At the start of the year, I started a new job at a new company. It was an exhilarating change with wonderful opportunities. But as changes often do, they can reset a number of things in our lives. Including the “what I do and where I work” conversation that happens in many social settings.
Many conversations following my new job started something like this, “Hi, I’m Lindsay Betzendahl, and I work at HealthDataViz doing X, Y, and Z.”
This sentiment is often further ‘set in stone’ by updating your “current job” in all the normal places the day you start a new job. So you log into a site such as LinkedIn and add your new place of employment. Click. Click. Enter. Enter… and on you go with your life.
This exercise seems complete enough until, however, you need an updated resume to apply for a different job. Even more important is when you need that resume for your first job. Where do I start? you may ask. This is to say, it’s helpful to be proactive with your resume.
My recommendation? Start with what you know best – YOU! Typically, resumes are spattered with the usual suspects: education, a timeline of jobs, maybe some technical skills, and likely your contact information. A huge element that may resumes lack, even the interactive ones I’ve seen, is the personal aspect. Another important missing element is giving adequate time to consider the design of your resume – the layout, what each section will hold, colors, purpose, interactivity or not, and creativity. It’s worth changing the perspective on how we think about and create resumes and I’m here to tell you the approach I took when I updated mine.
You Have to Start Somewhere
I’m not entirely new to the Tableau resume build. In fact, I’ve done a total of three. My first one I don’t have any longer but it had many of the expected parts: Gantt chart of my education and jobs, interactive hovering/selecting to see my skills, and some action filter to show text about my job responsibilities. In retrospect, it was awful.
My second one, which I developed in early 2018, was more or less just a timeline of my education and jobs. It was a result of finding an interesting resume done by Amy Cesal that caught my eye, which, I should add, is not built in Tableau (I’ll get to why this matters later).
So, why did this resume catch my eye? If you Google “Tableau resumes” or search on Tableau Public, 99% of them will appear to be the same flavor of vanilla. That is to say, there are a lot of similarities: Gantt chart, image in the top left, skills, a bunch of unnecessary icons, and a boring color scheme.
No offense if this sounds like yours. That’s why you are likely reading this – to improve your resume or start one! If that’s your plan, then good, you are in the right spot.
So back to Amy’s resume. I found the resumes already on Tableau Public uninspiring and too similar, so Amy’s gave me a fresh idea for how to create one. It certainly wasn’t the best resume (it’s still basically just a timeline) but it got me on the path to rethinking how to approach a resume in Tableau.
So start somewhere. Your first resume doesn’t have to be your last. Iteration makes the world go round, as I always say. Write that down.
Step 1: Conceptualizing the Design
I tell people all the time (including in my Tableau Fringe Festival talk) that I usually search for inspiration before I create a visualization. To create my most recent resume, I started by Googling “resume infographic”, followed by “about me infographic,” and “professional infographic”, and so on until I had a collection of ideas for how to structure a biographic-like resume that wasn’t the usual Tableau version. It’s important to search outside of the medium we are working in as that is often the place that artists, authors, and analysts find inspiration.
Below are a few concepts I found that helped jumpstart my creative juices.
Left Image: A CV that had a color palette I was really drawn to so I took the image and ran it through Tableau Magic’s color palette generator (PS bookmark this – I use it all the time!) to get nice color scheme for my resume. Looking back, it’s funny because the colors are similar to my previous resume, but I didn’t even realize it until now.
Top Right: This resume had a layout and font style I liked. As a result, I went in search of a font similar and found one called Watermelon Script.
Bottom Right: I actually started building before I found the last image, but this last image actually helped change my resume and pulled it all together in the end. When I found the third image I immediately loved the shape in the corner, so I went into PowerPoint and created that same shape to use.
The elements of design are important to consider first particularly because they bring the element of YOU to your resume. If you think about what you like first, they you inevitably are bringing yourself into your work. That should be key to any resume in this day and age.
Step 2 – Determining the WHAT
At this point, I had a color scheme, a font, a shape, and general layout idea including a dashboard size (I strongly recommend that you create your dashboard as a letter landscape or letter portrait for optimal printing).
After framing out my dashboard (this is a ‘design first’ approach I usually take in my builds), I had to work out the harder part of this process – the graphical representation of my experience and skills.
This step is where you determine what you want to highlight in your biographic resume. In my particular case, I was creating this mostly as a biography for my new company to use on their website. This meant I knew it needed to stand on its own, have some interactive features, show who I am as an individual, and highlighting my professional skills (charts, design, organization, Tableau). A big ask, but by listing that out, I had a framework to start and build.
At first, these were the areas I identified:
- A short section about who I am and my contact information. I wanted some fun details to ensure folks got a sense of who I was – not just what I can do or what I’ve done. I want people to know me.
- A section about my previous jobs/roles. This obviously is important is a resume. Being that I’m in my late 30s, no one case when I went to school or when I had jobs. They might care about how long I was at each job and what roles I had. So I skipped the typical timeline. These are important considerations as you think about you own resume.
- My visualization skills. I later scrapped this idea and changed it to highlights of my work. I found that quantifying skills is really hit or miss. As someone who has read resumes, I know it’s subjective. So I decided to skip this concept as it didn’t feel like it added value to my resume.
- My favorite chart types. This was actually an idea from my boss, which she requested when I was creating her biography viz.
- Education. I always think employers want to see this, but it’s less about when and how long. Consider to highlight this or not based on your degree, it’s relevance, and is it something that you find valuable to discuss with an employer. If so, highlight it, if not, then just put it in the bottom left, as I did as it’s the last place someone will be looking.
- Presentations and links to work I’ve done. Instead of quantifying skills, I listed things I’ve done. In the static version, someone can see counts and know I’m busy, but in the interactive version, there are links to view blogs, articles, listen to podcast, and view presentations.
Step 3 – Structuring the Data
I knew I needed data on my prior jobs, my education, my presentations and links, and my favorite chart types. I find that creating data for these resumes isn’t terribly hard. You just need to first plan out what you want to show in a chart and how, so I’d suggest mocking something up or sketching it out first. It will help you determine how to structure your data.
For the jobs and education, I created a table with the following columns: Company, Title, Type (Education vs. Employment), Type Detail (such as Undergraduate, Clinical, Quality Management – big categories), Location, Date Started, Date Ended, Data Skills Required (Y/N), and Notes.
For the presentations and links data, I just created a similar data set with each aspect that I may want to visualize and included the links to the presentations.
For the favorite chart type graphs, I also both used real data (one was on the hotness of chili peppers since I love them) and some funny personal data. Since the point was the chart types, I could have used completely pretend data, but I wanted some Easter eggs, as they call it, if anyone looked carefully at the interactive versions.
Rule #1: Don’t over think the data. No need for a “wow” factor in regards to crazy calculations or charts. Employers have a short time to look at your resume. If it’s complicated or includes a chart type they have never seen, they will not take the time to review all the details you put into it.
You want people to see your resume and be immediately drawn in. Are they going to care how hard it was to build? Probably not. You want it to be memorable, different, unique, and a reflection of you.
Step 4 – Prototyping
Let’s be clear, my resume didn’t come together in one fell swoop. In fact, it took a lot of iteration. The first draft looked like this below.
As with any dashboard or project – iterate, iterate, and iterate again. No dashboard is perfect on the first try, in my opinion. I decided to scrap the timeline and the educational timeline, because, honestly, no employer cares when I went to school anymore. I also chose not to show where I worked, but the data is in the tooltip. You may clearly want to explicitly show where you worked. These are things to consider: who is your intended audience, how do you expect them to use/view your resume, what is their level of expertise with data visualization, and what is most important to highlight about yourself.
I also rethought where each chart should be placed and reevaluated their importance. This is key. Remember the sequence of visual perception: top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right – a Z pattern.
After a lot of designing and restructuring the visualization, my final viz looks like this, which you can interact with on Tableau Public. Let me quickly walk you through my design choices and how you can use this process to help design your own!
Sections & Evaluating Importance
Originally, I had this down the side, but upon further contemplation I realized I wanted the personal part to be the first section someone would read. For me, it was important that people read this biographic resume and feel like they know me, what makes me interesting, what do I like, and why might you want me on your team or want me to work with you. Additionally, I wanted to give it more space because I chose to use some custom images I made in PowerPoint. Making images to enhance a visualization is something I do a lot so I wanted that creative aspect to be in my Tableau resume and noticed. You may want to add in little things that you often like to do in your vizzes because it gives you something to talk about.
There was no way I was doing a Gantt chart here. Also, at this point in my career it wasn’t really important for people to see a timeline. What was important was to show the various job types I’ve had, how long I worked in each, and how the recent ones were data-focused. Plus, it gave me an opportunity to use a simple bar chart, but in a fun and unusual way. I find there are no “rules” to your own biography or resume. Let it be you!
As I mentioned above, I didn’t think at this stage in my career or life I needed to highlight my education as much as perhaps if I were starting out looking for a job. Instead, I used the logos of the schools I attended and floated a transparent sheet with transparent shapes over it. This allows the reader to get some details about my education if they so choose, but it’s not “in your face” since most people aren’t checking my education any longer.
Originally, I didn’t allocate a lot of room for this section, but since I currently work for a company that focuses on best practices for dashboard design and chart types, this became an area that I wanted to give adequate attention. Additionally, it was an opportunity to provide a little context to my thought processes and show a personal side within a professional topic.
While I could have put in images of my favorite chart types, I decided to create the data for them. The bar chart is data on the heat index for four common peppers I eat. If you know me at all, you may know that I love hot peppers – like REALLY love them. The barbell chart is also data that I created about the change in my love for various data-related things from 2014 to 2018. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of anything personal for the dot strip plot so Superstore came to my rescue.
Presentations & Such, My Work, and Social Networks
The last two sections are small and at the bottom. While I want people to check out my work, I also realize that this is something someone is going to need to dedicate some time to, so it made sense to have it at the bottom. The tooltip within each diamond of the presentation section shows details about the presentation or award and a link if available. The “My Work” section has a few highlighted visualizations. Upon hover an image of the viz will show up and if the arrow is clicked, you will be directed to the visualization on Tableau Public. Lastly, are the social networks that include links to each.
- Choose a layout, color scheme, images, and/or shapes that speak to you
- Decide what is your objective for the resume/biography and who is your audience and their skill level with data visualization.
- Determine the possible sections (about, jobs, education, skills, etc). How will you convey who you are and what you bring to the table?
- Decide the importance of each possible section and organize them accordingly.
- Lastly, ensure your resume reflects YOU. Taking parts and ideas from other resumes is fine, but be sure that in some way it’s unique to you or at least you feel that it reflects who you are and not someone else.
- Remember, if you feel like you are making it too complicated, then you probably are. Ask for feedback from others, take a step back, or browse other places outside of Tableau for inspiration.
I hope this was helpful!