Backwards Resumes; Upside Down Kayaks

C. Jane Taylor, Author

Many approach resume writing backwards. Why think of it as a personal work history when you can and should use it as a tool to reinvent yourself to manifest an incredible future? And by manifest, of course I mean create a focused intention you work your butt off to achieve. This is my goal in writing resumes, LinkedIn profiles, cover letters, and bios. I do not just help my clients get better jobs, I help them see, understand, and when I’m lucky, execute their skills and talents – even when they are just returning to the workforce or have gaps in their work history.

Mid-career job seekers have so much more to offer than work history: they bring life experience and transferable skills! When examined, understood, and properly portrayed, these experiences and skills can make you look amazing online (think LinkedIn profile) and become the fundamental elements of your new career.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I have a completely esoteric hobby: Greenland Style kayak rolling. In Greenland the water is too cold to swim, so those who hunt from the kayak (and some still do!) must know how to roll in order to self-rescue when a wave or a walrus knocks them over. There are sixty or so different kinds of Greenland Style rolls. Some are done with spears instead of paddles, some are done with bare hands, some are done without any hands at all. I became fanatical about this style of kayaking, I learned about its history, I learned how to do it, I learned how to teach it.

Being under water, stuck upside down in a kayak is scary. To get to a point where you can teach someone how to right herself from this scary place without totally freaking out, you must know what you’re doing, how to teach, and be trustworthy (your student’s life is literally in your hands). Sure, the body mechanics of the roll, the width of your kayak, the height of its deck… are all very important, but it is possibly more important to trust and believe you can do it. I help the student believe she can do it, then I show her how to use her strength, balance, and body (all things she already has) to roll up.

What does this esoteric paddling tradition have to do with career communications? Everything except the cold water. Here are some of the skills and characteristics I have transfered from this life experience to my resume and a job that I love:

Enthusiasm – The first time I witnessed G-style rolling, I knew I had to learn it.
Research – I had to find out who knew how to do it and who could teach me. I had to experiment.
Inquiry – I had to keep asking.
Practice – Rolling is hard to do; I had to dedicate myself to practice. For years, the roll-over comb-over was my summer hair style.
Dedication – Hard work, too.
Mentoring – I joined different organizations, signing up to teach others how to roll.
Humor – Humor is part of who I am. I need it to survive – in and out of the kayak.
Compassion – I understand that my students might be a little anxious when learning this new skill.

Such characteristics make great resume foundations and excellent career elements. In fact, I bring my kayak-teaching skills into play every time I write a resume (a big part of my work today). I understand and acknowledge that job hunting, like being stuck upside down in a skinny little boat, can be scary. I also understand that each of my clients already has the talents and skills they need to right the boat.

By examining and insightfully representing transferable and skills and life experience, I help my clients reflect on who they are but who they can become.

You can do this, too. Lindsey Lathrop and I will be presenting a workshop Friday, October 19 on exactly how. Join us at Vermont Tech Jam for Reinvent Yourself. Explore ways to rebuild your resume – and your confidence – in the face of change. Bring your laptop! No kayaking skills required.


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