Having trouble writing that resumé? Here’s a few tips from Leonardo da Vinci!



Lots of online websites have tips for writing the perfect resumé, but where better to go than to the top? Who could give better advice than polymathic genius Leonardo da Vinci, who was successful in finding free-lance gigs of various kinds throughout his life? Thanks to Open Culture, we have Leonardo’s own C.V., which he used to finagle a job in the weapons-of-war industry, a sideline between The Baptism of Christ and the Last Supper.

“Before he was famous, before he painted the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, before he invented the helicopter, before he drew the most famous image of man, before he was all of these things, Leonardo da Vinci was an artificer, an armorer, a maker of things that go ‘boom,’” writes Marc Cendella on his blog about job-searching. “Like you, he had to put together a resumé to get his next gig. So in 1482, at the age of 30, he wrote out a letter and a list of his capabilities and sent it off to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan.”


His machine gun.

Note bene: he does not list everything he has done for the last umpteen years; he only discusses what is most relevant to the job in question. While he first describes his ability to devise weapons to burn and destroy, he also brings up, almost parenthetically, his skills in sculpture and painting in #11. You see, he thinks of the needs of his employer, and how he can solve the problems of his boss and benefit the company as a whole. He doesn’t view the resumé simply as an opportunity to brag about himself. (Although he has handwritten his resumé beautifully, we do not recommend this!)

The proof of his success is that he got the job and went off to Milan. He was so successful that a few years later he was put in charge of orchestrating Ludovico’s wedding to Beatrice d’Este, so his life wasn’t all about things that go bang. As every free-lancer knows, you can’t always do what you want to do. As a result of his relocation, his masterpiece, the Adoration of the Magi, a commission from the Monks of San Donato a Scopeto, was never finished.

Here’s what he has to say in the C.V., which doubles as a cover letter as well:

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.


His cross-bow.

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.


I’d rather have this, ta very much.

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 marvelous 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.

“Mark, learn, and inwardly digest,” as another genius once said.

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