Resumé versus Anti-Resumé : Fight!

| | Comments (1)

Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan :

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have ! How many of these books have you read?” and the others - a very small minority - who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menancingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. LEt us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

Lately I've decided to spend a little of time every day sharpening the saw - sometimes it's just posting this blog; or getting the security cameras to integrate with the website; or reading a technical paper; or getting emacs, flymake, and perlcritic to play nicely together; or writing something in a new language.

I wondered how I should record what I'm working on. Putting it on this website is a highly motivating public declaration of what I want to work on; but it's also an embarrasing list of things I don't know. But Eco's antilibrary's given me permission to post such a list. As much as your library is the books you've read; your resumé lists the things you do know; your anti-resumé is the list of things you haven't done, haven't read, and don't know.

(It gets a lot more navel-gazy and a lot less professional from here; that's what blogs are for right? Luckily for me, no one reads blogs. TL;DR ? I'm awesome and have worked hard to convince myself of the fact. Ha! :)

In the academic world, they don't call it a "resume" or even a "resumé"; French is perhaps too blue-collar, so they use Latin: curriculum vitae, or if you are in the know and also in the humanities (at least, far enough away from actual statistics or finance that you couldn't be talking about a coefficient of variation), shortened to the CV. Meaning the race of life; or a summary of your life's education so far. A resumé has to be one-page, and intensely focused on the couple of sentences a employer might be expected to read; or in my field where employers don't read, hit the right regex in the recruiter's feedreader. But a CV, if you have confidence, tenure, scholarship, or an inheritance, could be a lot more wide-ranging. What's the most important thing you've ever learned? Were you sitting in a classroom or on the clock at work? Probably not.

The Referendum , and a certain lack of career progress, reminded me not to compare my resumé with my CV. More important, don't compare others' resumés with your CV. When you see people of a different age, a different background, and different schooling and start comparing careers, it's very easy to feel you're falling behind. As you get older it's harder to brush that off as just not having hit the big time yet. But there are a couple of antidotes to this destructive manner of thinking.

Even assuming you've not already succumbed to Impostor Syndrome , the fact that you are close enough to these people to compare yourself already means you are far more alike than any other people on the planet. People are likely to see the tiniest differences as evidence of a huge career gap; without noticing you both do the same kind of work for the same kind of company for about the same kind of money which is certainly thousands of times more than what anyone was willing to pay someone who just sat in a chair and thought for nearly all of human history.

Second, for as much as those differences exist (and they do feel so unfair!) consider the vast number of decisions that have been different.

After an hour or two of uncommunicative silence, the old woman decided that the solar panels had absorbed enough sunlight to run the photocopier now and she disappeared to rummage inside her cave. She emerged at last with a few sheaves of paper and fed them through the machine.

She handed the copies to Arthur.

"This is, er, this your advice then, is it?" said Arthur, leafing through them uncertainly.

"No," said the old lady. "It's the story of my life. You see, the quality of any advice anybody has to offer has to be judged against the quality of life they actually lead. Now, as you look through this document you'll see that I've underlined all the major decisions I ever made to make them stand out. They're all indexed and cross-referenced. See? All I can suggest is that if you take decisions that are exactly opposite to the sort of decisions that I've taken, then maybe you won't finish up at the end of your life" -- she paused, and filled her lungs for a good shout -- "in a smelly old cave like this!"

She grabbed up her table tennis bat, rolled up her sleeve. Stomped off to her pile of dead goatlike things and started to set about the flies with vim and vigor.


Not that any of that advice (or its opposite) would've done you any good. "You must do what feel is right, of course." is my favorite Obi-Wan Kenobi quote; it's in fact impossible to do any different (or, more accurately, it's impossible to avoid thinking your own semi-random actions were anything but rational and correct decisions at the time).
"You think I'm going to tell you just like that what it took me forty springs, summers and autumns of sitting on top of a pole to work out?"
"What about winter? Don't you sit on the pole in the winter?"
"Just because I sit up a pole for most of my life," said the man, "doesn't mean I'm an idiot. I go south in the winter. Got a beach house. Sit on the chimney stack."
"Do you have any advice for a traveler?"
"Yes. Get a beach house."
"I see."
The man stared out over the hot, dry, scrubby landscape. From here Arthur could just see the old woman, a tiny speck in the distance, dancing up and down swatting flies. "You see her?" called the old man, suddenly.
"Yes," said Arthur. "I consulted her in fact."
"Fat lot she knows. I got the beach house because she turned it down. What advice did she give you?"
"Do exactly the opposite of everything she's done."
"In other words, get a beach house."

(Both the above from Mostly Harmless)

So here's my antidote CV. It's not meant for employers; in fact if any current or prospective employer reads it, I'm screwed. But that's my personal list of experiences and learnings that perhaps explain the difference between my resumé and anti-resumé - and explain why those differences are OK.

1 Comments

Doug Treder Author Profile Page said:

A test comment

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Doug Treder published on September 26, 2009 8:52 PM.

Baking was the previous entry in this blog.

Dad the Determined Debugger is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.25