I just finished drafting my resume in the Johnson format. Besides the utter torture it was to format it in 11 pt Times New Roman in a Word doc using tables (I work on the side as a freelance graphic designer; I haven’t had my resume in Word since 2003), the worst part, by far, was figuring out what to put in that dreaded “Personal” section at the bottom.
I know everyone says to not stress out about this section. But then the next moment I hear that it’s the first part of the resume recruiters look at. And how am I not supposed to worry about this section, exactly??
I’ve never, ever had a “Personal” section on my resume. I always thought it was irrelevant, and I’d much rather use that space to talk about my professional qualifications than what I do outside of work. Plus, it’s no one’s business what I do with my free time, right? The last thing I’d want is for a recruiter to make unfair assumptions about me due to the content of that kind of section. I’d really rather avoid it, but it’s apparently expected. So I’m stuck.
I first looked for guidance in the form of other MBA resumes. I was not encouraged with what I found. They included items such as:
- Avid golfer; current 8 handicap
- FAA-certified pilot
- Equestrian competitor
- Ran [insert big city here] Marathon
- Snowboarded in eight different countries
OK…I don’t know about all of you, but I don’t do these things. I don’t run, period. I also don’t ski or snowboard or play basketball, soccer, golf, cricket or any other sport. The closest thing I do to physical activity is hiking, and that’s the LA definition, which means walking lazily along a smooth and wide dirt path for a mile or so before you start to feel a little hot and then turn around to go back to your air conditioned car.
So I started to think hard about what I do with my free time. And, honestly, I spend a lot of my free time reading. And no, I’m not reading Victorian poetry or amazing pieces of literature. I’m reading…The New York Times. Slate. Mental_Floss. The New Yorker. A bunch of local SoCal blogs and a huge slew of tech blogs. The thing is, putting “reading” down on your list of personal interests is probably the most boring non-informational thing you could share, even if my reading goes beyond leisure.
I thought about including something like “animal rescue” or “animal advocacy” on my list. But I am completely paranoid of someone reading that and assuming that I am some kind of PETA militant or someone who lives with 20 cats.
Then I considered adding “cooking” or “baking”. I’ve done a lot of cooking in my life and am pretty much a foodie. But that also sounds bland and generic nowadays; it’s closer to “reading” than anything. “Baking” could possibly be more interesting, but once again, I’m worried that it will sound like I’m a woman who wears an apron and bakes cookies for her children in her 1950s kitchen. I do bake a lot, though. Let me know if you need any cookie recipes–I’ve tested out a lot on my officemates.
Frankly, the other stuff I do just sounds weird. I like to write, of course, and have written a good amount of poetry and fiction. But that seems…I don’t know…too “heavy” to include on a resume. Like maybe I’d actually really rather be a novelist but I’m looking for a regular job to pay the bills (which is not true). I also like to find/play indie/offbeat video games, which totally sounds weird. And it also sounds like I’m a gamer or something, which I’m not. Real gamers would kick me out of that club very quickly.
SIGH. I wish I did something relatively common and relatable, like photography or painting. That would be pretty safe.