Resume Lines You’re Glad You Didn’t Delete

Nondescript office furniture, swipes of a photo ID at every door, the never- ending Tetris of cubicles: Every banal sign of corporate America seemed irresistibly glamorous to me on the day I applied for my first “big girl” job, a merchandising analytics internship at Interline Brands International. I loved the sound of the title. I wanted it more each moment I waited alone in the sleek conference room. Surely I had a chance. My résumé, polished through countless reviews from professors and the Career Development Center, shone with multiple honor societies, scores of awards, and a 4.0 GPA.

Two interviewers spoke with me, one at a time, and they both focused on the one line I’d almost deleted entirely.

“Tell me about working at McDonald’s,” they said.

McDonald’s? Were they serious?

That particular work experience was not something I had expected to come up at all, let alone dominate both conversations.

How bizarre, I thought. Here I am, wearing full business formal attire, seated in an eighteenth-story conference room with majestic windows overlooking the river and buildings teeming with professionals working for major companies. And I am speaking, not about the refined talking points I have been trained to associate with interviews, but about the days I spent encased in greasy black polyester, serving endless streams of colorful characters who thought no more about the person behind the counter than they did the wrapping on their sandwich.

This was an unexpected turn of events. I thought about the teachers and counselors at my former high school, which during my time there was ranked among the top five in the nation. They emphasized the importance of perfect grades, ample extracurriculars, and impressive honors in attracting the attention of the right colleges and employers. I immediately wondered what they would think of my interviewers’ desire to discuss little but the Golden Arches with me.

I didn’t think of it in the days following the interview, but I faced a similar situation when I was applying to JU in the first place. A surprising portion of my Honors interview consisted, not of a detailed discussion of the grades and honors my high school teachers had so encouraged, but of my interest in making miniature top hats.

I think I see in this tale of two interviews a comforting lesson. Encouragement to build the perfect resume is well-meaning, but misplaced. You never know which offbeat experience or quality will open the next door.

In my case, I joke that McDonald’s got me in with Interline. After explaining George Ritzer’s theory of the McDonaldization of society and the anthropological value I personally found in working around fast- food customers,I attached a copy of an essay I’d written on the subject to my thank-you emails. Having worked at McDonald’s didn’t necessarily gave me an edge, but I’ve learned that what you absorb from an experience is more important than the experience itself.

Some of my choices in college have defied advisors’ conceptions of what’s ideal. Why add an English major if you’re already majoring in accounting? Don’t you want to be a CPA? Why apply for a position in merchandising analytics anyway? As I prepare to graduate, I realize that the components of a model résumé may help set you on a favorable track, but you can’t plan everything. Life gets incomparable humor and vitality from the unexpected, from those line items you’re glad you didn’t delete.