I have been experimenting with color-coding my resume. The reason is two-fold. On one hand, I have noticed that reading a black-and-white resume still requires reading and scanning rather than actually looking and seeing. With the black-and-white, I tend to focus on individual items, whereas with the color-coded one, I tend to focus on patterns. The patterns then allow me to focus on either trends (repetitions) or tangents (outliers). On the other, I have found that color-coding provides me with a greater control over my self-story. I could have worked the same position as (in some cases, several hundred) other people. What matters is less how I fulfilled the job description at that point and what matters more is how I extracted meaning out of the experience. Although I worked an engineering job, did I find it meaningful to me primarily as an engineer or as an investor or as an educator? The color-coding allows me to visually communicate where the project added value to my life.
For the colors, I chose a simple four-color scheme based on the Schools at Stanford: orange for engineering; light blue for education; drab for business; white for arts, letters, and humanities. I also used purple for highlighting some leadership moments. In a follow-up post, I will show a quick video of how to actually leverage this color-coding scheme in storytelling.
Above, I show an example of using the colors to craft our self-story from my own resume. I helped co-create the Stanford Entrepreneurship Safari (SES) course. At a very high level, that is what I did. With color, The position does not change and neither does its job description. All I change is the color. What does that mean? The experience clearly includes references to different fields I engage in: education (I am the course co-creator); engineering (the course primarily attracts engineers); and business (entrepreneurship requires it). I have probably extracted meaning out of all three lenses to some extent, but I get to decide which one was primary
- In one version of the story, I communicate that the key value of the experience is business-oriented. The course is about entrepreneurship, after all, and so I might have learned much more about the general content, my specific experience with entrepreneurship, and movers and shakers in the community right now.
- In another version of the story, I communicate that the key value of the experience is engineering-oriented. The course, while about entrepreneurship, focused primarily on high-tech startups and catered heavily toward engineers. This focus and demographic might have allowed me to learn more about the cutting-edge in engineering as well as the engineers’ mindset/thinking about entrepreneurship.
- In yet another version of the story, I communicate that the key value of the experience is education-oriented. All the courses I helped co-create and teach before this one were centered around thermodynamics. Structuring, teaching, and assessing the Stanford Entrepreneurship Safari challenged me as a teacher and definitely expanded my comfort zone as an educator.
None one story is truer than the other two. Each perspective highlights how the experience resonated with me and how I decided to extract meaning out of that part of my journey. My resume becomes intriguing and in some ways more coherent because I focus it better on the meaning-making in the wake of my experiences. Because the meaning-making tells a much wider story, I also feel that I can change the story as I see fit. Maybe for one job opportunity, I decide to color in this position with drab (business), whereas for another job opportunity, I might decide to color in this position with light blue (education). As I populate my resume with the next set of opportunities, I am looking forward to literally seeing the interplay of color. My story becomes visual. My story becomes meaningful. My story becomes mine. I am sure there are nuances and layers that I have not yet explored with this color-coding scheme. For now, I am going to continue to test this with colleagues and friends.