Make Waves: In Your Resume as on Your Motorcycle

C. Jane Taylor, Author

Motorcyclists have a special wave that they do as they pass one another on the highway. It’s like a secret handshake, except more public and thus more revealing. Like a resume. Having recently returned from a three-thousand-mile motorcycle tour of PEI, the Magdalen Islands, and Cape Breton, I have made a study of regional motorcycle waves. Here are those I witnessed:

The American: Peace fingers of left hand, nonchalantly waving to the side, below the handle bars.
Meaning: I’m cool. You’re cool. Hey, man, we’re cool.

The Quebecer: Index finger of left hand lifted almost imperceptibly off the handlebars.
Meaning: Oui. Je te vois. (I see you.)

The New Brunswicker: Open palmed left hand in the breeze.
Meaning: High five. We’re in this together.

The Nova Scotian: Left hand lifted high, index finger pointing directly at oncoming biker.
Meaning: There you are! You are awesome. I know this because you are just like me.

The Adventure Rider: Left hand lifted high, open palm waving fanatically.
Meaning: Hi. Hi. Hi. I’m so excited! Wow! Yay! We’re on our bikes! This is so great! Hi! How are you? Hi, there! Wee…

(If you have ever worked with me, you can guess which kind of rider I am.)

Even as the wave acknowledges other bikers on the road, it says a great deal about the rider. Namely: I know who I am, I know what I can do, and I’m good at it. It is not for rank beginners-you have to be accomplished enough to take one hand safely off the handlebars. Neither is it for scooter riders, though the Adventure Rider waves at everyone, even bicyclists, and even when she’s driving her car.

Your resume has the same potential to acknowledge, represent, and when done well, make waves. Here’s how: Choose the right type of resume for the development stage of your career, make sure your resume is appropriate to the work you seek, be confident, be interesting, make your accomplishments shine, and when appropriate to your work experience, use the words and phrases your desired employer uses. In other words, if you ride a chopper, use an appropriate chopper wave; the dorky, overly enthusiastic ADV wave won’t always win over the chopper rider.

There are four primary types of resumes: chronological, functional, combination, and targeted. The Chronological Resume is an excellent choice if you are applying to a traditional or conservative position or company. It can be tricky however, if you are new to the workforce or have taken a significant leave (for parenting, caregiving, or maybe a round-the-world motorcycle trip), as the chronological resume brings attention to gaps in your work history. (We’ll look ways to address these gaps in the Career Communications Boot Camp I’ll be leading later this Fall. Stay tuned.) The Functional Resume focuses on your skills and strengths instead of your chronology. This is an excellent resume style for newbies. The Combination Resume is a great style for those who have a longer work history with varied skills and experience. It starts with a punchy description of your amazing qualifications, then backs them up with supportive data. The combination resume is like the Adventure Rider wave. It shows enthusiasm and confidence, which on an adventure ride, has to be backed up with some skills.

The Targeted Resume is like a functional resume on steroids. It underscores your experience and skills relevant to a specific position and should be tailored to each job you apply to. (A targeted cover letter will have the same kind of laser focus. I write those, too.) The targeted resume is like the Nova Scotian wave. “There you are! You are awesome. I know this because you are just like me.” In my opinion, every resume should be a targeted resume.

When you are serious about a new gig, it behooves you to investigate your potential employer for two reasons. First: to see if you like the culture. Do you think this job will meet your needs? Does the job suit you? Will you be happy there? And second, after investigation if the job still excites you, you must present yourself as knowledgeable and like-minded, essentially as the best fit for the position. Your investigation will reveal how well you might fit in.

My favorite resume, however, is the Targeted Combination Resume. It highlights your skills and experience up front, backs up your claims with concise date, and is tailored to the position you seek. It’s like all of the motorcycle waves in one single gesture: I see you; we’re in this together; I know this because you are just like me; we’re cool; and I’m so excited.

If the job you’re applying to does not elicit such emotions in you, perhaps you should get back on your bike and keep riding?

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