The Reverse Chronological Resume Has Had Its Fifteen Minutes

Am I the only one who thinks the reverse chronological resume is long overdue for a … reversal?

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I don’t know whose idea it was to make people read history backwards, but it’s time to dismiss this antiquated format and switch to one that’s more reader friendly—and just makes more sense.  You know … like putting stuff in the order in which it actually happened?

I edit resumes for a living, and I can only imagine hiring managers’ frustration at trying to piece together a career progression that goes from—reading down the page—Executive Vice President of Operations to ultimately … mailroom guy.

Where’s the “logic” in reverse chronological?

Wouldn’t it make a whole lot more sense if we could follow this candidate’s exceptional spunk, drive, and indefatigability (good word, that) by watching him go from mailroom schlep to CEO?  Because of reverse chronological, the poor guy goes down the tubes in a matter of just a few years.  From Riches to Rags.  He’s a loser!

If I were a hiring manager, I’d scan the top one-third of the resume to get an overview of the candidate’s personal branding statement, skill set, and maybe even a glimpse into his or her personality.  But next—I would disregard society’s continued acceptance of this awkward practice, defy convention, and … yes! … read the resume from the bottom to the top.  A quick glance at the education, certifications, and licenses, and then continuing up through the candidate’s real-life progression and work history.  And upwards is no way to have to read!

I’ve edited countless resumes in which the candidate was “promoted to this position from  Vice President” and in the position below that one, he is the “Vice President”—and my brain has to hit the brakes and reconcile that he’s … still the Vice President?  No wait, he’s “Associate Director” now … oh, I see … later (in the one I just read) he becomes Vice President, so let me look at those years again …

I don’t read any other type of history backwards—so why would I want to read a resume that way?

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So I suggest that today—any of you hiring managers, career strategists, recruiters, etc. out there hearing my plea … start insisting that job seekers everywhere begin writing in the other direction!

Let’s read resumes the way we would anything else!  It’s time to create the next revolution in job searching … the Not-Reverse or … Forward Chronological resume!

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But … I guess … if you want to see someone’s most recent experience first, then … forget I brought it up.  

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I’m Sorry, I Apologize, I Take Full Responsibility, I …

The age of the apology is clearly upon us—and it is not just about being polite.  It has become de rigueur, an almost reflexive response among leaders to a mistake or, worse, a true crisis.  The art of the apology has become a carefully choreographed dance: Say you are sorry, show vulnerability, tell everyone you are “taking responsibility” and then end with, “I hope to put this behind me.”

Andrew Ross Sorkin

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Lexicusicalism or Lexicolorism

It’s time for a conference of lexicographers to convene at a long teakwood table to construct a new form of writing notation—one that is more specific—that conveys more emotion than our current system.

It should be a combination of the words we now use—but with a simple addition—symbols that assist in conveying the passion, the sentiment, or the abject fear we want the reader to grasp.  A combination of the written word and an equivalent to musical notation would be ideal.  “Lexicusical” language—lexicusicalism.

The musician, reading sheet music, knows when a certain passage should be very soft (pianissimo), soft (piano), or loud (forte)—played with a slow tempo (adagio) or a fast one (allegro).  An author writing a cops-and-robbers novel may want the reader to intuit that the policeman and the criminal he’s pursuing both begin to run faster.  Rather than writing, The jewel thief began to run faster; the detective kept pace—notation would accomplish this.  Accelerando is musical notation indicating: to gradually quicken tempo.  So a counterpart to musical notation could be employed—perhaps a tilde incorporated into the text: Their ˜ feet scuffed and scratched ˜ through the dark city streets.

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Economy of words is a technique authors use to keep the reader moving along with the action.  The reader’s respiration should increase—his muscles should tense—as the pursuer and pursued quicken the chase.  Awkward phrases of explanation serve only to make the reader stumble.  And, as it’s considered a major literary triumph to cause a reader to suffer a heart attack, the writing must be perfectly executed.

A well-designed system of notation could be helpful in many situations—most especially, I think, with adjectives.

Lexicusicalism would allow a writer to convey a certain character’s revulsion without having to explain that: The earl guffawed in a manner that caused his listener to lurch backward, fearing that the golf ball-sized glob of phlegm that was surely forthcoming would no doubt stain his cravat.

This passage could be written thus: The earl coughed animalThe viscount departed posthaste.

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It’s all related to pitch—like listening to an uptalker (the person who ends every sentence with a question mark?)  Thank you all for coming today?  I’ve completed the report that Bob Forapples asked me to compile?  Many of you already know this, and the company’s stock is at twenty-five cents per share?  (The only thing worse is when this person manages to sprinkle in a bunch of likes, ums, and ya knows.)  And I’m pretty sure, um, we all find it, like, extremely annoying, ya know, when the, um, seventeen-year-old behind the counter is, like, um, twirling her gum and, ya know, talking on the phone at the same time?  ’Cuz that’s, ya know, how when you’re, like, at Cold Stone Creamery, you end up with, um, meatloaf on your, um, vanilla ice cream?

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I don’t have a solution to the meatloaf on your ice cream (other than a good smack upside the head—and that includes the parents), but I do have more suggestions for lexicusical language:

Perplexity or puzzlement are often expressed with a scrunching of the eyes—or a scratching of the head.  The detective rounded the corner.  The streets were empty; his quarry had vanished.  (This is typically where the detective’s eyes would scrunch up, and the author would write: His eyebrows arched as he tried to work it out.  Where had the thief gone?)  But a symbol, following the period at the end of the sentence could indicate the detective’s bewilderment: … his quarry had vanished. §  No further explanation required.

Anger—Yes, we have the exclamation point, but true rage requires something more powerful … potent … forceful!  One of these! ‡

Rather than writing: “Oh, maaaaan” to draw out the word, a slur such as those used to tie notes in music together could suffice.  Or enclosing the word like this: “∫Weeeee∫  doggies, Jethro!” would indicate an ascending pitch.

There are many others: facetiousness; sarcasm; loneliness; laziness.

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Or … how about “Lexicolorism”.

The aforementioned objective could be accomplished with the use of colored text.  In the olden days, when refined women in feathered hats sat at “those new typewriting contraptions”, this would have been impractical, 

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but today we have computers with “millions” of colors—and, for those who still occasionally need to make use of quill and papyrus, there are pens that write with pink ink.

So here’s what it would look like:

Rage: He picked up the gun, pointed it at the, um, other guy’s face and screamed, You betrayed me!

A condescending chuckle aimed at an equally obtuse know-it-all at a dinner party: “I really don’t think you understand anything about how the occurrence of efflorescence or the formation of filamentous bioglobules in microchannels can affect the specific-flow configurations of meatloafor ice cream, for that matter.

A dry, raspy throat: “These pretzels are making me thirsty.

Nasally voice: “What’llitbe, hon?

Nervous voice: “Honest, boss, I tawt da sacka jewels would be safe inda Mariana Trench.

A ditzy blonde with a squeaky voice: “I caaaan’t staaaan da way day treet me hea!  I quit!

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I caaaaan’t undastand why no wun haz evva thawta this.

Neologism in the Wee Hours

I was delighted to discover this morning that a word I wanted to use in an e-mail to a fellow blogger was not in any dictionary.

Not in any dictionary?

Correct.

Delighted?

Yes.

My exultation was a result of the happy realization that a word I suspected I had just coined moments earlier was, in fact, exactly that—just coined … by me!

What gives you the right, you ask.  I’ll tell you what: It works.  It’s a good word.  A useful word.  In fact, come to think of it, my new word is mot juste—exactly the right word for my intended meaning.  But understand, it’s not the word itself that’s key—it’s the audience for whom it is intended.  It’s a word that distinguishes a writer of uninspired, unremarkable content from a focused and creative author.  And considering the plethora of new words arriving at our doorsteps each day, who says I’m not qualified?  Or entitled?

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The word to which I gave birth in the wee hours of the morn—instantaneously making me a neologist—is recrafting.  But before you go around using it without my permission, and then having it go viral without so much as a royalty check arriving in my mailbox, let me explain how it should be used.  I used it when I suggested to my blogger friend that he change some copy.

It’s pretty basic: Rewriting is something anyone can do—change a word here or there, but … recrafting is something the skilled writer does.  The skilled writer goes the extra mile: He replaces entire phrases, makes sure all of the punctuation is correct, reviews and revises the syntax, and above all—checks for grammatical perfection.

Writing to Uncle Joe probably isn’t all that crucial to your happiness or well-being—unless it concerns a forthcoming inheritance.  But a skilled writer—an artiste as it were—doesn’t just rewrite; he reworks his medium—hence, recraft.  And because I consider this blogger to be an above-average writer, I felt that my new word would be appropriate for his level of expertise—and an acknowledgement of his skill.

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As my vocation requires me to read and edit continually changing, up-to-date information—much of it business-related content—six days per week, I am daily made aware of our ever-changing vocabulary.  Notice I didn’t write ever-expanding.  That’s because I believe, although it may seem our vocabulary must be bulging at the seams by now, the American language (i.e., a counterpart to the English language used everywhere else) is more like the waves at the shore: Some new words come in—frothing with excitement and enthusiasm, racing toward us with an intensity that is difficult to stand against—and can even throw us off balance for a time—but many are swept away forever with the undertow of apathy, illiteracy, and obsolescence.

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My acceptance of—or disdain for—recent additions to the American lexicon depends primarily upon my personal feelings about how language should be treated.  As a copy editor, my tendency is to maintain a strict discipline not unlike a British army officer commanding his troops: “Steady, lads, steady … watch those apostrophes.  Don’t use ’em until you’ve a legitimate place to put ’em … Fire!  No, corporal!   After the s!  It’s a plural possessive!  Are ya daft!?”

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But I also accept the fact that language must—and will—evolve.  I used to be repulsed by that notion, but as I gave it some thought—and as I got too worn out to resist any longer—I realized that if it were not so, we’d all still be perambulating about the marketplace and confabulating with oure neighbors: “Fie! I say!  The kumquats art foul as they were harvested ere ripening!”

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“Hark!  Fain wouldst I peregrinate hence to the adjoining borough for fresher foodstuffs.”

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But … times change—and now we are told to chillax while on staycation.

(That my software inserted red lines under those two words is evidence that something is amiss.)  But I’ll just go ahead and add them to my spelling checker—which, in a way, seems like admitting defeat.  (I’ll do it when no one’s looking.)

And I must remember, as the description of this category states, sometimes language evolves—whether I accede to adaptation or forbear assimilation.