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Why we need to redesign résumés for the COVID era and the future of work

Showcasing the value of nontraditional experiences and soft skills learned during the pandemic will require something more dynamic than a one-page résumé and a copy-and-paste cover letter.

Why we need to redesign résumés for the COVID era and the future of work
[Photo: Parker Byrd/Unsplash]
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It seemed as though the one-page résumé could stand the test of time. And then 2020 hit.

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Until this year, the simple and succinct document—easy to create and easier to digest—was the catch-all solution for showcasing the skills and experiences we’ve collected. But now many students and workers are finding themselves in situations they never imagined. Sixteen percent of high school seniors, up from fewer than 3% in recent years, plan on taking a gap year, and millions of laid-off workers have found themselves homeschooling, volunteering virtually, taking care of family members and friends, teaching themselves new skills, and more.

By analyzing domain registration and website data, my team noticed that the number of new websites being created as blogs and personal sites has increased by 14.9% in recent months. Terms indicating a growing freelance market are increasing compared to what we’d seen over the last 12 years too. The word “freelance” was used 6.85% more, “developer” increased by 8.18%, “designer” saw a 9.58% increase, and “webinar” came up 32.87% more.

Between the gap years, volunteering, freelancing, and personal projects people are taking on, many will emerge from this pandemic with a diverse range of experiences. This is an opportunity to reevaluate how candidates can present themselves in the job market because showcasing the value of these nontraditional experiences and soft skills will require something more dynamic than a one-page résumé and a copy-and-paste cover letter.

Reflect and recognize

Before you can even think about what form your new portfolio piece might take, you first have to pause and consider what your new story is. Start by looking at what’s not on paper and identify the soft skills that have flourished during this unique year. Did you find ways to virtually volunteer? This shows compassion in times of crisis. Did you journal every day of quarantine? This shows your willingness and ability to make sense of the problems around you. Did you start and keep up with a garden? Then you can tell a story about your dedication to a project.

We don’t often think of qualities such as organization, tenacity, and reliability as playing a major role during our downtime. But in a year where change has become the only certainty, employers are beginning to open their eyes to the unique stories that potential candidates have, as well as the intangible qualities that are more important than ever, such as perseverance, creativity, and collaboration.

Try to think of instances this year in which you’ve had to pivot or be quick on your feet, or times that you’ve had to embrace an informal leadership role by keeping your friends and family connected, or maybe by replanning family events or budgets at the last minute.

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This might be tricky at first because it requires a complete change in mindset. But once you begin to look at the last several months in a new light, you’ll develop an appreciation for the skills and responsibilities you’ve cultivated.

Reimagine and recreate

When you’re identifying the new things that you want to showcase about yourself, you’ve probably started to realize that the “title, company, duties” cadence of an old-fashioned résumé isn’t the best way to put it on paper. Maybe putting it on paper isn’t even where you should start.

I don’t think a classic résumé will ever go away, as it is an effective tool when used correctly and under the right circumstances. But if the goal is to show new kinds of skills in a new way, consider embracing a digital portfolio, blog, or personal website as a way to showcase your story. Chances are that the skills and experiences you’ve identified aren’t easily quantified, and instead might shine brighter if you step away from the classic bulleted list and give them a new creative form.

How can visuals or longer-form storytelling come into play? For example, you don’t need to share your deepest secrets by putting your entire journal online for the world to see, but if you can look through your entries and put together a few paragraphs about how journaling helped you make sense of your place in the world amid all the chaos, those would be worth sharing. Or if you spent your spring and summer devoted to a new craft or skill, you can show progress pictures or vlogs alongside an account of the obstacles you overcame, why this project was important, and what lessons you learned.

Our personal journeys through 2020 have been anything but linear. So as the underlying assumptions and practices we’ve had about careers and networking and the world, in general, are thrown into question, we can use this time to our advantage to think of new and creative ways to market ourselves as we live with COVID-19, as well as once the pandemic is over.


Natasa Djukanovic is the CMO of Domain.ME, the international tech company that operates the internet domain “.ME.”