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Sunday, June 06, 2004

Obituary or Curriculum Vitae?

With the passing of Ronald Reagan, several bloggers have weighed in on the slightly ghoulish practice of preparing obituaries for famous people well before they actually take the old ‘dirt nap’. Among the best so far has been Allison’s sharing the [one would hope, unofficial] motto of the New York Times’ obituary department: “When they’re ready to go, we’re ready to go.”

Yikes! Just the idea of one of these journalistic vultures writing about the present me in the (very) past tense is enough to throw ice water on any desire I might have had to become famous.

Now granted, it didn’t take a crystal ball to realize that it might be wise to keep Reagan’s obit within easy reach. But it does raise the interesting issue of how similar those preemptive obituaries are to the typical Curriculum Vitae.

Webster’s Dictionary defines Curriculum Vitae as:

“A brief biological summary of the main points of a person’s life… job’s one has held … notable activities one has participated in… honors one has received…”

If viewed from the vantage point of those doing the writing, these pre-mortem write-ups are really just CVs; chock full of accomplishments, honors and experience, with a short-list of friends and family thrown in as references.

Now, provided one believes in some sort of afterlife (or even the concept of trading up to a higher rung on the food chain in some future life), one’s obituary could be seen as a resume for that next big position. The only difference being that no amount of action verbs or fancy font selection can stand in for actual accomplishments. You either did… or you didn’t. No thanks, references won't be necessary.

Viewed in this light, perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for each of us to occasionally sketch out our own CV/obituary… you know, just to sort of keep it current… if only as an exercise to make sure we’re always ready for that Big Interview.

Posted by David Bogner on June 6, 2004 | Permalink

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