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Resumes. The pieces of paper we use to define ourselves in job searches. The standardized sheets where we paint the best possible versions of ourselves. I remember a time, not so long ago, when I was a carefree high school freshman who had no idea what a resume was, and I miss those days. Now, I have to have it all together and seem like it on paper too. I’m 19, how am I supposed to know what my most hirable skills are?

Nevertheless, over the years I have become very familiar with my resume. It’s in Times New Roman (the only acceptable font) and my name is right up there at the top, it’s very fancy. Yet, somewhere down a long line of job and internship applications, I learned that everything I had been doing on my resume had been completely wrong. Apparently, there are all of these unspoken rules when it comes to these sheets of paper we use to desperately convince employers to just give us some money please.

The resume workshops I decided to attend were a rude awakening into what it must be like to be an adult with a real job (I have decided, by the way, to not become one after all, thank you very much). And it turned out that there were many things that I needed to fix and (as it would happen) I also learned you actually have to know how to do something in order to list it as a “skill”. But seriously, do employers really care about whether or not you can really use Microsoft Excel?

Whether or not I wanted to, I picked up a few things about resumes and made the changes I needed to. Here are a few things I learned.

  1. Boring Is Something To Strive For

You think you’re finished revising and formatting your resume? Ha! You wish. Look again, there’s too much personality on that bad boy and you need to get rid of it ASAP (who knew you couldn’t put minion GIFs on your resume?).

Apparently, if your resume is not bland and boring with the style of a hymnal, employers won’t give it a second look, which just seems backwards to me, to be honest. This means no templates, no fun colors, no pictures, no emojis, and absolutely no knock knock jokes. You just list all the things you’ve been lying about being able to do for years in black and white and in a “readable” font, whatever that means.

My resume quickly became a shell of its former self, losing the youth and enthusiasm it once had, and looking at it makes me feel like a corporate sellout.

2. It’s Okay to Lie on Your Resume As Long As You’re Good at Lying

Do you really think I’m “detail-oriented”? I don’t even know what that means. I couldn’t tell you what color my glasses are and I wear those on my face everyday. Is it still on my resume? You bet.

Lying on a resume is almost a too-relatable cliche at this point. The age old scene in which an interviewee has lied about being able to use a certain computer program on their resume only to be asked to fix a problem on the boss’s computer in the job interview. They usually end up not getting the job, to say the least. Does this mean you shouldn’t lie on your resume? Nah.

I should mention, however, that if you do lie on your resume, you need to be prepared for employers to ask you about those fake skills during interviews, like I mentioned earlier, because they will sometimes. You just have to be prepared with something to say and have a calm facial expression prepared even though you’ll probably be screaming on the inside (I usually am in job interviews). Also be prepared to improvise and improvise hard.

And on the off chance that you get the job, I guess you’ll just have to keep up the illusion, so lie at your own risk.

If you accept the risks, go ahead and put whatever you want on there. Tell them that you can juggle and ride a unicycle at the same time (if that’s relevant to your field of work, of course) just be prepared to begin learning how to ride a unicycle at any point in the future.

3. Formatting is the Worst

Who knew that making columns in a Word document would take an engineering degree and the patience of a thousand buddhist monks?

Formatting a resume is quite possibly the most difficult part of the whole resume ordeal. Having to figure out how to fit all of your shiny qualifications onto one page without making the font microscopic. Trying to keep all the headers the same size and place, all of your titles at the same size and place… it could make anyone go crazy (I’ve seen it happen firsthand).

I don’t even have any sage lessons for this one, sorry. Formatting sucks.

4. Add Jobs Relevant to the One You’re Applying to, Even If You Hated It

It doesn’t matter that you hated every waking moment that you spent at that bakery on fifth street two years ago. If it’s relevant, you gotta put it on the ol’ resume, I mean did you really suffer all that time for nothing?

Once again, you have to be prepared to lie your ass off if you put that job on your resume. It doesn’t matter if you burned yourself on the oven three times a day and imagined rude customers’ heads exploding in your free time. Nope, you’ll just have to grit your teeth and make up some story about how that one old lady who came in every morning for an everything bagel taught you the real meaning of consumerism and retail (or something like that, I can’t do everything for you).

Experience, as they say, is everything (do they really say that?). If you’re going to make yourself out to be this experienced person you better act like it too.

I could not have guessed, oh so many years ago, that trying to figure out my resume would become such a big part of my life. I feel like I’m constantly revising and editing it in desperate attempts to make myself look better to whatever job it is I’m applying to that week.

It takes time and patience to figure out how to make yourself look presentable to employers through a resume, and even then you still kind of struggle to figure it out.

It’s not easy in the slightest. Trying to fit your whole self onto a piece of paper in Times New Roman font to present yourself to an employer, hoping against hope that you will come off slightly better than all of their other applicants. It’s hard to fit a whole person onto a piece of paper. I don’t think it gets much easier, either.

But, it is something we all must master if we ever want to be prosperous people with jobs and cozy apartments full of cats to come home to. You’ll figure it out. Well, I haven’t yet, but I still have hope. And if you’re ever staring down at your resume wildly confused and underqualified, just keep in mind that you are not alone and you could be much worse off. There is a 20-something out there somewhere who thinks that vaping is a resume-worthy skill. You’re in good company.

And who knows, maybe one day it will be acceptable to put puns on resumes and our lives will all simultaneously get better. One can only dream.

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