A Different Kind of Resume
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Love in the Third Degree.
I don’t work on classified programs. It’s not a world I want to be in and I’ve taken steps to stay out of it.
One of the problems with working in that world traditionally has been that you’re never competitive with other people in your field because you can’t tell anyone what you’ve done or how great you were or how efficient and successful. It’s hard to win awards when all you can say is, Trust me, it was incredible and I deserve this award but if I told you why, I’d have to kill you.
Not being able to say what you do for a living makes for interesting resumes.
In writing a short bio for a new website I’m launching, I didn’t want to talk about my career in the Federal Government. People who don’t know what I do don’t understand. Like my ex’s snarky friend who summed up my life as insignificant because I’d been a mere civil servant and had written novels that weren’t his taste. (Funny coming from him since the only time we ever worked together when he himself was a civil servant, my colonel ripped his team apart for shoddy work, but there you have it.) I try to explain my job to my mom and she nods in the appropriate places, but she really doesn’t get it either. It’s like Granddaddy shaking his head over my invitation to testify before Congress in 1995 and not understanding why they couldn’t find a man to do that so I wouldn’t have to get in an airplane and fly to D.C.
So in writing a new bio, I didn’t want anyone’s eyes to glaze over or invite snide comments about a world that most people don’t understand (they also don’t appreciate my dark humor about being an arms dealer, go figure). The specifics of my 20-year career with the Government don’t really matter for this new project. That’s funny, really. For the past two decades, it’s been encouraged to point out on my resume that I’ve negotiated a bunch of contracts in the 400-700M range and administered one program that was valued at 2B, even though the most fun I ever had was on a little 100K grant that had a commercial use in medical clinics. For my new project? Doesn’t matter. Those are just numbers.
So I’ve taken a page from the people who win awards in the classified world and I’ve focused not on the specific jobs and programs, but on the skills I’ve honed, that I take forward with me into anything I do. It was difficult, but enlightening, too.
What it boils down to is this: I’m great at researching and analyzing complex situations, preparing the best course of action persuasively, training and coaching hundreds of new leaders and experts, and—oddly as it may sound—I’m something of a professional brainstormer. I come up with ideas and help others come up with ideas. Lots and lots and lots of ideas.
I felt really, really good at the end of this exercise. I’d been so locked into the idea of my job experience being focused only on the Government/Military Industrial base so that if I left my current job, I’d be stuck with finding essentially the same job at another installation. It was definitely time to take a step back and look at the big picture.
And it’s an exercise I urge anyone to try. They say that we get the education and training and spend 20 years in one career learning the skills we need for the next. What happens when you boil the foam off your career and look at the skills it takes to do the job, regardless of the prestige of the project or the money invested? That’s when you get down to the real skills you use in your job and can base your next career on.