You don’t need a resume…

…unless you’re looking for mediocrity. Because that’s what happens when we

  1. boil down our accomplishments into a one page memo, and
  2. convince ourselves we can make a good decision based on a one-page memo.

Seth Godin hires interns and notes a resume is “an excuse to reject you.” If you’re truly exceptional you don’t need a resume. I wouldn’t consider myself exceptional but I can recall at least seven jobs (or projects) in the last year where a resume was never even mentioned. Here’s what you need:

  • Relationships: Knowing people can introduce you to some interesting opportunities. I tip my hat to noah who is probably responsible for half of the connections I’ve made outside of school. This is how I’ve done work for pbWiki and talked web design with VentureBeat. But, even in school, simply talking to students and professors allowed me to design a number of sites, TA for classes, and land an interview with a big firm–all without a resume.
  • Accomplishments: Yes, your resume can help summarize these for you–but let the work do the talking. If you’re a designer, make sure it’s easy to find these things. Heck, do some sample work for the company you really want to work for (Kareem got a sweet job at ESPN this way).
  • Reputation: If you do good work, and you are a great person (see the last two bullets) then your reputation will be as solid as a rock. Maintain it, cherish it, and make sure you control it. This will mean less work for you. In college, all it took was a recommendation and a reputation for quality to be offered a job without even soliciting it. Wouldn’t it be nice to have jobs handed to you?

Though, Ben makes the point that college graduates usually haven’t proven themselves and can’t look for these truly exceptional positions: “Yet most college students are not all-stars and shouldn’t…just ignore all existing hiring conventions.” Yes, if you’d like to work at a good-enough company. Again, I’ve had a few offers (some accepted, some not) without ever offering a resume. I know Paul, while still in college, went to work for Yahoo! without one. Odds are he’ll never need one. His brand and website are far more valuable and a portfolio speaks much more than keywords on paper.

So, if you’re looking for those exceptional positions, start being an exceptional person and be an exceptional performer. Don’t use things like your formal education and a carefully edited resume as your only means to getting what you want.