Just another design blog

What’s your story?

Process: Defining the solution

When I first started thinking about what I wanted on my resume, I started making a list of all the data I could include. And all the different ways I could show it. And I was quickly overwhelmed by all the options. Which of all the different approaches should I take, and what should guide my decision-making process?
open bookI knew what I wanted in the end, but I didn’t quite know what I really wanted to say about myself. Who was I, and what was I trying to communicate? Certainly I’m more than a list of academic and job descriptions. If visual and information graphics can be used to convey a greater degree of information, what else was there for me to add?

I needed a story that I wanted my resume to tell. “Story” wasn’t the first word I used to describe what I wanted my resume to say about me, but Mike Harding of re.vu first got me thinking about the word and what it means.

… it’s important to view your career as a story, with a beginning (where you are) a middle, and an end point. As with any good story, you need a protagonist (you), a challenge (what are you really passionate about doing/changing/creating), a journey where the protagonist pursues that higher calling.

There were two aspects of this story idea that I wanted to know more about, so I followed up with him in our interview. One, why use a story structure at all? To that he said,

…to me it is just [about] being entertained. Does this person make me interested enough to get to the bottom of their resume. Right there is a litmus test.

And I admit, having always been a fan of good stories myself. There is an art and rational to their structure, and keeping the reader engaged. Engaging the viewing being the key take-away for me here.

Two, what about this concept of a story was important, and why is it the tagline for his new company. I felt he got to the core of it when Mike said,

…essentially what I would like to do is allow everyone to create themselves as their own hero in their career journey.

Eugene Woo, cofounder of Vizualize.me, explained in an interview with Business Insider something very similar.

[Potential employers seek to] get a sense of who the person is. Humanize the name on the piece of paper.

To me, the most important aspect of telling our own story is to humanize ourselves, make us more relatable than words and dates on a page. If the reviewer of my resume can see me as a real person, not only is it much easier for her to figure out if I might fit the position, but I would imagine that she would be much more likely to call.

So how could my own story engage the viewer, make me relatable, and distinguish me from the many other worth candidates? It took some time for me to figure out how this might apply to a resume and my own life. I wondered if I should I focus on my skills, or a historical review of all my experience, or how I came to my current profession? Should I try to illustrate my design philosophy, or emphasis my passion?

Well, to make this all a little more personal, assuming I’m my own protagonist, I asked myself what my challenges have been, and what my journey has been…

I’m in the middle of my career. But it took me some time to find my passion. As I wound my way through life, trying different paths here and there, I learned many things. I even started over once, having gone back to school as an adult student.

I worked my way through school the first time around. And I wasn’t exceptionally directed as a student. I started in one major, but ended up taking class in many of my interests, for a major that didn’t even exist yet. I took the jobs that were easiest, though always related to my interest in technology. And I followed that career as one job lead to another. I learned a great many things, though ultimate it was not the career path I wanted. It did not spark my creative fires or give meaning to my work.

So I took a bold step, I returned to school again as an adult in my 30s, to focus on the things that interested me more. Returning to school was a challenge in and of itself, though this time, it was to both pursue a new path, and prove to myself that I could be a better student (in the non-literal sense) that I was before. What I found is that all the skills I had developed up to then where useful and applicable in a new way. And I untapped some new talents as well.

Now I am in a career that I am passionate about and love. I have not been an interaction designer as long as some others of my age, but the path I have taken has given me a unique combination of skills and insights that I apply every day to my current work. Though my career path has not been straight, I would not trade for a different one.

Going forward, perhaps since I found my passion later in life, I am constantly looking to learn to make up for lost time, and figure out new ways to apply my diverse skills. And that in part is why I am seeking a new job, to pursue new challenges and continue to grow.

It’s a first stab, but it’s a start.  If I could tell just part of that story through a resume, and you were in the position to hire me, would you be more or less likely to? These are all lofty goals, but they form for me a basis from which to work. What challenges, journeys and hopes does your own story have in it?

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