Résumés and Success, on Your Own Terms

Rachel Simmons speaking into a microphone

NCCWSL keynote speaker Rachel Simmons

June 04, 2013

Rachel Simmons has some résumé advice for college women leaders: Stop worrying about it.

As a keynote speaker at the 2013 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL), Simmons told the more than 700 attendees to focus on their “inner résumé” before even thinking about the one on paper.

“Leadership is one of those words that mean a lot of difference things: success, power, authority, change,” Simmons said. “None of these things will be possible for you if you don’t know who you are.”

An internationally acclaimed author and educator, Simmons’ advice stems from her own experience as a young woman pursuing success.

“I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do and forgot why I was doing it in the first place,” Simmons said, recounting her struggles as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford. “I decided if I was going to change the situation, I had to know what I really cared about.”

Simmons shared three strategies to build an inner résumé:

  1. Listen to your inner voice.
  2. “This is your compass,” Simmons said. “[Your inner voice] will tell you how you feel when you apply for jobs, when you’re not saying what you really think, or when someone asks you to do something or go somewhere and you don’t really want to. If you don’t know what you really think, you’re not going to be able to act on it.”

  3. Practice taking risks.
  4. Often women are afraid to take risks because they’re afraid of what others think. This creates a vicious cycle. Instead, women have to jump in and take risks to stop being afraid. “The antidote to fear is not just facing it once, but facing it so much that it loses its power,” Simmons said.

  5. Start small.
  6. Simmons wrapped up her advice with a note of caution: Don’t try this all at once. “You can’t do it all in one day,” she said. “If you try to be amazing all at once, you bring back that good-girl pressure that makes you too hard on yourself.”

Image courtesy of Nina Godiwalla

Nina Godiwalla

Nina Godiwalla, a CEO and bestselling author, also delivered a keynote speech on how women can find success. In between stories of how she blazed her own trail despite pressure to be someone else, Godiwalla explored the concept of practical experimentation as a way to find success and happiness.

“Learning about what you don’t want to do will bring you to the place you want to be,” she said.

Godiwalla’s story of bucking her Indian American family’s expectations resonated with many of the first- and second-generation Americans in the audience, some of whom shared their own stories of familial pressure in the question-and-answer portion of the talk. Godiwalla challenged students to find their own definitions of success.

“Don’t feel forced to do what looks like success to others.”

By:   |   June 04, 2013