As analysts of language, we are very aware that any text can serve as a portrait of identity, and there are few documents more critical in the presentation of selves over the course of our lives than our resumes (CVs). But how can we as sociolinguists bring what we know about language and how it can be used strategically to achieve specific goals in specific contexts? How can we bring this knowledge to bear on the resume creation process?
Something that you are told when you are working on your resume is that your employer will not look at your resume the same way that you do. But what does this really mean? One way to organize your thinking around this might be to reflect on Hymes (1972) SPEAKING nmeumonic to illuminate the speech events in which it is likely to be used and reflect on some of the other central elements this Instrumentality
A act sequence:
For starters, thinking about Setting and Participants, traditionally, it used to be the case that your resume arrived to the desk of your potential employer as part of a stack of job applications that had been sent responding to a particular job posting. Thus, it was of primary importance to have a very quickly digestible resume in which your main skills, experiences, and accomplishments jumped out. Also, you wanted to find ways to make your resume stand out from the crowd. While these goals are still supremely important, they are so now for different reasons. Because of the fact that increasingly, resumes are given to potential employers in mediated contexts, for example through a member of your network, the strength of your resume may be taken as a reflection of the judgement of the person who shared it.
Thinking about the Ends here, your ultimate goals here are very different from those of your potential employer. You want a job. They want to be sure not make a hiring mistake. Use your resume to reassure them. As Doug Richardson told the Proseminar when he visited last year, present the information on your resume as if it were intended to answer the questions:
Who trusted you before?
What did they trust you with (What were your responsibilities)?
Where did you go to school and is there anything else I should know about you?
Show that you have a breadth of experience, show that you have a depth of experience and PROVE it (give examples).
As we have mentioned, the resume is itself an Instrumentality whose Act Sequence Key , Normsand Genre will be shaped by the particular industries and organizations to which you are applying. Thus, ethnography is crucial.
Settings (the workplace, at conferences or networking events, or virtually) in which you encounter Participants (representatives of the organization) are particularly critical and should productively be mined for information about how to shape your presentation of self so as to be maximally resonant with the intended audience(s) and therefore effective. Get your hands on sample resumes from representatives of the organization. Ask members of the organization for advice on yours if possible. When you are looking at a company’s website (Twitter feed, Facebook page) or networking with an employee (on Linked In or face-to-face), pay attention to how they present their identity, what do they talk about and how (and why)? How can you frame your own experience in ways that resonate? How can you acquire new skills and experiences that are likely to be valued?