At a networking event I recently attended, I found myself chatting with a freelance photographer. After the standard introductions were exchanged, we moved on to the traditional “What do you do for a living?” speeches, and when I told him that I worked a full-time job with the state, a part-time contract gig with a private company, and did freelance, he shook his head, looked at me, and said, “So, seriously, what are you here for?”
Based on my response to this question and the subsequent look of shock on his face, my reason was apparently even more bizarre than finding out I had three jobs. “I really like writing resumes,” I told him. “I’m not sure I’d want to do it for a resume mill that doesn’t care about the people it’s allegedly helping, but working one on one with people on their resumes is something I truly enjoy.”
“Wow. A passion for resume writing. That’s a first,” he said.
I suppose I understand his surprised response. Before I really understood what a resume was supposed to do — something I’ll cover in a later blog — I dreaded having to make even the smallest update to my own resume. I would’ve had plenty of company back then, too. I’d say the vast majority of us employees and job seekers out there dread even hearing the word “resume,” let alone working on one.
But my own dissatisfaction with my employment circumstances at one point in time combined with being passed over by an employer I was really interested in forced me to rethink my entire approach to job hunting. And, believe it or not, I came to discover my resume was the critical linchpin in all of it.
Finding (yet another) writing calling
Which brings me to the conversation I was having with the photographer and how I came to discover my passion for writing and/or reviewing application materials.
In the course of revamping my resume, my significant other took an interest in my efforts and (very nicely) asked for a refresh of his materials as well. I enjoyed working on his resume but was aware that I was biased. Would I like working on anyone else’s materials … or just his and my own?
I would find myself blessed with several opportunities to test the query. Some of my partner’s friends were looking at internal and external opportunities, and after he showed them what I’d done to his resume, they asked for my help.
Yep, I still enjoyed it.
Another opportunity followed shortly thereafter. After hearing about some of my interview experiences, a colleague from a prior business venture disclosed some difficulties her husband was having getting his foot in the door. “How is it that you’re getting called for all these interviews?” she asked. “My husband has tons of experience in his field and isn’t even getting so much as an email.”
“It might be his resume,” I said. Thus began my happy work on his application materials.
On top of this, a longtime friend had decided she wanted to pursue a graduate degree in creative writing. While she naturally had to write all of her application materials herself, from the creative sample to the statement of intent, she wanted to know, could I review her documents and make sure they were polished and ready to go? Of course — and with pleasure!
What I love about working on application materials
Obviously, to begin with, I love writing in general. But what I came to discover about writing resumes and cover letters as well as reviewing creative writing application materials is that I felt I was truly helping people with my writing — people I knew, could name, could have a conversation with, and would even eventually (with any luck) watch succeed.
Because, while I enjoy many types of writing, at the end of the day, a lot of the rewards from it are intangible. You know at least a few people are reading your work — even if it’s just your supervisor or coworkers — but beyond that, its reach is vague. Even if you look at the metrics, you usually don’t know exactly who read your work. And even after the metrics, there’s no real gauge of how it may or may not have impacted your readers’ lives.
This is nothing a writer doesn’t know going in, which is why it’s important to be writing for your own reasons, your own personal satisfaction, without consideration of outside acknowledgment. Which I do.
However, being able to have a dialogue with someone, knowing that I’m helping this specific person accomplish his or her goals, is rewarding in an entirely new and unique way I haven’t experienced through the writing vehicle ever before. Most writing is a solitary venture. But teaming up to help someone reach a dream? Now that’s truly special.
And it’s hard not to love it.