Your CV: Your story in words other people recognize

Struggling to write your CV or bio?

It’s tough to write a CV, particularly when we’ve changed career slightly or done something unusual.

Learning from a twitcher

By chance, today I listened to a program on bird watching  and learned about the ‘rare man’ committee.   Apologies for the sexism, but we psychologists have something to learn from what an experienced ‘rare man’ said the qualities needed from a person who sits on the ‘rare man’ committee and ‘rules’ on the claims that fellow twitchers have seen a rare bird.

OK, I wouldn’t sit around all day looking for a rare bird, but the advice was sensible.

These are the qualities needed for someone who wants to sit on the ‘rare bird’ committee.

  • An applicant needs a track record that other bird watchers recognize
  • An applicant needs specialist knowledge to contribute the committee
  • An applicant needs awareness of their strengths and weakness that will affect their judgment

There was a fourth, I think, but it seems this is one of the few BBC programs that will not be repeated!
RGB by Mosieur J Iversion via Flickr

Why we find writing a CV difficult

Generally, I think we find the middle point relatively easy to describe. We find the third difficult.  More on that just now.

Our CV is an act of leadership

We find the 1st very difficult when we have changed our career in some way.  We are frustrated as noobes, for example, when we are asked for experience.  We are infuriated as experienced people when our experience is not recognized by people who sit in judgment on us.  When we live somewhere like the UK, we recognize inherent class bias that engenders the most off-putting blindness and bad manners.

The way the bird-man put it is helpful.  Describe your track record in terms the other party recognizes.  We need therefore to know something about what they expect.  In New Zealand, where I lived for a while, we would highlight our previous job titles and we would put our firms in a lighter weight font.  Where we worked didn’t resonate with the locals.  We also stripped off our qualifications.  If the job application asked for a degree, we didn’t elaborate.  We just said Yes.

It is astonishingly destructive to have to do this and HR departments should be on to it.  It is discriminatory, excluding and ultimately very bad for the firm.  Where there are very dissimilar tracks into an organization, it is up to HR to tell the alternative stories so their line managers understand them.

But HR departments are rarely competent.  Sorry but we know that to be true.  And because they are rarely competent, it is up to us to exercise leadership  I’ll give you an example.  Once I had a student who had come up the hard way.  I advised him to state but not emphasize his good university degree and highlight three features of his background.

  • His father was an underground miner.  He grew up around miners and he understood their concerns.
  • Because he grew up at a mine he spoke 4 languages.
  • Before he came to university, he worked as a temporary teacher.  That wouldn’t be a track record that was ‘recognized’.  But while he was a teacher in this remote rural school, he coached his school athletics team and took them as far as the Provincial championships.  That would be recognized.

He walked into a very good job on a graduate trainee in a leading multinational.  Had he not emphasized this story in his way, he would have fallen foul of class bias.

It can be hard for an individual to identify features of their background that will resonate with people they have never met in a sector where they have no experience.  It is hard for us to recognize those features in our own CV.  That’s our task, though.  To find those points where we resonate with the people we are going see.  That is the leadership task.

Our strengths and weaknesses

Oh, how questions about strengths and weaknesses make us shy.  But I will tell you why.  The question is always asked in a frontal way.  Very, very rude of interviewers to do that.  They need to probe what your strengths will be in their team and what will be your weaknesses.  But that is their job.  You cannot know because you have not been in the situation before.  By the time you know, you will be ready for the next challenge.

Thinking about the referees of rare bird sightings helps, I think.  An applicant would know where they think they would want to play a leading or substantial role and where they would take a following or lagging role.  It can be help, possibly to think about where you think you might speak up and where you would be listening hard.

Whatever, when an interviewer is frontal, remember that it is their bad manners not yours.  Take a deep breath.   Exercise leadership.

  • Orient yourself: Repeat the common & shared goal.
  • Remind yourself of why you want to be with these people: Repeat their three contributions.
  • Steady your audience:  State your contribution and state your main agenda as you see it.

Your goal is not to answer their question.  Your goal is to bring everyone together.  Leadership.

Thank you rare bird man.  If anyone heard the fourth criterion, do let me know.

7 steps to network yourself into business opportunity

Network our way through the recession?

There is a funny video about Linkedin going the rounds that I found from @jackiecameron1.

Unemployed people sign up to Linkedin in a desert of jobs. Everyone is networked, but to each other, to no one has a job.

What use is networking if there are no employers in the group?

Networking is not hitching a ride!

What is very apparent in the rather delightful (and accurate) spoof  is that no one is doing anything.  Everyone is trying to hitch ride on everyone else!

Who in that network is trying to make anything happen? Who is inviting other people to help, even for free?

Networking out of a desert of jobs

To take the metaphor of the desert further, if anyone got the group organized to look for water, they might find some!

Why doesn’t anyone start some useful activity?

The simple answer is that no one there trusts anyone else. If they did, they would invite them to do something!

How do we begin to organize that group?

Here are 7 steps for organizing a group who seem to be out of ideas, out of resources and who don’t know each other well.

A  Show Confidence in Your People

#1 Begin!

#2 Be active.

Do something! Sit down and make a sandcastle! See who helps.

B Help Your People Gain Confidence in Each Other

#3 Change the sandcastle so that people are helping each other.

Move your position so that you are handing sand to the person building. When another person joins in, move to the the end of the line.

#4 Move the line slowly in the direction that seems most promising.

At the same time, get people to sing so that they become more aware that they are a group.

Keep your attention on the sandcastle by-the-way!  People are only going to be bothered with the sand castle if you are!

C Work with People Who Trust the Group

#5 Position a reliable person at the end of the line while you start a new line.

Make sure the person at the end of a line knows to sing out if they see anything unusual on the horizon.

D Bring Information About Opportunities Into the Group

#6 When someone sees something unusual on the horizon, don’t create a stampede.

Move the whole bicycle wheel, by changing the direction that the sand moves. Move the sandcastle builder to the other end and reverse the direction of sand. In an orderly way, move the other spokes. Keep it playful!

E We Are All In This Together

#7 Continue and continue!

You might decide to abandon your group and go it alone.  Yes, it might be slow moving the group along and it might feel as if the group is slowing you up.  But aren’t your chances of finding water higher in an organized group looking out for each other?

It is easier to think straight when things are really bad

It sometimes feel that deserts are too much to cope with.  I am also going to tell you that deserts are better than abandoned farm land. You are lucky. Yes, you are!

Let’s imagine, you simply find yourself in a abandoned but essentially sound farm.  You don’t start building a useless sandcastle. You do something useful.  You start to plough the land and plant seeds.  The difficulty is that you have now fixed your group to that field.  You will be unable to move slowly across the horizon to a better place.  In modern parlance, your solution is not scalable!

That’s why I like the idea of deserts.  We are willing to abandon sandcastles and rebuild them elsewhere.

When you chose your seed project, build something, anything, where we can see results and where we can all help! Keep the projects short and sweet so that people can see results and move them as we spot other things on the horizon.

Experiments in extreme living

What I want you to do is to build something with the resources under your feet.  And invite someone else to join in.

When the person joins in, give them a prime spot and support them.  Invite another person.  Keep building.

That’s is the challenge. That is the task!

Land your dream job by knowing your industry inside-out

Career decisions for young and old

I do a lot of career coaching.  I talk to youngsters of all ability ranges. I talk to MBA student making career changes after a flying start in management.  I talk to people who’ve been unlucky enough to lose their jobs and who looking for an echo career.

Are easy when we know what we want

What all these people have in common ~ those who are happy to get work at the minimum wage and those negotiating banker-size bonuses ~ is that they will not get what they want until they decide what they want.

And tracks are laid out for us by someone else

Many of us ~ particularly the talented, able and lucky ~ go through life on a set of rails. We go from one school to another, on tracks laid down by other people, and decision making has amounted to no more than “this” or “that”.   Both are good and we chose on the basis of the frills ~ which perks were more to our taste.

When the tracks are gone, we have to lay them for selves

Then one day, shock and horror, the tracks are gone. We will have to lay them down ourselves.  Suddenly, we realize that we are “institutionalized”. We haven’t being make decisions for ourselves.  We are capable of rolling down pre-laid tracks without thought, but we are totally incapable of laying the tracks.

Smashing Magazine has a very comprehensive list for finding work

It’s a steep learning curve.  Today Smashing Magazine has a list of “do’s” for free lancers. These “do’s” are the basis for job searches as well. Print them and rate your progress at getting them right.

The trouble is that step one is deciding what you want!

I can tell you right now which steps you will find hard ~ deciding which sector you want to work in and finding out about the companies.  That’s the equivalent of laying the tracks. That is the part that you’ve never done before because you always took for granted that the tracks were there.

How to lay your own tracks

  1. Print out the article from Smashing Magazine
  2. Get a shoebox or box of similar size
  3. Keep your envelopes from junk mail
  4. Take envelopes of one color or size and every day find a website relevant to the industry that enchants you.  Read and take notes.
  5. Take envelopes of another color or size and every day find a firm in your industry that sparks your curiosity.  Read and take notes.
  6. Every month sort through. Keep the ten best firms and make notes on questions you want to answer about the industry.
  7. Also sort through and look at the people you would love to meet and learn a little about them

I can be sure that in 1-2 months of doing a little work every night, the industry will come alive.  Smashing Magazine’s list will begin to be easy.  Indeed, I strongly recommend that you start a blog.  Get a Posterous account, which is easy to manage, and start “Expeditions into the Publishing Industry”, or whatever.   In time you will be an acclaimed expert ~ and you will have got there by the first step that you took today.

Stop daydreaming about step 53 ~ take the 1st step

Indeed, if you don’t take the first step, if you keep telling me about step 7 or step 10 or step 53, then I know you are not serious.  Step 1: print out Smashing Magazine’s article. Step Two get a shoebox. Step Three get a junk mail envelope and make your first notes.

And sigh with relief that you live in days of the internet!

And stop whinging!  This is easy in the days of the internet.  Just 10 years ago, this was almost impossible to do!