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What if you’re wrong to focus on improving your résumé?

Banking resume

If you want to work in banking, your resume must be perfect. The investment banking CV has perfect qualifications, years of internships and membership of finance societies, big-name, big-brand banks, and a list of carefully quantified achievements.

But what if if this focus on gaining résumé points, which is key to many an aspiring finance professional’s existence, is all wrong? What if by focusing on your CV, you’re throwing yourself off course in some far more important ways?

This is the subject of a new book, The Road to Character, by New York Times Journalist David Brooks. Brooks admits that he himself is a shallow “narcissistic blowhard” with a tendency towards self-promotion, but he has also written an entire book explaining why this is wrong.

There are two kinds of virtues, says Brooks: ‘eulogy virtues’ and ‘résumé virtues’. Résumé virtues are the ones you list on your CV, which bring you external success. Eulogy virtues are the virtues that get talked about at your funeral – “whether you’re kind, brave, honest, faithful. What kinds of relationships you’ve formed.”

If you focus too hard on developing résumé virtues and neglect eulogy virtues, Brooks argues that you will, “turn into a shrewd animal, a crafty, self-preserving creature who is adept at playing the game and who turns everything into a game.”

Although plenty of financial services professionals have excellent CVs, Brooks is by no means out to bash bankers. “It doesn’t matter if you work on Wall Street or at a charity distributing medicine to the poor. It doesn’t matter if you are at the top of the income scale or at the bottom. There are heroes and schmucks in all worlds,” he says. “The most important thing is whether you are willing to engage in moral struggle against yourself.”

In Brooks’ account, struggling against yourself means building character. “You become more disciplined, considerate, and loving through a thousand small acts of self-control, sharing, service, friendship, and refined enjoyment. If you make disciplined, caring choices, you are slowly engraving certain tendencies into your mind.”

By comparison, if your life is dedicated to building résumé virtues alone, Brooks suggests, “you are slowly turning this core thing inside yourself into something that is degraded, inconstant, or fragmented.”

Worth bearing in mind if you’re thinking of tweaking your résumé this weekend?


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