Resume tip: Why be “passionate” when you can be a “thought leader”

Apply to all.
Apply to all.
Image: AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
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Excerpted from Naomi Datta’s collection of satirical essays How to Be a Likeable Bigot with permission from Penguin Randomhouse India.

There are some ground rules for resumés, which are pretty standard and non-negotiable.

Be concise. Be crisp and use short sentences. Keep puns and verse for your blog.

Choose a readable font and clean template. Don’t use fancy designs and colours. Your resumé is not an adult colouring book.

Be a grammar vigilante. Please don’t say you are a grammar Nazi, ever. Don’t say you are any kind of Nazi, ever. This is a book about likeable, ineffectual and mildly awful people.

Spellcheck like your life depends on it.

That then is the skeleton of your resumé. Now for the part where we get creative. We don’t lie; we employ creative techniques of storytelling. Think of your career as a Bollywood biopic and your resumé as the trailer. We can’t let reality interfere too much. We have to loosely base the resumé on your actual life and then creatively alter the details. We will try not to change your gender, but apart from that, everything is par for the course.

There will be no outright lies, just little embellishments to spruce up your professional achievements. Like an item song in a film without a plot. Do note that while we are being creative in structuring your resumé, we are not using “creative” to describe you. Apparently, internal studies done by LinkedIn show that it is the third-most overused word across profiles.

Here are some words that should definitely find their way into your resumé. We will figure context later and retrofit the narrative. But these words/terms are mandatory. Memorise them.

  1. Maven. A maven is a person with good knowledge or understanding of a subject. It somehow (and this is not in the dictionary) also gives the implicit impression of being a maverick. Don’t use maverick to describe yourself, though. It is much too presumptuous. Instead, arm-twist someone else to write you a recommendation using that word. Like a junior whose promotion depends on your good office.
  2. Ideas curator/aggregator. You have never actually had an original idea in your life but are really good at filching ideas. Which means that you have the elusive ability to detect a good idea and then pass it off as your own. You were made for senior management. Go ahead and describe yourself as an ideas curator.
  3. Thought leader. You have never held a position of leadership in your workplace, but you do have the ability to guide thoughts and lead them in the right direction—your own thoughts, nobody else’s as no one else cares two hoots about you. But you don’t need to mention that. For the purposes of your resumé, you are a thought leader.
  4. Digital evangelist. You can use “evangelist” on its own as well, but attaching digital to anything automatically makes it sound modern and cutting-edge. An evangelist is a passionate advocate for something, so if you are the most passionate setter-up of work WhatsApp groups, you are a digital evangelist.
  5. Verticals. Don’t use “departments” to describe your area of work unless you actually work in a department store. Always say you drove growth across xyz verticals. It doesn’t matter if you don’t head the vertical. Being a growth-driver across verticals makes you sound like a multitasker and versatile person. Sanjay Manjrekar could have called Ravindra Jadeja a growth-driver across verticals instead of a “bits-and-pieces player” and saved himself a lot of trouble.
  6. Employer aggrandizer. This is just a lot of babble, but it sounds incredibly important. It implies that you empower your employer by enhancing his or her reputation. It basically means that you are a consummate yes-man. Potential employers love hiring yes-men who manage to give the impression of being independent thinkers.
  7. Process disrupter. It’s a new world out there—one that believes it is constantly reinventing the wheel. It isn’t actually, but you don’t need to tell anyone that. However, potential employers must feel that you are the disruptive force that will bring about this change. You are the kind of subversive subordinate that every company that actually doesn’t want freethinkers wants. You are a person who shakes up processes by adding more processes. You don’t need to define which process you disrupted; it could be that you decided PowerPoints should not end on a vanilla slide that says “Thank You,” but should reflect the brand philosophy and motto of the company and should rather end with a slide that says, “Be the Change You Want to Be.” This is a huge systemic and attitudinal change in the organisation and you should take full credit for it.
  8. Initiative incubator. Start-up incubators are a bit passe and involve actual work. An initiative incubator, on the other hand, is just someone who gets others to initiate things, which could be anything. Keep the initiative open-ended and ambiguous. Like initiating a stamp collection club or a B-movie screening club. The initiative needn’t have anything to do with work. In fact, it is recommended that it have nothing to do with work, ever.
  9. Activity hacker. You are being truthful here. You are the person who ensures that no actual activity ever happens. But the term suggests quite the opposite. You are the person who accelerates growth and activity. You are an engine for growth.
  10. Happiness hero. This term is used when you are in HR and are trying to find meaning in your overly administrative job. You actually have no say in the policies of the company and are just a pen-pusher. Your most vital decision-making in the year was to give female employees paraben-free make-up on Women’s Day—which backfired as a sexist and divisive move. You now send birthday emails every day to employees and have redesignated yourself as a happiness hero. The only person you are giving happiness to is yourself.

The above, then, is a glossary of power words that can make your resumé stand out from the glut of resumés with hackneyed cliches such as team player, people skills, passionate, motivated, self-driven, lateral thinker, off-centrist problem-solving. These are much too mundane and banal. Avoid all these unimaginative terms.

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