Extremely Guilty Over Resume Embellishments

Reply Fri 22 Sep, 2017 10:55 am
First time posting - I am hoping some of you have advice for me in order to let go from the past and live the carefree lifestyle I am accustomed to...

About 3 years ago, I graduated from university, and moved to a beautiful part of the country to work at a hotel in a fairly simple customer service role. I had graduated with a sociology degree, and although I enjoyed my classes, I realized that this was not what I wanted to do, so I moved west to "find myself". The hotel I began working at is part of a much larger chain, and there are plenty of opportunities to grow from within, so I began working towards the goal of moving from my customer service role to a job in the marketing department, which I am more passionate about. I enrolled in online post-graduate classes in marketing, and for a year and a half worked to build my reputation within the hotel as a hard worker and passionate individual while taking classes and studying on my time off. Of course I spent a lot of time camping and hiking too-it wasnt all work! But I did work hard.

After a year and a half of this, I officially had my marketing classes complete and earned a certificate from a large university, which I was proud about! I then reached out the the marketing department heads, and expressed my interest in helping out the department on an unofficial, volunteer basis in order to gain my knowledge and learn about what it takes to move in to the team. I knew there were no job available, but I just wanted to get my name out there and introduce myself. I did this for a few months, and had a great relationship with the team. After a few more months, a job in the marketing department opened up, and I was told my application would be given priority. I was thrilled! All the work I put in and the patience I had was paying off. I applied and interviewed 4 different times, and was offered the job.

However, as soon as I got the job, a wave of guilt rushed through me, and has been present within me (on and off) for over a year now. I don't know if it was desperation, insecurity, or I was just not thinking, but the resume I submitted featured embellishments about past work experience - experience long before moving to this area and working at the hotel. For a job I worked at university, I enhanced my title to "coordinator", when in reality I was just part of a large team. I also added responsibilities to make myself seem more important than I really was. In addition, I added that I volunteered at a local charity, when in reality I donated a few times, that's it. Why did I do this? I did not need to lie to get this job, I had already impressed the team prior to applying, and was more than qualified for this entry level position. I had no need to lie, yet I did.

Now, over a year later, I am still in this job and have done a terrific job. I am a great fit for the team, am a team player, take on more and more responsibility and projects on my own, and have a strong desire to grow and learn. Yet, this lie haunts me nearly every day. The main feeling comes from the fear that others would be disappointed and ashamed of me if I told them - all of my hard work would be overshadowed by these embellishments. I know deep down that I was just doing my best and made a mistake, but I can't shake the guilt. I even try to remember that I actually took a large pay cut to get this job (no more tips), moved away from friends and my comfortable home, and do more work than most people in the office by a large margin. But even when I have a little breakthrough and feel clear headed, I know the shame and guilt is right around the corner.

There are also many positives I suppose attributed to this...the guilt has actually drove my work ethic harder. Although I am not happier, I work harder than ever and always deliver. My values are much more aligned and structures - you can bet I will never lie like this again. Any I know that if I stick with my current morals, everything will be great in the future...

I guess I don't have a question...I just need some direction in regards to how I can let go and move past this. I know the past is the past, but it is difficult to let go when I am reminded of my failures every day I get up to go to work. I know that the resume only really got my foot in the door at most, and to still be here excelling in this job now means that I was meant to be here all along, but I can't help but feel terrible most of the time. I just want to get passed this...
Reply Fri 22 Sep, 2017 03:42 pm

As you understand and acknowledge, this was not a good thing for you to be doing. But you're also right that, because you're succeeding in this role, you have the talent and education to fit in just fine (and you also might have been brought on board in this capacity even without the embellishments).

Hence I think we can allow that the embellishments probably did not give you a specific edge over any other candidates. More likely, your edge came (as it does for many, many people) from being an internal hire. Internal hires are, by definition, cheaper, because ramp-up time is either shorter or nonexistent. And you got into the company before the upgrades to your resume, yes?

I suspect all that these little extras did was - maybe - make your resume stand out just a tiny bit more. But probably not by much. It's one thing to claim you graduated summa cum laude a year after graduation. It's quite another to claim you graduated with a 3.0 forty years ago, rather than a 2.9. Time and degree (I mean amount, not in the sense of 'college degree') are different in those two examples. GPAs rarely matter past a few years out of school. A change like that would be a nothing. It feels that way with calling yourself a 'coordinator'. That's a somewhat vague and generalized term which means very little.

In one job - true story - I worked in voice recognition and everyone who wasn't a linguist was called an engineer. Which is crazy. I have a BA in Philosophy, a JD, and a MS in Communications (I didn't have the MS when I worked there). Calling me an engineer was utterly unsupported. Yet they did so anyway. I wouldn't worry about that facet (the title) of it at all.

Your embellishments, to my way of thinking, were minor and they did not get you the job.

I also don't think you need to talk to anyone at your current company about it (although others may feel differently).

However, if it continues to bother you, here are a few options:
  • Good ole counseling. Talk to an impartial professional and unburden yourself.
  • You said one of the embellishments was claiming you volunteered for an organization when you solely donated to them. So wipe that part off your resume.
  • And volunteer for that organization now. Yes, you are probably a lot more busy. But this is a good way to translate intentions into action.
  • Also, correct the title for that 'coordinator' role and make it the truth.
  • While you're updating your resume, add all the great stuff you're really doing in your current role, and de-emphasize the other stuff, just like anyone advancing in their career does.
And cut yourself some slack.
Reply Fri 22 Sep, 2017 04:48 pm
jespah wrote:
Your embellishments, ... were minor

I also don't think you need to talk to anyone at your current company about it

cut yourself some slack.

As usual, wise words from Jespah, which echo my thoughts to an uncanny degree. I see the problem as a propensity to feel a lot of guilt about a small sin. That's the issue that needs unpacking and addressing. I also suggest counselling or CBT to help with this.
Reply Fri 22 Sep, 2017 06:24 pm
Thank you to you both, I really appreciate the support. I have my first session with a counsellor this upcoming week...and i am extremely excited.

Have a great weekend, please know that your positive words have helped me better enjoy mine!
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Reply Sat 23 Sep, 2017 11:21 am
Don't worry about it - unless you are vetted for a cabinet post sometime in the future.
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Reply Fri 6 Oct, 2017 03:00 pm
Thank you everyone. I should try therapy - and I said I would - but personal life has gotten a little busy at the moment so I put it off...then again, it doesn't make too much sense to be too busy for myself.

I have had much better days lately, although today may not be one of them, I tend to go back and forth with the regret. When I start to try to challenge the regret, I end up opening the door to more negative thinking, which I of course would like to stop. At the end of the day, I think it all just comes down to the fact that this should be something that I am proud of...getting this job after a lot of work and then working extremely hard to be successful in this job. I finally have something to be proud of and some more direction in life, yet I feel as though I cheated and lied to do so...now as I know this is an embellishment of reality itself, and I shouldn't feel the way I sometimes do, but I do still seem to have bad days, when in reality everything in my life is better than good. In fact, I have a lot to be happy about! My girlfriend and I just moved into our own place, and it's in a beautiful location. Essentially, I am living my dream 4 years ago! So I have a lot to be thankful for.

One thing that helps (and maybe this will help someone else in a similar position reading this), is knowing that this guilt, although frustrating, is just a reminder that I know better and I AM better...in other words it is a indicator of how far I have come, and how my morals & values have changed for the better. This then gives me confidence that I am moving in the right direction, a positive direction, and that ensures me that next time I have a decision to make where the temptation to take a short cut is there, I will think twice and take the right, moral, road. This also gives me confidence that I know that everything will always work out in the end, and if it doesn't, I will have the tools and the ability to over come it. This helps a great deal.

All in all, I know what I did was not right right thing. I also know that I am inflating what was a common mistake and something I did when I was an entirely different person with different experiences. Some people might be reading this and thinking "jeez, its not like you killed someone!" and I get that totally Smile. I hope that I can overcome this entire some day, but until then I will just try to be the best person I can be day to day...I will not make the mistake of not learning anything from this experience and I am more motivated than ever to be a better person as a result of this small, yet difficult, experience.

Have a great weekend Smile
Reply Fri 6 Oct, 2017 03:06 pm
firsttime999 wrote:

Thank you everyone. I should try therapy - and I said I would - but personal life has gotten a little busy at the moment so I put it off...then again, it doesn't make too much sense to be too busy for myself.

get yourself into the therapist
you need the support

have a fine weekend!
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Reply Fri 6 Oct, 2017 03:14 pm
You're good (although I echo ehBeth's counseling recommendation).

Go forth and sin no more. Wink

Enjoy your weekend.
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