As Penn students rush to polish resumes and submit job applications, a student group has created the opposite: anti-resumes.
The Signal, a student publication aimed at promoting alternative career paths, launched the Anti-Resume project on March 11. The website features “anti-resumes” from recent alumni, which include categories such as “'Thank you for applying but…’ jobs" and “Failures that seemed like the end of the world back then but doesn't matter in hindsight.” The profiles also highlight successes that are not typically celebrated, like “Leaps of faith” and “Succulents that survived until senior year.”
Student leaders of The Signal said the project aims to destigmatize failure and encourage students to take risks.
“The resume is the embodiment of 'Penn face,'” said Wharton and Engineering junior Qi Linzhi, a co-director of The Signal who developed the idea for the project. “The 'anti' part would be working against that to show people that it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to be vulnerable."
Project co-leader and Wharton junior Sophia Ye said the project is meant to show students that successful people before them have gone through the same struggles.
“People fail so often here,” project co-leader and Engineering sophomore Olivia O’Dwyer said. "People coming into Penn were so successful in high school and aren’t used to experiencing and bouncing back from failure."
The project has so far profiled four recent alumni. One of them, 2018 Wharton graduate Laura Gao, is a co-founder of The Signal and now works as a product manager at Twitter. Members of The Signal said they were surprised when they learned how many times Gao had failed prior to reaching her current position — her anti-resume includes receiving 33 job rejections and sleeping through two final exams and one final round job interview.
“Seeing [Gao’s] anti-resume was so enlightening,” O’Dwyer said. “It really made me want to take chances even if things don’t work out."
2015 Engineering graduate and first-year Robotics master’s student Matt Lisle, another profiled alumni, said his definition of success changed when he co-founded Everwaters Inc., a company that sells affordable water filters to Kenyan consumers. Lisle said as an undergraduate, he defined his success by grades and coursework; however, he came to value interpersonal relationships when he worked with labs, certifiers, and manufacturers in the startup world.
2014 College graduate Gabrielle Piper, who was also profiled, emphasized the importance of being persistent despite failure. Piper, who is also a third-year Penn Law student and second-year master's student in the School of Social Policy & Practice, said she graduated from Penn without a job offer. But after she took a summer internship with Edelman, she was hired to join the firm full time despite having been rejected by them earlier.
"Recruiters aren’t the same as the people you’ll be working with," Piper said. "Those people may not want to work with you, but it doesn’t mean the whole company isn’t right for you."
2018 College graduate and first-year Nonprofit Leadership master's student Tiffany Yau is the founder of Hult Prize Ivy and FulPhil, two organizations which help university students become involved in social impact. Yau, who is a former beat reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian, highlighted her transition from a pre-med student with a 2.7 GPA in her sophomore fall to the 2019 winner of the Greater Philadelphia Social Innovation Award.
“Success in entrepreneurship and anything in life is doing the thing that makes you happy, that keeps you up at night and keeps your heart beating,” Yau said.
Leaders of The Signal said moving forward, they plan to create Anti-Resumes for graduating seniors and recent alumni. At the end of the year, they will hold a culminating event featuring a panel of speakers who are featured on the project website.
“This project is meant to celebrate the intangible characteristics that shape who you are,” Ye said.
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