Using social media in the right way (particularly LinkedIn) is a great accompaniment to a professional CV
Writing your CV is not an easy undertaking, and it takes much thought and application to make it stand out from the crowd. Employers aren’t simply interested in seeing a list of things you’ve done in your day-to-day work, nor do they just want a list of your skills. If you simply list your skills and duties, you’re making a huge mistake, because that’s what most job applicants do, and it means that you won’t stand out in any way, shape or form. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it really becomes boring when reading CV after CV if job seekers haven’t made an effort and have presented a CV that is simply a list of things they’ve done. Speaking personally, I used to put such CVs to the bottom of my long list or permanently archive them (if you know what I mean!). Most people involved in CV-sifting are far more ruthless than I am and are likely to confine a ‘duties and skills list’ CV to the bin.
What they really want more than anything is to build a positive picture and see and understand positive results and outcomes from the work you’ve put in. This is because results-orientated people and those who have achieved something are likely to help their business progress and develop, and create a positive working climate. One such way to create a positive tone is to emphasise and talk about your achievements. Many people struggle to ‘sell’ – let alone think of – achievements especially during times when the pressure is really on and I felt that pressure when I lost my job!
Let’s face it, job hunting can be stressful and demanding especially if you’ve lost your job or your role has been made redundant like mine was at around the time of the global financial crisis. But throughout the whole process it’s important to think positive otherwise the negativity will show in your correspondence, CV and ‘follow’ you into the interview room (if you’re able to get that far).
It’s Important to Use Achievements to Create a Positive Impression
No one wants to hire a worker who has seemingly negative traits or has a ‘glass half-full’ perspective on life.
Like it or not, the person reading your CV or online profile will judge you based on its content, so make sure you steer clear of negative words and seemingly negative scenarios. Let me give you a few examples. I’ve seen a number of CVs that state the applicant is a divorcee. Apart from being irrelevant to a job application, it immediately leads the reader to a negative train of thought, because you’ve had a failed marriage.
I’ve also come across CVs that state the applicant’s latest position as ‘Unemployed’. Again, this is a big no no, because it raises the spectre of negativity in the mind of the reader. Let’s face it: there’s no point in reaffirming the fact that you are looking for work or indeed that you are currently out of employment, because the employer is likely to have already worked that out. Another one to steer clear of is the word ‘redundant’, because it prompts all sorts of questions. Your CV is the basis for further discussion, so it’s really up to a quality interviewer to find out why and how you moved between jobs. Do you have a section which states that you have a ‘full clean driving licence’? I recommend removing it, because it raises the question, ‘Did this person commit a misdemeanour at some stage?’
The message here is to stick to positive – and more importantly – relevant details when constructing your CV. Emphasise positive aspects of your career, for example awards, promotions and commendations. Create a positive tone by using the present tense, even when writing about jobs from the past. Professional CV writers use this technique to great effect. Try it for yourself and read it aloud to feel the difference it makes to your CV.
A positive CV, online profile and tone of voice on your correspondence will lead to a positive outcome, so make sure you’re in a positive frame of mind when putting it all together.
But how do you create a positive atmosphere for your job search and optimistic tone for your correspondence? You have to document what you have achieved over the course of your professional career.
How to identify your achievements
Can you visualise and document what you have achieved during your career? This is seemingly a difficult question to answer, because you might immediately think of an achievement in a grandiose context ie getting promoted to CEO, winning new business or selling a product that earns a high revenue return. If that’s the case then the chances are that you haven’t made the most of what you’ve achieved and might even have underestimated your value.
I’m going to share with you some tips on how recruiters and professional CV writers perceive and unearth achievements using brainstorming and probing questioning. It’s simpler than you might think, and it will allow you to unearth some big gems or little nuggets, all of which will make your CV irresistible and create a real buzz. The only downside is that most of the input will have to come from you, so it’s probably best to get a paper and pen, grab your CV, and find a quiet corner.
For each job that appears on your CV, consider the following questions:
Have you ever been promoted or been asked to deputise for a colleague? Why?
Can you think of a situation that you were directly involved in which resulted in a positive outcome?
Did you implement any new processes and procedures that work well or, might have received recognition?
Have you ever received an award or recognition for work done?
Have you ever been involved in (or contributed to) the success of any special projects? What was your involvement?
If you can answer a couple of the questions above then you’re well on your way to creating an outstanding CV. What’s more, it can give you real confidence when you realise that you’ve made a positive contribution in the work place that can be transferred to your CV.
Consolidate each achievement using a useful systematic structure, S.T.A.R (which stands for situation, task, action, result) and here’s an example of what I’m talking about and an actual example provided by a teacher who was struggling to picture the logical steps of her achievement
• (SITUATION) Pupils not engaged during lessons and losing interest quickly
• (TASK) Continually monitored pupils’ responses to teaching methods and sought the opinion/advice of peers and senior members of staff.
• (ACTION) Introduced new/innovative practical tasks to compliment theoretical work. This meant that lessons were stimulating for pupils and they were engaged for longer periods
• (RESULT) Resulting in more rewarding and productive sessions/ [your] new innovation being implemented across other classes/ [you] helped to boost the pupils’ confidence
I can’t overstate how important it is to highlight your achievements because it gives the reader a positive impression and makes you stand out from the other applicants. Remember to only state achievements with positive outcomes and try not to become preoccupied with the scale of your achievement; training a co-worker to become proficient using a piece of software can be just as valuable as making £15,000 of sales.
It’s really, really important to keep a personal record of your new skills and achievements even if you’re currently employed and not planning to make job applications. That’s because stress levels can increase when the job hunting and CV writing process begins, particularly if your role has been made redundant or you’ve lost your job, for whatever reason. So, if you’ve kept an up-to-date list of all newly acquired skills and achievements, you’ll easily be able to transfer them to your CV without having to think on your feet and trawl your memory for work done over the course of your current job and career.
You could have the greatest skills in the world but if you can’t fluently articulate what you’ve achieved employers will move on to someone who has.
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