The Rise of the Super Ninja

(this was originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse)

The resume is becoming an increasingly useless tool for assessing a candidates fit for a role. Rarely does it tell you anything about how a person thinks, what they value, how flexible they are, what their colleagues think of them, or how they solve problems. Traditionally, resumes showcase a list of jobs, hopefully with some kind of description beyond a job title, a career goal, education, contact information, and possibly a list of skills. None of that is particularly revealing in my experience hiring people. This is made worse by the fact that most recruiters look at your resume for a whopping total of seven seconds – so brevity and impact have become crucial in cutting through the recruitment clutter. If you happen to be an unusual candidate, or have taken a pathway that is not entirely linear, the resume can be a death knell. When people look at my resume, or my LinkedIn profile, they are often baffled by the twists and turns in what I’ve done: video game producer, non profit fundraiser, business analyst, project manager/program director, university lecturer, published playwright, theater director and producer, and executive manager at an agency. It seems like a lot of very different careers all rolled into one. But the truth is I’m just an embodiment of the new breed of modern worker who has a wide array of experiences that all draw on similar skills.
When I hire people I’m often drawn to people like me: people who have done more than a single job in a single industry. At the risk of sounding like an egoist, I do this because I think the modern workplace requires it. We need more super ninjas to handle the ever changing dynamics of corporate America, and especially to handle the pressures that startups have put on the workforce. Although my current title is VP Program Management, what I actually do on a daily basis is extremely varied: I’m a strategist, a financial planner, a client partner, a salesman, and a people manager more than I’m a project manager (who would normally focus on scope, budget, timeline, and quality). I do engage in program management activities but I can’t simply rely on those hard PM skills to get through my day. I use storytelling skills gained from my time as a playwright, manipulation skills I gained while a theater director, facilitation skills gained as a university professor, business development skills gained from running a scrappy startup video game company and budgeting skills from running my own business. My current role doesn’t even have specific job competencies associated with it – and this isn’t a bad thing as this job requires someone who can adapt to the changing needs of the work. I’ve gone from operationalizing Huge’s most complex global account, to repairing a team structure and relationship for an important client, to executive producing the largest, fastest brand experience project we’ve ever taken on. I could not have imagined that this year would have included so many diverse projects or predicted the skills I would need to succeed. But this is not clearly captured in my resume – nor could it possibly be. As a result, when I’ve looked for work, I try not to send a resume out if I can avoid it. I’d rather have a conversation about my background, the role, and what I can bring to a job.
Of course, there are basics required for any role; I would never hire a project manager who doesn’t know the basics of scope, budget, project planning, and people management. Nor would I hire a designer who can’t use the Adobe creative suite. But these basics are no longer enough. Now, I want to hire the unusual candidate who has demonstrated intellectual curiosity, strong collaboration skills, transferable skills from other domains, broad experience from differing sectors, and humility. And these people are no longer rare: this is the rise of the super ninja who can adapt fluently from one domain to another.
So, if you are looking for a new role, and you have to use a resume, I highly recommend not using a generic format. Instead, make a bespoke resume that fits the opportunity you are seeking. Be honest, be transparent, but also trumpet your quirkiness, the diversity of your background and show the whole picture. Tell me about how your passion for origami, your travels, how the meal you love to cook relates to what you bring to your work. Tell me about the projects you’ve done or jobs you’ve had that may seem unrelated (they almost never are unrelated) and look for ways to articulate how that work is transferable to the job you want.
Show your personality.

Be a super ninja.

And do it proudly. We need more of you.


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