A résumé should be considered more than a dry set of talking points and software skills. It should be envisioned as a guide that communicates an authentic story, unique to each individual.
Serena Bartolucci Rubino
Director of Communications, Clarity Recruiting
While many believe that conventional education, as currently designed, can lay the foundation for relative success in the workforce, there’s growing acknowledgement among business leaders that many factors of success are developed in more learner-centered spaces. These are the environments where opportunities to explore a patchwork of interests, build myriad strategic skills, and access hands-on learning opportunities in the community are abundant.
As a recruitment and communications professional with nearly 15 years of experience evaluating talent and building market positioning strategies in New York City, home to one of the fiercest job markets in the nation, I’m here to recommend that young people do something counterintuitive: begin reimagining their future résumés before their first day of work. A résumé should be considered more than a dry set of talking points and software skills. It should be envisioned as a guide that communicates an authentic story, unique to each individual.
Learning in Chapters
We are each the sum of our diverse experiences, the various skills and vast knowledge we acquire, and the discoveries we make throughout our lives. If we guide learners to embrace this mindset, we unleash them to be powerful storytellers who crave the opportunities that bring color and complexity to their personal narrative. That is what sets candidates apart in the job marketーtheir ability to craft and communicate their own story.
As I’ve matured in my own professional and personal life, I’ve learned the greatest career stories are nonlinear. Not all people follow a clear path up a ladder set in front of them. I want more young people to lean into this journey.
By reimagining one’s résumé as a journey that unfolds like chapters in a vibrant story, a career path can gain new meaning. The résumé, even early on in one’s career, can follow a rich character development arc that showcases a healthy openness to explore and adapt to the unknown—an incredibly attractive skill to any employer.
There is a reason the best executives, brand strategists, marketers, fundraisers, salespeople and, yes, teachers, have an innate ability to build trust and elicit empathy in others—they’ve learned the art of leveraging storytelling.
If more students learned how to position themselves in the evolving job market by demonstrating why their full lived experiences are relevant to a specific job, they’d be able to enter the workforce with more confidence.
Most recruiters at top companies and employment agencies are less likely to advance an applicant’s candidacy until that candidate has proven they possess a set of intangible qualitiesーand can effectively communicate them. These qualities are typically mentalities, mindsets, and skills that emerge through artful storytelling drawn from dynamic learning experiences.
The Role Adults Play in a Learner’s Story
As Professor Perkins, author of Future Wise explains, “Conventional curriculum is chained to the bicycle rack…it generally seems safer and easier to keep the old bicycle around than to throw it out.” Perkins’ sentiment continues on to express that the pervasive inability of curricula to evolve is problematic as the world rapidly changes. It’s time for outdated models of learning to change and meet the dynamic demands of the job market.
Many students, unfortunately, are ill-prepared to discuss their various capabilities due to a lack of opportunities to co-design their educational journey with mentors or to engage in thoughtful one-on-one discourse with experts in their fields of interest. This inhibits their ability to identify a desired career path(s), leaving them rudderless as they navigate the often rough waters of the workforce.
The education system must empower learners to gain real-life work experiences by connecting them with real professionals within the rhythm of a flexible learning curriculum.
In this spirit, students must be given opportunities to work across many industries and with a variety of professionals—from engineers and climatologists to opera singers and podcasters to Instagram marketers and private equity partners to human resources managers and non-profit executive directors. This is how students begin to see themselves as growth-oriented explorers and collectors of a diverse set of skills. This is where interests form and synapses fire.
Learning through human interaction can also help develop the critical skill of active listening, a complementary component to storytelling and essential skill that hiring managers love to see.
But, of course, telling one’s story is more than just an amalgamation of experiences gained and interests explored. There are also critical skills that must show up within that narrative.
The Three A’s
This leads me to the “3 A’s”: Adaptability, Accountability, and (Self) Advocacy. In addition to critical skills like authentic listening, creative problem solving, and possessing a growth mindset, these key characteristics can be developed, communicated, and help shape a memorable personal and professional narrative.
More than ever, adaptability is an essential skill in the workplace. One’s ability to be flexible, adjust, and adapt to changes large and smallーand to do so swiftlyーis an indicator you can help drive a team toward its goals, effectively. What if education was about adapting to unique or unexpected situations? What if education was a combination of flexible learning environments, with no rule book, where young people learned to be resilient when things didn’t go as planned?
Hand-in-hand with adaptability is accountability. To move quickly as circumstances change requires taking responsibility for your accountabilities and feeling a sense of collective ownership with your colleagues in maintaining your team’s wellbeing, the wellbeing of your organization, and the wellbeing of your broader community.
Beyond the professional environment, accountability also shows up in the standards you set for yourself—in how you behave, how you treat others, and what you hope to achieve. For students to grow this holistic sense of accountability, how might the education system empower them to do so by encouraging them to use their voices, drive their own learning, and step into leadership roles?
Once again, you will see how these “3 A’s” are inextricably linked. Encouraging students to use their voices naturally develops the skill of self-advocacy. Advocating for yourself, your strengths, your values, and your individual contributions is hugely important in business. How will a peer, a boss, or a hiring manager advocate for you in the future if you can’t be your own champion?
Harnessing these skills and coupling them with a growth-mindset, an action-oriented mentality, and a keen ability to listen actively and ask questions with confidence will culminate in the secret sauce of professional success—especially early in one’s career.
Making Young People the Main Protagonist of Their Story
We must instill in young people the belief they should control the narrative regarding their own interests, experiences, and strengths. This will serve them well at every stage of their lives. Young professionals entering the workplace must give interviewers and hiring managers ample reason to hire for their potential and curiosity, not pedigree.
No matter where young people are on their learning or professional journeys, the “3 A’s,” combined with masterful storytelling, are tools that will help them stand out and find personal fulfillment.
As we draft (and redraft) our personal story, we deserve the freedom to decide where our learning happens, engage with the supporting characters that will guide our growth, choose the themes that best describe our story’s foundation, and identify the point of view from which the story is written.
Students deserve to become effective storytellers who are equipped to communicate the unique value they add to an organization or business. To do so, they need an education system that gives them access to the opportunities, skill-building experiences, hands-on learning, and professional mentors that add unique texture, color, and nuanced plot lines to their story.