As a project professional you are used to getting others to embrace change, however, have you ever analysed your own viewpoint of change? We have all been guilty of digging our heels in when someone wants us to change something, whether it is your favourite bag or the colour of your lounge. Naturally we start to feel threatened by being told that things look tired or aren’t right. The same happens when you are looking to apply for a new job, there’s the whole change of company, environment, culture and how we do things which come into play but before we even reach that point we need to address actually securing interviews and the job. This can be terrifying for some who have perhaps been working in a business for years and have been made redundant but also for those who recognise they need to make a move for whatever reason. Applying for jobs has changed over the years and suddenly what was always an effective way of securing a new role is now dated and requires some work.
Your CV is the most important starting point for job applications – employers have become fussy and as the shift in lower salaries through perception of a buyers’ market has moved on, the salaries are certainly reaching a more commensurate level but employers expect to see excellence for the price. I know you will be sat there thinking, my CV is fine, it has always secured me interviews in the past so what next. But have you tested it in the market? Had many calls or much interest? If not, then maybe you need to address why!
Resistance to change is common as you well know and some of the reasons are below:
- Comfort zone – it is scary to move out of your comfort zone but it is also healthy to do so as much as possible and addressing your career goals / approach to securing a new role is important. Explore new avenues.
- It worked before – yes but times change, as do expectations.
- Uncertainty – research, there’s plenty of help out there which is free to access. Talk to people; find out how they do it.
- Am I really good enough – easy to lose confidence when you have been struggling to secure interviews for a while or been made redundant, work at understanding your skill-set by performing a skills audit.
- Loss of control – by embracing the change you will soon gain control, careers coaching can be a great way to understand how to make a positive move forward.
Do not assume because your CV reads fine to you, that it is good enough to whet the appetites of employers – ask for feedback from peers, recruiters, and specialists in the field. All feedback is good feedback; don’t be disheartened if you hear something you don’t want to. Be thankful it has been highlighted and address it constructively; ask for advice or for more clarity.
Time to strip back your CV to the bone, and build muscles back – rid that fat! Christmas is a time for celebration and usually means eating and drinking more than the usual quota, as New Year kicks in we take a resolution to fight back at the added pounds and detox our vital organs. This is also true for your CV, not just over Christmas but throughout the year we add more pieces of information to the ever growing CV as we achieve more and use more skills. So whilst you are trying to abstain from all the bad things and need a distraction from bad habits – now is a good time to give your CV that much needed detox.
Here are some tips on doing just that:
- Back to basics – hopefully you already have a structured CV which provides the main skeleton to your work history; this is an excellent starting point. Strip it back to bare essentials and take all the “fat” out to one side.
- Work that fat – now you have a list of all the bulk, separate from the CV take a good look at what is relevant to you as a professional and tone it up. Reduce the text down to clear and concise statements. Look to integrate similar pieces of information in that role into one bullet point.
- Tone up the muscle – once you have strong statements make sure they are looking as good as possible, refrain from repeating terminology and buff up the content you have to ensure each statement looks as good as it can.
- Exercise – yes, you can apply a regime to your workout by practising – don’t be tempted to take the lazy route and just write a statement leaving it at that. Write and rewrite until you have a well written piece of work.
- Repetition – make sure you work through the entire CV applying the same structure (but not repeating action words such as managing, reporting, and delivering over and over).
- Detox – remove all the parts the employer does not want to see, put yourself in their shoes – we expect you to be organised, motivated and energetic. Think about core competencies which are vital to achieving your goals such as planning, team management, applying structure and how you do this.
Employ key structure to each bullet point – the employer wants to know what you do/did, how you do/did it and some context in terms of size/locations of teams, budgets, type of assignment, timescales and challenges met along the way.
A new year means a new start for everyone – the employment market is still struggling but there are still roles out there so it is imperative that your CV is at its peak fitness; toned, free of fat and looking good. You will be surprised just how quickly your CV is picked up for interviews if you put the work in; don’t be disillusioned by the fact that there aren’t so many in your field applying for roles, employers are being every bit as stringent in their filtering process with job applications which means you have to really work at it!
I have been working with a contractor who came to me with a 7 page CV – when I reviewed it I found that he had over 60 short assignments on there and although he had listed a number of projects by name he hadn’t really gone into any detail about how he delivers or what the projects were. When I talked through his feedback I asked why this is the case and bearing in mind he has a significant number of practitioner qualifications there is no evidence of using these. It quickly became clear that the nature of the projects meant he could not administer recognised formal structure and that he struggled to articulate how to note down his key skills in his remits through fear of lengthening the CV further and not knowing what to actually state.
Having had a lengthy discussion about the projects and his approach to managing the projects we soon started to draw out key areas of interest such as dealing with very tight deadlines and cultural differences in project management. We discussed that it is important to list all assignments but to focus on the most recent and differing projects to add in some valuable information.
It is the intention for this contractor to apply to some regulatory bodies with his CV and as such, we discussed the need to take a more traditional format whilst ensuring we highlight how he sets himself apart from other project managers in his field. With a great deal of interaction and collaborative working we managed to reduce his CV down to 3 pages and ensure that we are covering key elements expected by hiring managers.
Here are a few tips for writing a CV to include a lot of jobs:
- Place emphasis on most recent roles, talk about the project, any problems (remember a contractor is often a fire fighter and required to hit the ground running) and how you delivered it.
- Reduce the detail of the remits as you work down the CV but ensure all roles with a difference have sufficient detail which will demonstrate your ability to work on varied assignments.
- Do list all the roles but for those over 10 years old and certainly when you are listing over 20 jobs, you need to reduce the detail to a line stating job title, dates and company. In this case a table was required due to the sheer volume of assignments.
- If you, like my client, have not been working to formal structures; think about how you deliver and add the detail in. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it is wrong, in fact it demonstrates other skills and abilities to work in fast paced, often demanding environments.
- To save space, you may look to add in achievements entwined in the project detail rather than separating out at the top of the CV.
- Learn to articulate detail in a clear and very concise manner – not like a job description but reducing the paragraph down so we get enough information to know what it is you were tasked with and difficulties faced, just avoid waffling.
When was the last time you went to the doctors? A while ago I am sure, but you know you should have regular checks even though you feel as though you are working as you should. The same goes for your CV, whether you are looking for work or not, you need to ensure your CV is in tip top condition so it can perform to its optimum.
The CV Righter offers a free Project Management CV health check for all UK professionals – send your CV in and let us perform a thorough review and let you know where the weaknesses and strengths are. We offer a constructive solution and remedy for any CV under-performing and ensure you understand why it isn’t working; equally if you have a good strong CV we tell you.
Don’t let yourself down by assuming your CV sells you and pitches you at the right level, ensure it can put you in the shortlist for your ideal role.