The Infinite Resume, Or Capturing and Sculpting Experience

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

I've been working in higher education in different capacities for over twenty years. I've been involved in particular in instructional design and faculty development for over a decade.  One of the benefits or things I take great pleasure in at this point in my career is helping, advising, and mentoring folks who are interested or new to the field(s).  I enjoy it not because it's an opportunity to share about my experiences, lessons, and adventures, but also to learn about the other person and what brings them into this field.  Instructional designers are such a diverse set of folks.  No two have the same story in terms of how they found their way here and so hearing about them and what drives them is always enlightening and makes me reflect.   

In the last two years, I have taken on the role of mentoring or advising several dozen folks interested in this field.  Many have come through friends' recommendations--folks who know what I do and know someone that's interested in the work as well.  Others have come through more formal channels such as the ID2ID program or the EDUCAUSE Mentoring program.  These conversations are often dynamic and take different directions but like many informational interviews about a field, one question that comes up regularly is how to "break-in" or how to advance in the field.  I realized that there are a couple different pieces of advice that I offer up that have helped me or more importantly, I see as valuable practices to help one figure out how to best present themselves to employers.  

So today, we're going to talk about the Infinite Resume. It's technically not a document nor is it infinite, but rather three documents and a calendar reminder that I use to help me to keep track of what kind of work I am doing and how it is happening in my life in conjunction with everything else. From that, I can spin an infinite amount of ways to tell my story or how my story connects with the place that I am interested in going to next.  While inevitably, experience and know-how is important in getting into the field, it's also about being able to craft a narrative that is legible to the folks doing the hiring.  I think we sometimes overlook this in the hustle to answer questions, look our best, and vie for a selective spot for the next round in the job hunt.  

The first template to make use of is the Professional Accomplishments document.  This document shouldn't be considered the "resume" that you submit but rather the well that you draw from to build your resume or cover letter.  What you want to do with this document is to do your best to trace out the contours of your professional and, where relevant, social activities.  I've included three categories:  Education, Professional Work, and Professional and Social Organizations.  You can definitely add more categories that make sense to you.  The larger point is that you want to sketch out mini biographies about the work and accomplishemnts you've done in each space. 

When we are writing resumes or even CVs, we try to stick to brevity of individual entries (unless we're trying to pad).  But in this document, you want to draw out all the things. You want to include any and all accomplishments, progress, or changes.  The reason why is that you readily forget these things.  The further we get from a job or activity, the less we recall of the details and different things that demonstrated our abilities.  Use this document to capture all of that in one spot. It's not just so you can see all that you have done and pat yourself on the back (but honestly, that's not a bad idea either), rather it might reveal patterns or some curious insights about the kind of work you have been doing.  

The Professional Accomplishments document can be thought of as the vertical dive into specific work that you have done over the years. The aim is to capture all the rich details of each space that you can leverage later on as experience, ability, and skill.  By contract, the 30,000 Ft Life View Template is more of a horizontal tool to understand your work.

A screenshot of the spreadsheet "30000 Foot Life View Template"

The goal of this document is to help people think about how time passes and the different things that are going on in a given year (and given the pass COVID-19 pandemic, such context is super-useful).  What I like about using this one is that it also helps me understand why some years I do more and other years, I feel like I'm just doing enough to get through work.  Connecting it accross different aspects of my life can clarify the larger narrative.  It is also super useful again for storytelling when writing a cover-letter or doing an interview. By seeing what was going on in a given year, it allows you to think more clearly about how you might navigate interview questions (The "Tell us about a time you were dealing with competing demands" question) or help to frame your ability to do work that may appear out of reach ("Why yes, I don't have experinece X exactly.  However, while I was working at Place 1, I was also volunteering with Organization 2 where I worked on X, while while I was also doing work at Place 1 and finishing Degree A which relates to X").  

In addition to these 2 documents, you also want a centralized resume (or CV in academia).  This should be the general one that you can give out at an instant if requested but that you can also iterate on depenidng on the specific job you're applying for.  This one is no surprise but I do find that it's easier to keep this up to date with the final tool: a calendar reminder.  

Each month, I get an email reminder that tells me to update my CV. Included in this reminder is a link to the previous 2 template documents and my current CV.  By updating once a month, I can make sure to get the details and changes that we so often forget.  Also, by doing this 5-10 minutes a month, I save myself a lot more confusion when I am actually looking.

Those are some of my tips--have you tried this?  Or something like this?  What works for you?

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  1. I love this Lance! Some of us make Vision Boards which is another way to display and forecast.

    1. Yes! That's another great approach thought I've yet to get much into vision boards--I tend to work more textually than visually but go with what works :)


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