resume goes either into a pile we might call ‘Forgeddit,’ or a pile we might call ‘Bears further investigation’” (73).

The bio, as Margolis suggests, has a greater chance of ending up in the second pile because it helps the employer distinguish who one really is beyond a tedious list of deeds done.

But the bio, apart from offering a release from the monotony of reviewing resumes, has a deeper influence: the human psyche seems predisposed to story. From an early age, we are drawn to the hero or heroine, enraptured by the ensuing conflict or struggle that inevitably comes, and renewed by a character’s victory or hope of redemption. As children, stories ignite our imagination when protagonists battle dragons and slyly outwit venomous villains. In The Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim writes, “Like all great art, fairy tales both delight and instruct; their special genius is that they do so in terms which speak directly to children” (53). And we might add, adults, too. We never lose our appetite for a good story.

And herein lies our point: story transforms who we are as human beings. We’re shaped by it, and we shape it. When we tell our story (or attend to the story of another), we wake up and experience more of life. Story, like few other experiences, stirs passions and remembrances of days foregone, and reminds us that pain from failure and disillusionment from broken promises can bring growth. Through story we become more human.

Photo by Stephen Poff

In A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller asserts, “I’ve wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don’t want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgement. We don’t want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn’t remarkable, then we don’t have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants” (59).

Yes, in today’s limping economy a bio might increase your prospects of landing a job, which is good news for the job seekers out there. But maybe you should write your bio with a desire to become more integrated, as well as connected to the world around you. Drafting a resume is safe; penning your story and sharing it with others requires risk and fortitude. In a slowly recovering economy, let’s take time to look inward, outward, and upward. It is these postures of learning and our capacity to intuit self and the larger world that makes one truly desirable in organizational life.

John Terrill is the director of the Center for Integrity in Business.

Donovan Richards earned an M.A. in Business and Applied Theology from SPU and works as a consulting analyst for See Seven. You can read more reviews on Donovan's blog.

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