Filling in the Blanks

What goes on a résumé when you're just starting out?

My daughter Marcy graduates from college in May. She’s home for Spring Break this week, and starting to panic because she hasn’t got a job lined up. So yesterday, we sat down to write her résumé.

“What goes on it?” she asked.

I pulled out the most recent version of my own résumé and took a look. Half a dozen different stints of employment, publications, some awards, and at the very bottom, dismissed in a single line, my education.

Marcy moaned, reading over my shoulder. “I don’t have any of that stuff!”

“Let’s start with what you do have.” I typed in her name and address at the top. That looked pretty good, she had to admit, admiring the type. We then checked her college’s website for résumé suggestions.

“‘Objective’?” Marcy read. “A job! What else would be my objective?”

“I think they mean what kind of job.”

“Oh.” I could see the panic bubbling up again. “I don’t know what kind of job! Who’d give a job to me?”

“You’ve had jobs. A lot of jobs,” I reminded her. “Why don’t you write down all the jobs you’ve had?” She did, and was surprised by the length of the list: Spanish tutor, elementary-school teacher’s assistant, founder of a support group for Latina women, homework aide for Spanish-speaking kids. The list helped her figure out her objective: a community-service job that makes use of her Spanish skills. By the time we’d typed in her dual majors and her GPA under EDUCATION, she was starting to feel better about her prospects, and adding items left and right: her two semesters studying abroad, a couple of leadership positions on campus, her certification to teach English as a second language. As the empty page filled, her fear abated; she looked better on paper than she’d thought.

As a mom, I’m pretty helicopter-y, but Marcy’s résumé ended up with stuff on it that I knew nothing about. For her, summing up her four years of college was validating; for me, it was disconcerting. Naturally, I still see her as a child, my child; who would give her a job? Her bedroom’s such a mess. She has terrible taste in boyfriends. She gets so stressed out that she calls at least once a month from school and sobs that she has too much to do, doesn’t know where to begin. Yet look at all these milestones she’s accomplished—without me! See how grown-up she is, laid out in black and white!

And now she’s just about ready to fly off—to find a job, put down roots, make new friends, begin to weave the web of her adult life. EDUCATION will slowly rotate from the top of her résumé down to the bottom as she accumulates experiences. There will be more surprises, more stuff I don’t know anything about—and sometimes, that will be just as well. These past four years—the required math course (yikes!), the roommate woes, the off-campus apartment with the leaky roof—will recede into the distance, all the Grand Guignol becoming cherished memories. I’ll keep a copy of this résumé on file, though, as a reminder that somehow, kids do grow up, even when you think they never will.