Nobel prize winners in literature generally write about weighty themes like the meaning of life, the human condition, and speaking truth to power. You don’t expect them to ponder over topics like how to write a resume – admittedly a quotidian concern in the grand scheme of things.But to many of us, a CV may be the most important document we ever pen.
Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, a winner of the Nobel prize for literature, wrote about the usual big themes but also about ordinary occurrences and everyday concerns. Her poem “Writing a Resume”, was written in 1986 but still relevant and joyously resonant.
Interpreting the poem mars your enjoyment, so I will resist the temptation but let me point out that all of us are like poets when we struggle with our CVs –
The poet and the CV-writer are comrades-in-arms actually – they both agonize endlessly on a single line, stare blankly at the ceiling for hours together waiting for the muse to appear, trash everything written thus far and start again from scratch again and again, till they are satisfied that not a single word is out of place
Writing a Resume (Translated by Baranczak & Cavanagh)
What needs to be done?
Fill out the application
and enclose the resume.
Regardless of the length of life,
a resume is best kept short.
Concise, well-chosen facts are de rigueur.
Landscapes are replaced by addresses,
shaky memories give way to unshakable dates.
Of all your loves, mention only the marriage;
of all your children, only those who were born.
Who knows you matters more than whom you know.
Trips only if taken abroad.
Memberships in what but without why.
Honors, but not how they were earned.
Write as if you’d never talked to yourself
and always kept yourself at arm’s length.
Pass over in silence your dogs, cats, birds,
dusty keepsakes, friends, and dreams.
Price, not worth,
and title, not what’s inside.
His shoe size, not where he’s off to,
that one you pass off as yourself.
In addition, a photograph with one ear showing,
What matters is its shape, not what it hears.
What is there to hear, anyway?
The clatter of paper shredders.
PS: What are your tips on how the CV can avoid the paper shredders or in today’s world, the delete button?