How To Write A Resume by da Vinci

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It’s hard to remember that famous people from history were….well, people. But they were. They struggled to age, they dealt with acne, they liked some foods and disliked others. They even needed to find work at times. Great, amazing, heralded people from the past had to find jobs.

I know the following has made its way around the web for several years, but it just resurfaced in my inbox and in talking with some colleagues, they had not seen it. Perhaps you have not either. The following was from Leonardo Da Vinci. It seemed that in 1482, at the age of 30, he wrote a letter containing a list of his capabilities to be delivered to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan to procure a job. Here is the translated text:

"Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.

1. I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.

2. I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.

3. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.

4. Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.

5. And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.

6. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.

7. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.

8. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.

9. Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.

10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.

11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may. Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency - to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc."


Notice how future facing the document is. He doesn’t mention the paintings that have brought him fame, but instead speaks to what he will do for the Duke. He does not speak of past work, nor of things that brought him fame or glory, but focuses on the job he would do and how it would benefit externally. The piece is not about how great Leonardo da Vinci was but about how great he would make the Duke.

In having taught business and professional communication, and after having read hundreds of resumes from students, it is interesting to me that this example from so long ago is still a lighthouse to help us see the benefits of persuasion when ensuring the audience’s needs are met…

Good luck and good learning.

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