Unmentionables: What you leave out of a resume is often more revealing than what you put in.
A resume tells a story. It’s an idealized tale of professional accomplishment, garnished with action verbs and tasks completed.
But this is a different kind of story, about a job that isn’t on my resume and a task that never was finished:
I spent ten days one June working on an organic farm in New Mexico. On the tenth day, the midday air shimmered with heat waves as I lifted my head to inspect the pathetic progress I had made. Four hours, four rows. Baby eggplants drooped in the glare. My work — loosening dry soil and pulling up weeds that threatened to dwarf the wee plants — made me tense. Jab too aggressively, and I risked severing the very plants I labored to help. Hold back, and I was practically inviting the weeds to take over. How, I wondered wearily, would I ever get through this acre of organic eggplants?
As it turned out, lunch brought all the answers I would need.
“I don’t think this is working out,” said Eremita, the owner of the organic farm I had pledged my services to as an “intern,” and one tough cookie. “You just aren’t getting it and I don’t have time to keep watching you.”
I had to admit that Eremita was right. I wasn’t getting it. The baby plants seemed unworthy of my heroic labors, and anyway, this was her farm, not mine. My only profit was an education (read: period of indentured servitude) in organic farming and free room and board.
We parted ways after lunch. I took one more look at the wavering field, wished the tiny plants well and hoped to meet them again in some late-summer eggplant parmesan.
Can it be a surprise that my brief dalliance with organic farming never made the cut onto my resume? Like a rotten tomato, my picturesque foray into rural New Mexico was heaved into my professional trash bin, to compost with many other career unmentionables.
Recently, as I was examining my resume, that most over-requested and overrated document of professional life, I noticed that most of what I consider the really interesting things that I’ve done are missing. Not just the eggplant farm (which represented a gutsy leap of faith that sadly turned sour), but the construction work stint, the dude ranch summer, the half-year on the Italian farm — all missing. In my effort to describe my journalism and publishing experience, I reluctantly forfeit the space and context to outline my unique experiences.
Interning at the Dallas Morning News and working at High Country News and the University of California Press are qualifying credentials for the kinds of writing and editing jobs I find myself applying for. It’s harder to evaluate the summer I spent driving a trash truck at nearly 10,000 feet in Colorado, or the month I spent helping to build a house out of straw bales.