Why Your Story Trumps Your Resume

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Why Your Story Trumps Your Resume

I had the good fortune to meet and work with Bill McDermott years ago when he was with Xerox. Since then he has gone on to lead SAP and now write an excellent book titled Winners Dream: A Journey from the Corner Store to the Corner Office. Bill was gracious to allow me to share this piece with you based on the book. It is an excellent read, and it would make a great gift for the individual you want to inspire to achieve the greatness they never knew they had.

Randy Pennington


 Why Your Story Trumps Your Resume

When did you last look back at your work history?

Unfortunately, most people only do so if they’re pulling together a resume or compiling a background for LinkedIn. But listing dates of employment and bulleting accomplishments, while informative, is not enlightening.

Revisiting our past work experiences, however, can catapult our careers.

How? Recalling anecdotes from former jobs reshapes how we see ourselves today, through the emotions they invoke and the insights they offer. Recalling hurdles overcome emboldens us to take on new ones. Revisiting how we handled past situations puts our strengths and weaknesses into focus. And lessons learned from early mistakes make us wiser, while memories of missteps make us humble.

Our career stories also put the present into perspective. How easy it is to let a current work situation dictate how we feel about ourselves today, be it good or bad. But tales of past successes and failures remind us that we are not solely defined by where we are now, but by the journey that got us here!

Timelines and bios? These document when and where we worked and what we did. But stories remind us of all we’ve learned along the way.

I say this after spending the past two years recalling the story of my own working life for Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office. The book, published by Simon & Schuster, is recently released

I began the book project intending for my experiences to inspire and inform others. The process of writing the book, however, had an unexpected side effect: it further inspired, informed, and humbled me. Connecting the anecdotal dots of my history was a revelatory journey. Themes from my professional life emerged. Truths were revealed. Lessons were relearned. Putting the past on the page has made me better at my current job, and a more effective leader.

Here’s an example: My resume tells you that I began working at Xerox in 1983. The story of my first job interview, however, reveals something much more valuable:

At 21, I was sitting in a waiting room surrounded by two-dozen other job applicants. Everyone around me looked so polished in their expensive jackets and ties, and there I sat in my $99 suit from the mall. I realized that my chance of snagging one of the coveted spaces in Xerox’s sales training program was slim.

I had to figure out how to stand out, fast.

Instead of panicking, I began asking the other interviewees questions.

“Hey, where are you from?” I heard names of affluent suburbs. “Where’d you go to school?” Yale, Notre Dame. It felt like everyone around me was from another planet! No one had heard of my hometown or my college.

Then I asked a few of the other job candidates what they were here for. What they wanted to accomplish. One said he is “doing the rounds, talking to Xerox and some financial firms.” The others were also cool, telling me they were “considering their options,” “surveying the situation,” “interviewing here and there.”

That’s when I got it. I knew what to do! We were different, and that was the key. I wanted this job so much more than any of them. I knew exactly why I was here: to land the best job of my life.

I got this, I thought. When my name was called, I walked into the hiring manager’s office ready to sell myself. While the other applicants were “considering their options,” and going for some sales job, I was going for a dream—and that’s exactly what I told every person I met with that day.

I was hired. Why? Because I wanted it more.

I love that story. It’s a reminder that passion can be a secret weapon, especially in a cynical world where so many people hide enthusiasm for fear of appearing earnest or desperate. Passion, however, is more powerful than pedigree, or even someone else’s perfect suit.

Today, whenever I go into a situation where I’m the underdog, I remind myself to “want it more.”

Your past work experiences are a reservoir of inspiration and information. So take a moment (maybe a few years) and go back in time. Relive your career joys as well as the struggles, and let stories of the journey enlighten you. Then, consider sharing them with the rest of us.


Bill McDermott is CEO of SAP and one of the truly good guys who mixes a drive for results with true concern for people. You can find out more about and purchase Winners Dream at www.winnersdream.org.

About the Author:

Randy Pennington

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author and a leading authority on helping organizations deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. To learn more or to hire Randy for your next meeting, visit www.penningtongroup.com or call 972-980-9857.