When I was unexpectedly laid off at the beginning of the year, I scrambled to update my LinkedIn profile and my resume. I was not prepared to suddenly be looking for work.
If you are a white collar professional like me, then you know the drill. When you start a job search, you have to review your resume, which has probably been languishing, untouched since the last time you got an offer. It did what you needed it to do then, and you promptly forgot about it.
But now you need to update it with your latest experience, maybe streamline it so it’s not too long. Tweak it a little to reflect what’s new in your industry, so you look like you’re keeping up with the changing times. I mean, you are, of course, since you are a brilliant professional.
When I was doing this at the beginning of the year, I was feeling vulnerable. As I stated in my blog post then, I was thrown off balance. There was no way of knowing how long it would take me to find another position. And I was anxious about age discrimination; that the older you get, the harder it is to get hired.
Now they say that when you are doing up your resume, you should always phrase your experience in terms of how you were proactive and made a difference, rather than just list out the tasks that you performed. You’re trying to convince some hiring manager that you provide some special value. But “proactive” isn’t my vibe. My vibe is, I do the damn tasks and get the shit done. I am a worker bot. As I’ve told Aileen, my aspiration is to be like R2-D2: not a main character, but resourceful and reliable. The one you call on.
In the parlance of the corporate workforce, I am an “individual contributor.” I have never held a management or leadership position, nor have I ever sought one. I have worried a bit about what this means for my prospects, as I’ve noticed how other workers around me are younger than me by more and more years as time passes. Everyone my age, it seems, has moved on to management, to more impressive titles. But I am not seeking position or status; I just want to get paid to do work.
I know that it’s possible to finish my career this way, because I recall a job where there was an old-timer who was in the same position as me, but in his sixties. He was white haired and a little bit stooped and he was just doing his little low-level tasks under someone else’s direction. He actually retired while I was still working there. God willing, I thought, that could be me in twenty years. And that was ten years ago.
So I decided to embrace the idea of being an individual contributor. To own the brand, so to speak. I mention it explicitly in my LinkedIn profile, as well as how well I fit into any team (which is true, I believe). I also took a new profile pic, with the most puppy-dog-eyes look I could muster, like I want the hiring managers to see me as a rescue they just couldn’t turn away.
I guess it must have worked, since I got hired pretty quickly. I’m very lucky to be in a field where there is high demand for workers, and to have found a company that was in a hiring boom. The economy still works for some of us, and I just need it to keep working for me for another decade (or two?) so I can R2-D2 along, making a small difference.