Da Vinci’s Resume: An Historic Lesson for Job Seekers

Da Vinci's Resume An Historic Lesson for Job Seekers
Da Vinci's Resume An Historic Lesson for Job Seekers

Much has been written about Leonardo Da Vinci’s letter to Sforza, the Duke of Bari and Regent of Milan. Some claim it is the perfect Cover Letter, others the perfect Resume. It is probably a little of both, but as it includes bullet points — I would lean more toward the latter. Full text at the end of article.

Articles have appeared across the web analyzing the effectiveness and style of Da Vinci’s letter. TheLadders, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur.com (just to name a few) have all posted blogs and articles on their sites. These articles focus on Leonardo’s confidence, his salesmanship, his emphasis on what he could do over what he had done.

This is great, but I think it misses the point. The letter to Sforza is an amazing origins story for the modern resume. One that surely takes some liberties. It is also an historic view into the thinking and mindset of a 30 year old Da Vinci, a man a few years short of his coming glory, and in great need of a job.

It is also quite compelling that this letter, which is really only a draft, worked. Leonardo got the job or should we say… the project? For all of Da Vinci’s wonderful bullet points about his vast knowledge and skill, he was brought to Milan for one of the final paragraphs.

Moreover, work could be undertaken on the bronze horse which will be to the immortal glory and eternal honour of the auspicious memory of His Lordship your father, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

The bronze horse is the project he was given. Leonardo would never complete the project. It would actually take more the 500 years for the horse to be completed! Later correspondence would show that the project ran woefully over budget, but undaunted, Leonardo turned this opportunity into other more lucrative and successful projects including The Last Supper.

In the end, Da Vinci’s resume is interesting, but maybe we should be more in awe of his 35 word project proposal. Or perhaps, his subsequent letters could teach us something under the more contemporary title of:

Da Vinci Gettin’ Paid

Da Vinci's getting paid

Here is the full text as written by Leonardo Da Vinci, translated at Yale University:

My Most Illustrious Lord,

Having now sufficiently seen and considered the achievements of all those who count themselves masters and artificers of instruments of war, and having noted that the invention and performance of the said instruments is in no way different from that in common usage, I shall endeavour, while intending no discredit to anyone else, to make myself understood to Your Excellency for the purpose of unfolding to you my secrets, and thereafter offering them at your complete disposal, and when the time is right bringing into effective operation all those things which are in part briefly listed below:

1. I have plans for very light, strong and easily portable bridges with which to pursue and, on some occasions, flee the enemy, and others, sturdy and indestructible either by fire or in battle, easy and convenient to lift and place in position. Also means of burning and destroying those of the enemy.

2. I know how, in the course of the siege of a terrain, to remove water from the moats and how to make an infinite number of bridges, mantlets and scaling ladders and other instruments necessary to such an enterprise.

3. Also, if one cannot, when besieging a terrain, proceed by bombardment either because of the height of the glacis or the strength of its situation and location, I have methods for destroying every fortress or other stranglehold unless it has been founded upon a rock or so forth.

4. I have also types of cannon, most convenient and easily portable, with which to hurl small stones almost like a hail-storm; and the smoke from the cannon will instil a great fear in the enemy on account of the grave damage and confusion.

5. Also, I have means of arriving at a designated spot through mines and secret winding passages constructed completely without noise, even if it should be necessary to pass underneath moats or any river.

6. Also, I will make covered vehicles, safe and unassailable, which will penetrate the enemy and their artillery, and there is no host of armed men so great that they would not break through it. And behind these the infantry will be able to follow, quite uninjured and unimpeded.

7. Also, should the need arise, I will make cannon, mortar and light ordnance of very beautiful and functional design that are quite out of the ordinary.

8. Where the use of cannon is impracticable, I will assemble catapults, mangonels, trebuckets and other instruments of wonderful efficiency not in general use. In short, as the variety of circumstances dictate, I will make an infinite number of items for attack and defence.

9. And should a sea battle be occasioned, I have examples of many instruments which are highly suitable either in attack or defence, and craft which will resist the fire of all the heaviest cannon and powder and smoke.

10. In time of peace I believe I can give as complete satisfaction as any other in the field of architecture, and the construction of both public and private buildings, and in conducting water from one place to another.

Also I can execute sculpture in marble, bronze and clay. Likewise in painting, I can do everything possible as well as any other, whosoever he may be.

Moreover, work could be undertaken on the bronze horse which will be to the immortal glory and eternal honour of the auspicious memory of His Lordship your father, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any of the above-mentioned things seem impossible or impracticable to anyone, I am most readily disposed to demonstrate them in your park or in whatsoever place shall please Your Excellency, to whom I commend myself with all possible humility.

The article was first published on Medium by Corsair’s Publishing.





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