Five Essential Curriculum Vitae Tips

Standard Curriculum Vitae Layout

1) Your Name, Address and Contact details (email, telephone)

2) A short paragraph describing your key attributes, skills and experience.

3) Your current and previous jobs in reverse chronological order and how the experience gained in each apply to the new career you have chosen.

4) Your educational qualifications, where and when obtained.

5) Referees

In total your CV should not exceed 2 pages.

Cirriculum Vitae Tips

Woman leaning on a billboardMy opinion stated below is exactly that – my opinion. I have had a lot of jobs; written lots of CV’s (many by hand in the old days before computers); read lots of books (and sections of books) on writing a CV; and had the misfortune to read a lot of CV’s when trying to select people. So my opinion is at least well informed.

It is also well intentioned – I assure that I want you to find a great job doing exactly what you want. So I’m not holding anything back – I’m just giving you my honest opinion. If you have you have had bad advice in the past, it may have led you to waste a lot of effort and time and may well have cost you more than one job opportunity. Reinvest some time and effort now to revise and improve your CV.

A few thoughts: Although your CV is a useful tool for jobseeking, including during a career change, it is not by any means the most important. It definitely should not be the only tool you use. Most CV’s are never read, particularly if they are unsolicited. Even when a job is advertised (and most are not advertised), it is often an impossible task to read all the applicants CV’s. A random sampling may have the first paragraph read. The first few candidates whose CV’s seem to offer potential may be contacted for an interview. In many cases the potential candidate has already been selected and the advertising of the job was done merely to satisfy some regulatory requirement.

Your New Career SignIf you want to find a job, your CV is something you should be placing into the hands of the person you want to hire you, but only AFTER you have met them. Think of it as an expanded business card – Hand it to the person you want to work with once you have had the opportunity to talk to them in person, one-to-one, face to face. It should reinforce (to them) your enthusiasm for the new career, irrespective of a job position being available immediately. The unique combination of abilities you will offer, your experience and skills, and the list of referees who will provide glowing testimonials to back up what your CV advertises. If you are the right person for their organization, they will make a position for you, even just to keep you in house until the right job turns up. Employers want passion and enthusiasm, but the majority of their workforce will be doing just enough to get by, while they dream about escaping to their dream career…

Now the disclaimer is out of the way, here are a few tips when writing your CV to market yourself for your career transition.

Your CV is your marketing tool. It advertises your skills, your personality and your experience to potential employers. There are several possible formats, but I recommend using the following (Mainly because this is what most employers have come to expect, so they know how to read it and understand how to interpret it to fit you into the job description. I’ll discuss the other less popular format -the functional CV – later on. But first lets see what to write, and how to write a reverse chronological CV.)

Amazing Cover Letters – Make Sure Your Career Change CV Gets Read!

1) Your Name, Address and Contact details

Think about adding any degree or professional qualification letters after your name at the top of the first page of your CV – you worked hard to get them and they show your academic background and commitment to your new career choice. Only leave them out for CV’s applying for positions not related to the professional qualification or where being more educated than the interviewer will not help your chances of procuring the job. Believe it or not, some employers are intimidated by higher education or qualifications in their employees.

Make sure to add your phone number and email address to your contact details – these are most peoples most common modes of communicating today. Do not use your current work phone number or email address – how will you be contacted after you leave? Some employers spam filters remove job offers before you see them. Some employers monitor what you are sending and receiving. They may see your job hunting as misuse of company property and grounds for dismissal. Get a free email address from Yahoo, Hotmail or Google, and use your actual real name if at all possible – that is joe_q_smith@somemail.com not mac_the_knife_99@otheremail.com. You get the picture.

2) Your key attributes, skills and experience

As briefly as possible, in no more than 100 words (well at least try!):

The most important (vital!) part of your CV is the first sentence of your opening paragraph: – What is your chosen profession? What are you looking for? Why? Write in one single sentence that sums up what you want to do and why.

For example: “I am an educator seeking to research and better understand the psychology of learning”, or “An innovative, resourceful technical problem solver looking for challenging mobile telecommunications implementation projects in developing countries” or “A dynamic, enabling, people person looking for the opportunity to contribute to the Obama campaign and future administration with my organizational and management skills and experience”.

Make it specific and in your own words. Make this the first sentence. It says in one line how you see yourself (and how you want to be seen), what you want, and why. It tells the potential employer that you are motivated to follow the career path that the job offers.

iStock_000004654813XSmallThis first paragraph serves as a “precis” or “abstract” of the rest of your CV. Anyone reading it should immediately know what the rest of your CV will say in detail, and whether it is worth reading on to get the detail. Rewrite it specifically for each job type – it is not possible to say everything about yourself in a paragraph, nor in two pages, so leave out everything that is not relevant, that is not you, and that will detract from how you want the job supplier to see you – as a perfect candidate for the job. This is the most important part of your CV, and possibly the only part that will be read by most people you send it to – so put the appropriate amount of effort into doing it properly.

Write a single paragraph that specifically states what you want to say about yourself that is relevant to the job type, and demonstrates your excellent command of english and ability to communicate. Trash all the buzzwords – every single CV arriving on the poor buggers desk that has to read them will be full of this type of jargon. Lose “Reliable, honest and punctual” for example – it’s a waste of valuable space in your CV – an unreliable, dishonest and lax person would be just as likely to put these here, and it may hinder rather than help your application, just as “Honest John’s car dealership” doesn’t really encourage you to trust a used care salesman. Be specific and state what you are capable of doing that is relevant to the job – “Can work independently or as part of a team” doesn’t say anything about what you prefer, what type of independent work you enjoy? What type of team you’d like to be part of? So either leave it out or put in what it is you really want to say about yourself. I’ll leave the rest of the personal attributes as an exercise for your more than capable mind to write (and rewrite) appropriately! Likewise with your professional attributes – make them specific, about you, and relevant to the job. Weave the two attribute types together into a single coherent thread that shows how YOU fit the JOB.

Know yourself

Sit down with a pencil and a big piece of paper and write down all your achievements. Do not just think about work, but also your hobbies, sports, personal life, childhood. Now write down all of the attributes that enabled you to succeed in each of these achievements.

For example, if you trained your puppy to sit, shake hands and roll over, then you would have needed patience, perhaps perseverance and empathy.

If you competed in a triathlon, even if you came in last, you needed discipline for the training, determination to finish even though you would not be placed, courage to continue when you knew you would come last, stamina to complete the event.

Your ability to overcome obstacles with determination, innovation, teamwork or resourcefulness are the types of personality traits that you need to identify. These are your abilities that you invested your time and your effort to learn. They will be useful to you in any career, current or future. Take stock of these talents of yours, make a list and then look at it again tomorrow. You will remember more that you have done and can do. Even failures in your past have taught you valuable lessons and gained you skills that are invaluable tools in your career change kit.

Look back at your past failures and see what you learned, and how you applied this to subsequent successes. Keep the best stories handy for future job and college entrance interviews.

List your education, courses attended, diplomas, degrees, etc. If you did not finish school, do not think that you have nothing to show here. School teaches you how to pass school leaving exams, and this is what employers and colleges look for in a school leaver. But school also teaches us how to interact with our peers, teachers, sports team, younger and older pupils, the non-teaching staff.

We learned how to learn, even if we did not apply it immediately! We learned (hopefully!) how to read, write and do arithmetic. Presumably, if you have been out of school for several years, and have a career to change, then you will have learned much in the interim. How to lead a team, or work within one. How to do accounts, operate machinery or a computer, drive, manage, cook, organise your time, finances, and family. Education is a lifelong affair: When it ends, you are dead. Do not underestimate what you have already learned, and especially do not allow your future employers to do so either.

3) A list of jobs in reverse chronological order

Next, the layout – in terms of employment history, education and chronology. Make sure it is not confusing. You’ll need to decide whether you want to lay out your CV in reverse chronological order of employment, or as a functional CV – listing particular skills that you have and the relevant experience pulled together for various jobs (irrespective of how interspersed with other irrelevant experience they may be).

Use each different type of CV for the appropriate job application, and with appropriate specialist job agencies.

You may want to try writing up both types, decide which you feel works better, and then use that. Also, whether you put your education first – before the employment or functional section, or last will depend on the job type for which you are writing the CV. You’ll probably have it following your “key skills/abstract” paragraph for academic applications, and at the end for other jobs.

Again, be brief and to the point. Your employer doesn’t care about the fancy job title – just what you did, and how that is relevant to the vacancy. So leave out everything that does not specifically show that you have the experience and skills required. If you were in a job for 6 months or ten years matters very little – you will not be able to fit everything you did into the space allowed. Just put in the one or two sentences required to sum up how each job listed displays your ability (or promise) to do the job you are seeking.

For example: If you are changing career from a firefighter to a real estate agent, then you’ll need to find what is relevant in your past experience to position you are applying for. Your technical knowledge of the structural integrity of buildings, fire regulations, how the air (or smoke) moves through the structure, building materials, alternative exits and types of walls will be the type of things you will want to mention. Why? Because these will be useful in real estate – people want to know if the building they are about to buy is compliant with regulations if they are planning to open a restaurant or nightclub. What structural changes are possible and safe to do if they are changing the building in any way (and everyone who buys property will change it – knock through a wall to make a room bigger, move a doorway to suit the piano acoustics, widen a window, etc, etc. Play to your strengths.

A functional CV is arranged by function rather than in reverse chronological order by employer. It is most useful where your career doesn’t follow a continuous progression in a particular traditional direction, or where you are changing career. It draws attention to the skills and experience relevant to the new career, irrespective of the gaps in employment or job changes you may have had. Importantly for you, it allows you to highlight and draw attention to the skills you acquired during your education, which otherwise might have to be surmised by the potential employer from the title of your degrees.

Rather than have the potential employer dig through your employment history to find the skills and experience relevant to the position you are seeking, they can see immediately each skill listed, with relevant experience. You do not need to put the employer or the dates into the functional section. Just end with a list of employers and the dates you worked there at the end of the functional section. For Example 1. Research : skills and experience and 2. Teaching : skills and experience might be two main functions that you’d list first, followed by the other functions you want to add such as computer skills, teamwork, etc.

4) Education and Qualifications – Where and When you got them.

Put in anything that might be relevant – if you think they might not see the relevance then spell it out.

For example:On this course I learned X, Y and Z, which have regularly proved to be applicable to A, B and C.

5) Referees

References – don’t give out your referees names. Rather say: “Excellent references available on request”. It will stop your referees from getting jaded if they have to sing your praises for the tenth time in a week. If you do believe that your references will get you the job and want everyone to see them, consider asking your referees for written references and send a copy with your CV.

Appraise your own CV critically – is it too long? Too general? If it is not specific enough, you are going to have to have several CV’s, each one aimed at one particular job. Try starting with the CV for your first choice of career, and work your way down the list till you get to the “pay the rent for now” type jobs. Hopefully you will get an offer for your dream choice career before you have to write the last type!

Use each different type of CV for the appropriate job application, and with appropriate specialist job agencies.

Be selective in sharing your CV. You want to have a career, not merely a job. This should be abundantly clear from the first paragraph. But it is still important not to treat it as a pamphlet to distribute door to door (unless you are trying to get elected of course!)

I’d really like to reinforce the message that a focussed job search is far more likely to succeed than a general search.

Finally, let me also say again that your CV is only one tool in the job search, and by no means the most important one. Keep networking!

If you are writing (unsolicited) to potential employers lookingfor a position, you’ll also need a good cover letter/email to get them to read your CV.

Amazing Cover Letters – Make Sure Your Career Change CV Gets Read

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