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Will Resumes Become Obsolete?

Last spring I had the opportunity to speak to a room full of women–seniors in college who were attending my talk to learn about how to apply social media to growing their careers. The name of my presentation: The Impact of Social Media on Entrepreneurial Careers: Why I am Jealous of All of You.

Last spring I had the opportunity to speak to a room full of women–seniors in college who were attending my talk to learn about how to apply social media to growing their careers.

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The name of my presentation: The Impact of Social Media on Entrepreneurial Careers: Why I am Jealous of All of You.

I wasn’t trying to be (that) provocative; I meant it. When I was a college graduate in 1994 (I finished a semester early, actually, I was so anxious about the job market and wanted to get a head start), getting a job was a different proposition. Sure, it was still about whom you knew; in the end, that’s how I found my first “real” job. But I also sent out reams of resumes, attempting to convince people who didn’t know, care, or need me that my experience as Features Editor of my college paper meant that I was especially qualified to answer phones. Finding work that pertained to my limited background was besides the point, I thought. I’ll just take what I can get and work my way toward the ultimate job.

This philosophy–I showed my audience with a convoluted slide that included many arrows to many misguided iterations of the “ultimate job”–led to years of sub-optimal experience. It was tantamount to throwing darts at the Want Ads and then begging for the job.

“You don’t need to do this,” I told my audience. “With the rise of social media you won’t have to.”

Being a big fan of blogs and the effects of social media on marketing departments and media, I was being fairly predictable. But I mean it when I say that social media is revolutionizing the way we find work, and the way we find people to work. In effect, social media makes us all marketers of our professional wares. It makes attracting the right opportunities easier. It’s our means of “warm” marketing. In a few years you may never have to send a resume to a cold lead, ever.

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I gained my professional sea legs during the Web 1.0 era, when there were plenty of job boards and Websites that could supposedly help me find the right job. Lord knows I became very adept at searching them systematically and efficiently, but I never found employment through them. When I found any positions that were remotely interesting I pushed my resume into the digital ether, hoping for a human to call a day–hell, a week–afterward. That never happened. I never fit the rather limited descriptions of the ideal job candidate. Though sites like Monster.com helped recruiters sift through candidates much more quickly, I wondered if the service helped employers find the best cultural fits. I assumed, more for my ego’s sake, that these sites helped them find good liars.

Craigslist came closer to connecting me with good opportunities–at least the jobs on this site included less, errr, traditional opportunities. The employers often sought a broader range of experience, and the site couldn’t electronically weed out people who were not perfect matches, so I had more of a shot of having my resume reviewed by a human. But even here my background was reduced to a mere cover letter, and an email among thousands.

But then I started blogging. I won’t get cocky and say I’ll never need a resume again, but I haven’t had to use one in years. The companies who needed to find me already knew my background and experience from my blog and my Linked-In profile. Or, they connected with others through social networking with others who had worked with me. Or they found me because they did a Google search under one of the categories I write about often and saw a philosophical fit.

Granted, not all of us write about business, or their professional prowess, on blogs. Some of us write about kids, or cats, or gingerbread-baking. But even these scenarios offer opportunities. Just as much as we are meeting professional candidates on Linked In we are meeting them on Dogster. Because all things being equal, as all eight-by-eleven-inch pieces of paper tend to be, we look at personal interests, special projects, stories posted to blogs, and personal insights into people to cess out what makes them different and hirable.

As the workforce shifts, and the boomers retire, leaving the much smaller group of Xers to take their place, and the tech savvy Gen Ys after them, I wonder if the resume will be a thing of the past. With the Boomers gone there will be a huge hunger for talent (it’s begun already, but in 10 years we’ll have a talent drought).

Recruiters will need to scout and solicit talent now, start relationships with talent before they are ready to take leadership positions. And with the Y Generation, which prefers flexibility and balance over the traditional perks, titles and salary won’t be the primary attractors to companies. Pre-existing relationships with these companies will be. And recruiters won’t be sifting through resumes, but finding better ways for candidates to find them.

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Jory Des Jardins also blogs at Pause and BlogHer.org.

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