If someone looks at your life right now, you’re living a dream. A girl from small town Dehradun working in Hong Kong! Think about that," was a friend’s analysis of my life, as I contemplated switching careers last year. She did sound right.
In some odd way, I had cracked the code of professional success at a relatively young age. Within five years of picking up my bachelor’s degree, my resume boasted of overseas graduate studies, multiple speaking engagements, becoming a researcher of a best-selling book and a steady international job. Clearly, I was living the millennial dream.
However, while my job looked enviously impressionable to others, it failed to inspire me. I was a square peg trying to fit in a round hole at that organization, only because it looked great on the resume. Most people advised me to keep the job and not get my decent resume dented by an abrupt break. But that is when I had an acute realization: My resume was being conflated as my life story.
With the amount of fortune and time invested in building one’s career, the resume has unequivocally become the most prized possession of our lives. Like a mirror, it reflects a successful persona that we want the world to see. As a result of which we have diminished ourselves into sanitized versions tailored towards a competitive market, losing our individuality.
Our generation is ready to be debt-ridden in order to have the tag of a top-ranking institute on the resume. As of 2017- 2018, Indian public sector banks had ₹71,724.65 crore as outstanding education loan amount, of which nearly 9% is never coming back, having already fallen under non-performing assets.
But that perfect job cannot be promised simply based on our college degrees or elaborate work descriptions. It is a summation of our genuine interests combined with passion and persistence to pursue, despite setbacks. A resume, on the other hand, confines us within the boundaries of repetitive job descriptions and employer expectations.
The more I looked at my resume while I was working in a 9am-6pm job in Hong Kong, the more I wanted to look beyond it. Somewhere within the margins of that A4 document, lurked my true interests. What followed next was a search towards mining those relevant experiences, that began by what I call the “resume reduction technique".
I sat down with a physical copy of my resume and a whitening tape. Slowly, I started striking out all those employment experiences, internships, institutions, that had simply landed me a job.
As the white ink began concealing those nouns, it astonishingly revealed verbs: Actions that brought joy and satisfaction. Phrases like: organized a photo exhibit, interacted with locals, published a poem, gained prominence above all the other novelties.
By the end of the exercise, I was left with processes that had been far more enriching than the outcomes. I could recall those instances to be the most creatively satisfying, thought-provoking and action oriented. Some of them were rooted deep into my interests and activities as a teenager.
LinkedIn’s career expert Nicole Williams says, “The dream jobs we aspire to as children are a window into our passions and talents. Identifying and understanding those passions are key to improving our performance and enjoyment of the jobs we currently do, even if they aren’t specific to the careers we dreamed of as kids."
Cleaning my resume helped place a finger on areas where I personally thrived, helped me gain perspective on the nature of career that I envision for myself. Through the reduction exercise, I recognized my love for the spoken and the written word, that had gone amiss in the hustle to chase the next big dream.
Whether it is volunteering as a Mathematics teacher, doing sports commentary for the local radio station, or performing a solo recital at a music fest; the reduction mechanism can help us trace our instinctive aspirations. These passions may or may not turn into our professions, but they steer us towards a more meaningful life. They can help us invest time into suitable recreation practices and know ourselves better.
And finally, relooking at your resume in a new light enables you to respect your struggles and failures. When we are no longer slaves to a resume’s perfection, we allow ourselves to take risks and seek new opportunities.
Former US first lady, Michelle Obama in her memoir, Becoming, says, “I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child: ‘ What do you want to be when you grow up?’ As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end." A lesson I remind myself everyday since having left my job and begun a new chapter.
Mariyam Raza Haider runs a regular blog on Medium, where she writes about productivity, mental health and life lessons.