The 140-Character Resume

You’re standing silently in a field with three friends on a crisp, clear night taking in the panorama of stars. Then someone says, “Isn’t this beautiful?” and babbles on about nights like this back at summer camp. The indescribable just got trivialized. Experience over, you might as well go home.

Sometimes words – even well-intended words — spoil. Jumbled thoughts too often don’t get disentangled before they reach our mouths and typing fingers. So we over-talk and over-write.

In a post on getting back to basics, I suggested the crazy notion of writing your resume in 140 characters (characters, not words). That’s the maximum Tweet allowed on Twitter. What? Forget that for now. What’s important is that forced brevity sharpens the mind and quickens the soul.

Frankly, for just about any topic, 140 characters is long enough to capture what’s important and short enough to prevent loose vowels. Restricting yourself to 140 characters should strip away most pretentiousness, stop that voice from telling you to “explain yourself, young lady.” and convince you that, maybe, just maybe you are as sharp as you want people to think.

I’m about to put you through three brief exercises, if you have the courage. The formula is not magical. When you’re done, you may revert to talking too much at times, writing too long, obsessing too much – all to spike up your self-confidence. Yet, I hope my free advice will give you a memorable taste of raw honesty and self-trust.

3 Exercises

  1. Your life in 140 characters
    I can see you’re already thinking about clicking off this page. This one is tough. I’m not talking here about gravestone stuff. Think less of your death and more about your future. What is it about your life that makes you optimistic about next month … about the next ten years?

    Okay, okay, I’ll go first and show you the way. Here’s my life in 140 characters:

    Navigated the rapids so far, laughed way more than cried, trying to love as much as being loved. Head down, chin up, whimsically moving on.

    Of course, you can go shorter — “Met God, no turning back.” – if one event sums up your life-core. Brevity is only one point; truth about yourself is much more important.

  2. Your resume in 140 characters
    This one’s less overwhelming but more intimidating because it forces you to look at yourself the way you want others to look at you, namely prospective employers.

    You could easily write down “Results-driven salesperson with an impressive track record of milestone achievements yadda, yadda.” Show that one to your buddies during half-time and watch them yawn. That’s not you, it’s every salesperson. Try again. Maybe mine will get you thinking:

    Communication experience: been there, done that. Write like I talk, talk like I write. Smart, getting smarter. Eager to give more than take.

    Sure, it sounds somewhat cocky – I prefer confident – but it’s a start. “Been there, done that” says I qualify for senior positions. “Write like I talk …” suggests I’m a natural communicator. And I make the point that I am smart but open-minded and passionate about being a valuable contributor. Seems to me that’s what employers want, and what I would want from people I might hire.

  3. Your business plan in 140 characters
    Business strategists – they’re called Chief Strategy Officers — will consider this approach frivolous. How can you capture the complexity and criticality (strategic word) of a business plan in 140 characters?

    You can’t. But how many strategic plans are implemented successfully? Why is this?

    No one reads the document, at least not more than once. It’s complex – too many data points — and doesn’t seem to be that critical to workers who are sweating this week’s production quotas. What’s missing in the plan is commonsensical, unadulterated, gut-leading, shameless simplicity.

    Take my simple business, for example. Here is the 140-character strategic plan for SkaareWorks, a consulting business in communication and change:

    Get attention, get understood, get clients, get valuable, get results, get appreciated, get paid, and get asked back.

    Can this be done for your clients, your department, your organization? Give it a Twhirl (sorry, Twitter talk).

5 140-characters or less guidelines

  1. Wait. Don’t write now. You might just copy me. Let ideas percolate overnight, then write tomorrow in your pajamas before coffee.
  2. Flow, don’t glow. Write fast, not feel-good. Don’t be overly precise in your choice of words at first, or frilly.
  3. Avoid swearing after the second draft. Off-color words are colorless. Get the emotion off your mind and out of sight.
  4. Write once, edit thrice. Then let it go. Did you hear me? Let it go.
  5. When done, combine all three exercises into one 140-character tagline for your business or person.

If you want, Tweet me @skaareworks and show me your best entry. I have time to read only 140 characters

Richard Skaare

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