200 Words or Less

Seven years ago today, I was very unexpectedly and with terrible sorrow writing my brother’s obituary. How to use words to describe 41 years of life? It was a tortuous and – weirdly – predictable piece of journalism to actually write.   Every year since, around this date, my mind gets cast back to that flight from Texas to Virginia when I was scribbling words in pencil in my journal. I was trying hard to breathe. To keep it together. To endure a pain I had never known.  To find good words to describe a good man.

One of the saving graces of obituary journalism is that it follows a pattern, and I was lucky enough to learn from a college professor how to actually write these distinct pieces. One of my very first assignments in Newspaper Writing 101 was to craft a set of obits. 200 words or less. Talk about the pressure of editing – insane space limitations to describe an entire human’s end-to-end life!  How to do it well? How to make it engaging from word one to word 199? How to bring this person to life again through excellence in language?

Another predictable piece of writing is a resume. Not necessarily journalistic – but published content on LinkedIn and shared daily among millions of people – resumes follow similar predictability patterns.  Contact info, objective, orderly pattern of experience, education, and interests. 600 word count average.

Is your resume bringing you to life? Your resume is an earlier draft version of your obituary.  Just longer in word count, and lacking in some serious love. Typical resume word count ranges from 500 to 1,000 – depending on the length of career. Compared to your obit, you have all the space in the world!  So, what are you saying about yourself? You are in charge of your word choice. You are in charge of the design, the formatting, the flow, the nouns, verbs, bullets, fonts, margins – all of it.

One day off in the future, someone else is likely to be tasked with the tough job of bringing your entire life into focus in 200 words or less.  Reckon with this beautiful question, posed by the incomparable Mary Oliver, the poet who just passed earlier this month: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one, wild and precious life?”

At PeopleGetters we are story-getters, really.  Resumes are stories. We can help you tell the best one about yourself!  Connect with us anytime.