How to make a long term career plan actually work

When we use the resume as the end, rather than a means to an end, 10 years down the line we’ll be left with a nice-looking piece of paper asking ourselves “where am I?”

Photo by Frank Goseberg

Work for you, not your resume

During the epic Hero’s Journey that is your life — unique to you and only you just like every individual on this planet — you tread across foreign lands in search of a hidden treasure across the world.

The journey is as much of a challenge to your mind as it is to your body. There are ups and downs; you’re riding a never-ending rollercoaster. Sometimes terrain is a plateau and you feel like you can’t go much higher and you wonder if other people experience this too. Surely, they do.

There are steep hockey-stick shaped mountains that you must climb that once traversed provide a deeper satisfaction and hint that you are moving in the right direction. You crave difficulty and seek meaning along with billions of companions floating through space and time.

One day along your magnificent life-journey, amidst treacherous dragons and unchartered territories, you reach into your pocket and pull out a piece of paper and a pen.

“Hmm, how will this look like on my resume?”

A resume is a medium of communication

It’s a piece of paper and an indicator. You can mold it and form it to emphasize certain parts of your experience. It’s highly malleable. It’s fluid. It has no meaning by itself until you attach your goals behind it. Otherwise, it’s just company names and stuff you did.

I don’t doubt that resumes are useful. As a recruiter I’ve seen, analyzed and helped write thousands of them.

But when you focus too much on the resume you can get sidetracked. You can lose sight of where you’re actually going to “add a few extra skills under you belt” or to “work for a company with good brand recognition.”

The reason job seekers give weight to resumes is because employers are giving weight to resumes. Through an asymmetrical employee-employer power dynamic people are all trying to look like Peacocks.

The problem is that the massive tail and beautiful feathers on a Peacock are an evolutionary adaptation that impairs its speed and mobility, leaving it few options to move swiftly and thus open to get chomped up by predators.

It’s easy and often rewarded to be the peacock in society — sociable and sexy. It can also be dangerous. When we use attention-seeking and recognition and as metrics for our success, we can easily adapt new incentives and forget what we were doing in the first place.

The reason I don’t like the resume is because there are dozens, maybe hundreds of paths that you can take to get to your goal. When people try to “build their resume” or think a skill will “look good” on their resume, usually (not always, but most of the time) they’re using an external metric that society has made for them. On its own, it does no harm. But when we use the resume as the end, rather than a means to an end, 10 years down the line we’ll be left with a nice-looking piece of paper asking ourselves “where am I?”

You don’t need a flashy tail to achieve your goals

You can do what you want and still be agile and on the move. Set your goal. Move towards it. Course-correct along the way. When you stop to ask yourself how it “will look to other people” then catch yourself. You are effectively thinking about resume. Smile and move on.

While you may not think about it this way, you are a superman or superwoman in your own life. To those around you, friends, family, lovers and to your mission at hand. Your mission is too important to allow others to jeopardize it. So forget about your resume.

Misha Yurchenko is a Japan-based Tech recruiter helping great companies find great people. 

This column was originally published on Quora