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Taking a Resume Risk

5 Apr

With my diversity of experience, I’m unlikely to be hired by anyone with the “I want a zombie who has done THIS JOB for at least 5 years already” mentality. So I have decided not to worry about autobot recruiters, beyond ensuring that I’m using the right keywords in both my resume and cover letter.

Optimizing for what I do excel at – flexible, accurate, brief and impactful information presentation – ought to win me a few points on the job market playing field.

My new, improved resume starts with an info-graphic – in this case, a fancy chart.

Torrey's resume infographicThe on left hand side and across the top are the sweet spots found in eyeball-tracking usability studies. So that’s where the juiciest data lives: experience keywords, years of experience, and companies worked for.

I’ll admit – it took some effort to get right. The first iteration of the chart didn’t include a key. After some usability testing (“hey, tell me what you think this means?”) I found out that it needed both color and a key. Since I’ve added that, the response has been immediately positive.

Sure, it’s a risk to have a resume that steps outside the norm. But I’m already outside the norm – the greatest risk I can take is to not be me.

Disagree? Suggestions? I’m all ears.


I am Superman

2 Sep

Have you seen this? As my friend Nathan writes, it’s required watching for the Cape and Cowl set:

But what’s the point? I think it’s all of the following, in order of least to most cynical:

  1. To remind us, as the video says, that Superman is Clark – he is Everyman. We can all achieve great things, even if we are grieving the death of a parent (as Siegel was when he invented the bulletproof man) or are neglected and forlorn (like the house currently is.)
  2. To show that we recognize the importance to US culture of the contributions of Siegel and Schuster as much as HP and other recent cultural landmarks.
  3. To generate publicity for Brad Meltzer’s most recent book.

Anywhere on the list, it’s a cause I can get behind.

The Writing War

27 Aug

I got a rejection letter with a bonus today. It was a company to which I had applied to work writing some documentation; while I didn’t make their final cut for interviews, the person who wrote the email said that the intriguing reviews of my novel inspired her to order it. So one more sale, though one fewer job opportunity.

But what’s the real message I should take away? On the one hand, it’s easy to get discouraged. People are finicky in what they want to read. Most of writing is a solitary endeavor; there’s not much feedback as I’m actually doing the work. It’s not social, or easy, or secure. Success is far more often a function of marketing than artistry, and the market is cutthroat. There’s the perpetual question, too, of “so what have you written lately?”

On the other hand, even though someone wasn’t interested enough to interview me (and boy, do I interview well!), my resume was strong enough to merit research. She had to follow at least one link-within-link, if not two, to read the reviews of Grace. And now one more person is reading it. So I wasn’t the top choice for the job, but who knows whom I was up against? I’m marketing one book against millions of novels, and with one more person I’ve won this particular round.

I think it is not a coincidence that wars and marketing are both waged as campaigns. The message I will take away: It is not the individual sale, large or small, but the accumulation of battles won that makes the difference. One more sale, one more order, one more review.

Today, I’ve got one more – and always one more – book to write.

Why Superheroes?

20 Aug

I have three “in-general” theories about why folks like superheros:

Theory One: I like Good vs. Evil fights because they are so much simpler than the slings and arrows of slogging through every day. Superhero fiction usually revolves around battles between Good and Evil. Even when the line between them starts to gray, redemption lies in redefining it – with Our Hero firmly retaking the higher ground. Wouldn’t it be great to be the Hero to kids, to coworkers, to family and friends? And wouldn’t it be great to do it so easily: (1) Find Evildoer, (2) Smite Evildoer, (3) Smile and Pose. I’ve rarely seen a Superhero worry about offending someone, or how they will pay all their bills, or really want to call someone a nasty name in heavy traffic after work.

Theory Two: For United States Americans, superheroes reinforce some of our favorite cultural traditions. I wrote about this on LinkedIn, in response to a question there. Superman is an orphan, refugee from his destroyed planet, who crashlands on a rural farm — who then makes it to the top of the world! He’s the ne plus ultra of “making it,” with a private retreat home, the attention of the world, and invincible power. (Batman provides an interesting counterpoint to success, however: he is born into wealth, but his parents are killed in random violence. He lives to bring justice to the seamy side, having enough wealth to ‘create’ successful vigilantism instead of innately expressing heroism)

Theory Three: It’s important to remember the accessories: Superheroes get cool costumes and gadgets, but don’t necessarily make you work out the math. Where would Batman be without his utility belt? And how many things can possibly fit in it? In Gathering Grace, Ruth has a special ring, a “magical” golem, and nanoducks – each of which has its own importance to the story. While there has to be enough “science” or context to make the new device understandable, it invites the reader further into the escape. And sometimes, only sometimes, reality eventually surpasses the writer’s imagination. (Remember Dick Tracy’s watch?)

My main interest in Superhero fiction comes from a slightly different source, however: High school. For nine years I was a high-school science teacher, teaching chemistry and physical science in Seattle. I learned a lot during that time – about teaching, group management, writing, communication, assessment… but most importantly, I learned about people.

One day I realized: out of the nearly-thousand students I have taught, I’ve never met someone who is intrinsically boring. To put it another way, there’s been at least one unique and interesting spark in each student who passed through my door or shook my hand at the end of a class.

Not everyone’s talents were obvious in my science classroom, to be sure. However, once I had the image of each student with their own secret sparkyness inside, it was a short step to imagine they could each have secret Superpowers. So what if their sparkyness – their Superpower – wasn’t science?

My basic modus for handling recalcitrant students fundamentally changed: everyone has the right to their secret identity, after all. Perhaps he is a genius in history, I reasoned, so he needs other reasons to engage in Physics. I guess it’s not too surprising that the connections I was making to my students started improving by leaps and bounds.

After living with this revelation for a long while, I have to ask myself: do I believe in Superpowers? The answer is guarded: the Superpowers that people attribute to themselves are not always correctly identified.  But I do believe that each person has an interior sparkyness, some unique talent that may be known or undiscovered. I’d call that a Superpower, any day.