While our formal résumé helps to define our relevant skills, abilities and experience during a job search, there is an entirely different kind of résumé that can also have a significant impact upon our work lives. It is the unwritten or "invisible" résumé that lives in the minds of our co-workers, trusted colleagues and supervisors. In a 2009 blog post for Harvard Business Review, Dr. Vicky Gordon, the CEO of the Gordon Group, explains this invisible résumé captures what others are thinking (and sharing) about us when our names are mentioned in workplace conversations. This alternative source can touch every facet of our work lives, in ways that we might not have expected. As such, this question becomes critical: How do we determine the contents of our unwritten résumé?
Revealing its components can be challenging on a number of levels, but worthwhile to pursue. Part and parcel to this process is gaining a real-life, real-time view of your work-life reputation. What areas might be included? Think of topics such as attitude, openness, timeliness and follow-through on promises. In some cases, a supervisor or colleague might openly offer a piece of information included in this unwritten document. Beth Comstock, the chief marketing officer with GE, explains in a recent LinkedIn post how her former boss, Jack Welch, chided her for being "too efficient" during meetings. While Comstock believed her communication strategy to be quite effective, in fact, this behavior caused her to be viewed as "abrupt and cold."
The truth is, we can be a poor judge of our own qualities and it is a wise to seek alternative perspectives. In some situations, what has worked for us in the past has long passed its expiration date, yet no one is honest enough to call us out on our behavior. On the other hand, we may be viewed much more positively than we think, and are underestimating our worth. Ultimately, this lack of awareness can negatively influence our career path going forward.
Some solid reasons to explore your unwritten résumé:
Keep these points in mind:
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who specializes in workplace success strategies and organizational change. She helps individuals, teams and organizations develop intelligently—to meet work life challenges with a sense of confidence and empowerment.