“The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg
People have a funny way of remembering risk takers. Pick up any grade school history book and you’ll find all kinds of famous daredevils. From Evel Knievel to Paul Revere, Harriet Tubman and the Wright Brothers…the list goes on and on. Even Bill Gates took a leap of faith when he dropped out of college to help start Microsoft.
History remembers those who do things differently much in the same way that employers notice them. And it makes sense. Whether it’s on paper or in person, there’s a certain dignity in going against the grain and doing things your own way. Fortune favors the bold and sometimes taking a risk or two can open doors to opportunities you never even knew existed.
You ARE your Experience. Take today’s job market for example – I work with a lot of baby boomers. Now imagine you’re a boomer applying for a position and competing against applicants half your age. Intimidating, right? In this case, conventional wisdom might suggest you leave off anything from your resume that makes you sound like a dinosaur. I say be the damn dinosaur! Learn to see your ‘weaknesses’ as your biggest assets.
With age comes experience and lots of employers are looking for a candidate who’s been around the block. Heck, you might even remember when they put the block in! And that’s something your millennial competitors just can’t bring to the table.
One of my most “senior” clients is 71, and as a highly sought after consultant, he gets solid job offers several times per year. What I did was use his 20+ years of experience as his biggest strength. When combined with his natural exuberance, employers come looking for him rather than the other way around. Honestly, even I find it hard to keep up with him!
But it isn’t only about age. Taking risks on your resume means not being afraid to put the real you down on paper. You can spend all of your time trying to sound like everyone else, but why would you want to do that? Your resume should make a statement—and more importantly, it should showcase you as an individual.
Wear your Heart on your Sleeve. I recently wrote a resume for an IT Project Manager. He had amazing experience, was highly qualified and happened to belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. When he went on his mission, he earned several promotions, volunteered in the community where he was serving and helped organize a ton of events. He had significant responsibilities and it seemed like such a horrible waste to not list his contributions, especially when he really made a difference in the world!
Going against common convention and all the colleagues that I polled who told me that putting this experience on his resume was a certain trip to the “resume black hole,” I went with my gut and added it anyway. Sure enough, he had 3 interviews set up within a week of sending it out.
Just because you might be 1 of 10,000 Jerry Smiths in the world doesn’t mean that the causes you find important shouldn’t wind up on your resume, especially when they show your responsibility, integrity and leadership. Don’t be afraid to highlight something as important as religious or missionary work. Put it in! Whatever your story, your resume is a great place to tell it.
(Note: If you happen to be the Jerry Smith who lives on his parent’s couch and didn’t work for 5 years while you attempted to get your professional skateboarding career off the ground…maybe leave that one off.)
Have an Employment Gap? Put it to Work. One of my favorite clients is a recent RN graduate with an 8 year employment gap on her resume due to having to care for her special needs child. Instead of trying to cover up her gap, I turned it into her biggest selling point and gave it a prominent place on her resume. You see, not only does my client have the empathy required of an RN, but she has real world medical experience that most recent RN graduates don’t have. How did it work out? She went to a job fair and was hired on the spot at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
When it comes down to it, the overall goal here is human connection. You want your resume to say enough about you that it connects with potential employers on a personal level instead of just being another qualified candidate on an already long list of qualified candidates. What unique experiences have you had that make you the person you are today? Sometimes that real world edge is exactly what companies are looking for.
But let’s face it: being a risk taker means a lot of things. Like not being afraid to change the conversation when everyone around you is saying the same thing. It means taking the road less traveled just because. And above all, it means having the guts to close your eyes, take a deep breath and try something new. But don’t worry. If history has taught us anything over the years, it’s this—the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward, right?