A resume is clearly a job search tool. It is one of your strongest weapons to land an interview, which may ultimately get you a job. But the reality is most jobs, about 65%-85%, are found through your networks. Your unsolicited resume may quite likely end up in a pile that doesn’t get a second look.
I learned this when I was first looking for a job. A prospective employer, to which I sent a resume, did not call me for an interview. Four months later, a friend told me there is an open position, the same one I applied for months ago and asked me whether I would be interested. Naively, I told her that there is no point because they already passed me over. I didn’t see why this time would be different with no real change in my resume. How naïve of me! My friend insisted, and I immediately got the interview.
In most cases, neither networks, nor resumes are enough to get hired. Either one can get you the interview but then you have to show up and get the job. This doesn’t mean that your resume is useless. Your network can get you an interview, but you need to back it up with what you have done. But if your network does a good job of replacing your resume as the path to the interview, what is the point of even having one?
For starters, you would still have a resume for formal application purposes. But the real strength of the resume is that it is an honest mirror that tells you what you have done and where you have gaps. As such, writing/polishing your resume is a moment of reflection. As any prospective employee who sat down to write/polish a resume knows very well, it is a moment of truth. You probably tracked your year-to-year accomplishments mentally or through formal end-of-year processes with your employer, but chances are you have not taken stock of the last three or five years holistically. A resume allows you to do just that. It will bluntly tell you that some of your accomplishments are not easily quantifiable. In an academic job market, your resume (or CV) will slap you in the face and will cruelly remind you that you don’t have any publications. The resumes are also quite honest when it comes to gaps and you will ask yourself the question “How will I explain that 8-month period when I sat on my hands?” Alternatively it may remind you that you have been stuck at the same position for four years with no real chance of advancement in the near future.
Not all is bad. If you are honest with yourself, you can use the process as a motivator, take the reflection in and draw a career plan. You can define actions. You can develop strategies. The resume itself may not always land you the interview you want, but the process of writing, or even cleaning up your resume may re-define your career. Chances are by doing this regularly, you may become so successful, you may never need a resume again!