While recruiting for creative leadership positions, I’ve never had a company tell me “we're looking for these 27 characteristics in one human.”
They always have a profile in mind — a “unicorn” who can “do X but also Y”. A short list of crucial abilities.
The irony is, they ARE really looking for the full list of 27 characteristics, but most of that is supplemental -- to be discussed later. First things first -- they need a crisply branded individual with 1-2 superhuman strengths, who they can believe in.
Think of how you buy a car: you want it to have 4 wheels, protect you in a crash, play music while you drive, be durable and capable, all those things. Of course. But that’s not what you type into AutoTempest when you search for your dream car.
What you REALLY want is something bulletproof and boxy, designed in 1979, and absolutely unmistakable for anything else.
(That’s right, you want a Mercedes Gelandewagen.)
All that other stuff just comes with it.
In the same way, there are layers to how hiring managers look for employees:
1. What your real gifts are / what people know you for (short list)
2. Other things you’re also good at (long list)
When positioning yourself, focus on the short list.
The biggest mistake people make on their resume (and when summarizing their life and career narrative in general) is trying to cram in all the details. There’s a time for details, and it’s not in the first conversation. There’s a place for detail, and it’s not on your resume.
Intro Limited gets asked daily if we do resume makeovers. We do not. A resume is just a tool; anyone with the guts to delete 80% of the info, and the taste to make it beautiful, can have a great resume.
The real work (and this is the program we are building) is everything that comes before that. You have to find yourself before you can define yourself on a page.
Audit your work history, successes, upbringing, identity. What makes you angry, what gratifies you, what single thing would you fix about the world if you could? What are you terrible at, what do you outsource, what do you not tolerate? What line are you drawing in the sand?
You don't need to do this for ALL jobs, of course. Just the kind of jobs you want. The most exciting roles require unique individuals, and a 3-page rambling resume is not unique. (It also doesn’t even get read.)
This isn’t just about who you are; it’s about who you are NOT, and how you communicate it. As Kevin Kelly says: “simplify, simplify, simplify, then exaggerate.”
This concept also means leaving some opportunity on the table. People struggle with that. I did -- growing up without much makes you overly appreciative of every opportunity. Appreciative is good, and saying yes to everything is the right thing to do when you're in your 20s. But eventually you need to decide who you are.
It's easy to say no to the bad. It's much harder to say no to the good and make room for the great. Once you double down on what's great about you, you're getting specific. Your competition evaporates and the quality of your opportunities increases.
Doing this exercise won’t mean all the wonderfully complex and nuanced things about you aren’t still true. But now you will know what to lead with.