Guest post by Colm Cavey of Professional Career Consulting, on some less obvious issues relating to jobs and career change activity.
Again and again, people ask what do I say about my job, what is there to tell? How do I know what’s right or wrong?
It is essential that you make the content of your C.V. interesting, and in that sense, it must be attractive to a possible employer. Unless you quickly catch their attention with topics of interest, your C.V. will be put aside in just a few seconds.
So how do you go about trawling up useful information that an employer will want to hear? If you think about it, there are only two main topics you will be asked about.
1 – Your career history which is no more than what you have done in the past.
2 – Your skills or your personal attributes or the kind of person you are.
Both of the above are essential, and it can be difficult to quantify what to document and what to leave out.
A very useful and helpful exercise to assist in identifying these critical points of interest is to make yourself a list of I’s.
What, I can hear you ask? Yes, I’s. That is “I” as in the first person, you, yourself, as in, I did this – or – I did that. So why do this? Read on….
Lock yourself away for an hour with no interruptions and take a page; divide it into two columns and on the top of the left column write;
Now cast your mind back to your first job and let your mind run through the years. Recall the jobs you had, one after another and think of the work you did, the tasks you were involved in, the problems you solved. Maybe you were commended for the task completed, perhaps no one even noticed, but you know you did it well. So as it comes to mind, write down. I did this – or I did that.
A simple example might be;
I Did ……… I made the big sale when the boss was away
I Did …….. I set up the new stock take system reducing losses. Etc, etc.
All this may all sound very clumsy but if you close your eyes, stick with it, concentrate and slowly think through the years in a sequence you may surprise yourself with what you recall. You will recall all sorts of work details that you had forgotten. An important point here is to think in sequence. Start with the early days and slowly let your mind progress through the years. Don’t spend too much time very far back but get up to more recent work quickly.
As you recall events you were involved in; write it down. No big long paragraphs, just a word or two as a reminder. Later on, you can go over them all, expand on the good ones and delete the others. If in doubt write it down anyway. The delete button is always there.
That done, you will have the left side of the page full up with events under the heading of; I Did.
Now at the top of the right side write; The Skill.
Looking at the line under the first I did, ask yourself what skill, expertise or abilities do you have that made that task work so well for you?
A simple example of your page might read;
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – I DID – – – – – – – – – – – | – – – – – – – – – – – – – THE SKILL – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Set up new stock entry system reducing losses. | Good knowledge of IT systems and/or SAP
In a short while, you will have a page of perhaps 20 achievements (I’s) on one side and 20 skill sets opposite. As anything big or small comes to mind, write it down. When complete, if you get 10 or 12 good ones out of a page of 20, it will be a worthwhile exercise.
Expand on the good interesting I’s and add to the Career History section on your C.V.
Now go over the achievements again and where possible add a percentage or a cost in €’s on each item. Adding a value will give size to the statement. It sounds more credible and successful. So take the example above and add the money!
I set up the new stock take system reducing losses.
I set up the new stock take system reducing losses by 40%…. sounds better.
I set up the new stock take system reducing losses by over €20,000 p.a., sounds even better again.
Do this slowly and carefully add bullet points to every statement thus making it easy to read. Reduce long drawn out passages of text down to their essence, e.g.
I took over for the M.D. when he was away on business or holidays.
This statement can be easily reduced to ……………….
Deputised for the M.D. when absent. Half as long – the same message.
In no time you will have a list of achievements and experiences all directly from your past career supported by a list of skills from the right-hand column. Document your I Did’s into bullet points, short and concise.
Run down through your list of skills and you will find that maybe five or six keep repeating which is proof, positive they are real skills. Extract them and list them on your C.V. as well but in a section on their own in an easy to read format.
Given the time and attention needed you should now have two sets of information, both of which are your interview ammunition. Things you can talk about, and account for or claim the credit. You are not slapping yourself on your back; you will be advising on what and how you dealt with issues that are of interest to the employer. If you don’t tell them, they will never know, and that’s the kind of stuff they will want to hear.
Lastly and most importantly learn that C.V. thoroughly and think through the events that led up to the achievement you document.
So back to the example above, it could be ……………
I set up the new stock take system reducing losses by 40%
Now, how or why did this happen? Think….. Maybe your manager asked you to examine the system knowing something was wrong. You identified a fault, and over a month you worked with the finance manager to change the way goods in and out were documented or whatever it was that you did.
Think through the event and refresh your memory in advance. If an interview is pending, do not wait until you are asked about a particular issue, and then you look silly trying to recall several small details from some years past. Think it all through in advance.
In the stressful environment of the interview room, you will forge 50% of what you planned to say unless you know your career history and the content of your C.V. like you know your name and address.
Run through it, learn it, read it, practice it, say it, again and again. Only then can you talk freely and with confidence about what you have done in the past.
Top Tips. PCC provides professionally delivered, supportive and most importantly, successful career change and redeployment assistance to private clients from all sectors of Industry. Enquiries are welcome and treated in confidence. Tel: 086-3017207 & 01-2819056