October 2, 2015

CHANDLER | A Résumé Life

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Rarely before college and certainly never before high school did I ever hear the term “résumé builder.” I can’t remember exactly, but I think a time might have existed long ago in which I wasn’t preoccupied with the “marketability” of each and every one of my actions (blogging for a school newspaper, attending Cornell, breathing, et cetera). It’s one of those things that you look back upon bemusedly, unable to pinpoint the precise instant at which your existence ceased to be your life and became your résumé. Even if you could pinpoint it, that would hardly be a résumé-worthy skill.

Thankfully, from adolescence onward, many of us are privileged enough to be thrust headfirst into an environment that essentially functions on the building of résumé builders. We are entreated enthusiastically to follow our passions, especially if they fall under the umbrella of an already-established sector of society. Investment clubs, performance troupes, independent publications, leadership training; opportunities abound. Not only can we forge a path and gain experience, but we can make connections with those who are engaged in or who have completed the same tasks. We network. We solidify our chosen affiliations. In college and then in the workforce, we gain credibility for them and perpetuate the industries and entities we’ve identified ourselves with so that the next generation can identify with them as well.

Like many people, especially my fellow students, I’m cynical of this structure. I’m slightly irritated every time I motivate myself to get up earlier to work on a project by saying, “This will turn into a degree someday,” or, “It may not seem connected, but this moment could determine what job you get five years from now.” There has to be some sort of middle ground between instant gratification and the mindset that if you put everything you have into the existing system, it will probably eventually spit out some rewards for you somewhere down the line. Is it too idealistic to hope that there can be a balance between passion and sacrifice on the road to a perfect résumé?

Because while we might not know when we began to live our lives based on fulfilling a seemingly pre-engineered future, eventually one would hope we’ll figure out when we can stop. Are we building a résumé just to acquire another job to add to our résumé? Is a résumé like a Russian doll with an endless series of smaller résumés nestled inside it?

I’m not melodramatically suggesting that we’ve been brainwashed by some sort of résumé regime into dedicating our lives to a succession of arbitrary causes. And I’m not proposing that we abandon higher education, professional aspirations or paying jobs in the service of wondering why we pursued them in the first place. But as we pursue, we should also wonder. At some point being marketable may no longer be our most marketable quality.