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Be less boring: Make your resume more like a meme

In 2016, Google Trends — which tracks the popularity of search terms — revealed a somewhat startling statistic. According to internet searches for that year, for the first time in recorded history, “memes” were sought more often than Jesus Christ (then again, Gizmodo reported that come Christmas or Easter, it was all Jesus all the time).

So why do we love memes so much? Let’s take a step back and explain the origin story of those images with just the right words first.

A short history of memes

In 1976, author/activist/atheist Richard Dawkins wrote a book called “The Selfish Gene” which took on a lot of weighty topics including genes and to a lesser degree, culture’s effect on all of us. He also just so happened to introduce the idea of memes, which he describes as a sort of measure of cultural influence.

In modern internet culture, most of us recognize memes as very specific image play; anything from pop culture icons to presidential hair mishaps paired with a few very carefully chose words that either sum up or break down a concept. And they almost always elicit a gasp, a laugh or a nod of recognition.

So, how can you add some meme inspired magic to your own boring resume?

Make it snappy

Whether or not you’re the best at what you do doesn’t really matter if no one takes the time to read your resume. One of the reasons memes work is the fact that they make a statement in as few words as possible. Sure you want to list everything that sets you out from the crowd, but try doing it in as few words as possible. And then cut it down some more. Use powerful words that convey the large scope of what you are capable of instead of using many sentences to say the same thing.

Add a clever visual

In the age of video letters of introduction, adding a point of interest might just capture a hiring manager’s attention before they shift to the next resume. Don’t go for the shock factor, but instead try to add a photo or element that makes someone want to see or read more.

If you’ve literally reached new heights by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, found yourself swimming with sharks, or spent time on a safari, consider adding it as a p.s. to your resume. Make sure to caption the photo in a way that reminds the headhunter or interviewee that you understand the importance of the potential job, but that you’re also cool in a crisis. This might not work for every job or job seeker, but could be the right spice for an otherwise boring CV.

Reference pop culture

Applying for a job managing a ski resort? Feel free to include a title like “Winter is coming,” before explaining why you’d be great for the gig. Again, try to be circumspect about how much humor or visuals you add, but if the application mentions that they like candidates with unique personalities, you have free reign to show off your own.

Make it timely (but avoid the political)

If everyone is talking about a specific world event, feel free to reference it in your cover letter or even resume — if it can potentially help move your overall job search in the right direction. If, however, everyone is griping about a scary world event or questionable world leader, skip it.

It’s a thin line between witty and inappropriate. While wit or pop culture prowess can count for a lot in some careers, you never want to be the person who brings up controversial topics.

Share and share again

While you never want to flood someone’s inbox with too much follow up, you do want to make sure that your resume is seen. If you don’t hear back after sending out your resume, feel free to send a follow-up response. Keep it short, keep it friendly and then move on to the next opportunity.

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Rachel Weingarten is a marketing & brand strategist and president of 729.marketing. She's a pop culture and trends analyst who frequently writes about business and style and the business of style. Rachel's a sometimes professor, teaching personal branding on the graduate and undergraduate levels. She leads corporate seminars on topics including evolving communication and spirituality in the workplace. Rachel is also the author of three award winning non-fiction books.