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8 Creative Writing Techniques to Build a Brilliant CV

8 Creative Writing Techniques to Build a Brilliant CV

If you want a brilliant CV that stands out then using creative writing techniques could be just the approach you need. And that doesn’t mean creating a work of fiction but a presenting your career story to engage recruiters.

Having read more CVs than I like to recall it’s sad to say that many don’t merit a full read. If you don’t want to be skimmed, take my creative writing approach to CVs. I will use ideas from novel writing to aid you to think about the quality and coherence of what you are producing for the benefit of your readers.

1. Have a synopsis that draws the read in

Most CVs start with a profile or summary. Too often, this can be a bland reduction of who you are that doesn’t encourage further reading. Well marketed books have a good blurb or synopsis on the cover that is designed to hook the reader in.

In novel writing, a synopsis will tell the potential reader what type of book or genre it is. In the same way, your profile should talk of the type of roles you perform (e.g. technology, research, accounting) and sectors you work in (e.g. construction, healthcare, publishing).

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A synopsis will often introduce the hero and their situation which is where the intrigue is to pull the reader in. Your profile should offer intrigue  through generating interest so the reader (the recruiting manager) will want to read on further to find out more.

2. Have relevant themes that stand out

All great novels have themes and so should your CV. The major themes of your CV should be the skills and experience that you can demonstrate that are a match for your target role. This can be hard when aiming for a trainee role where your experience is light.

I’ve often reviewed piles of CVs for trainee roles in IT teams. Those that say nothing about their IT experience don’t get very far. Those that have highlighted even a small project that used technical skills or how they are learning relevant skills in their own time will get due consideration at that level. This also applies to more senior roles. First note, down everything that you’ve done and can do that is relevant and then pick only the best bits for the CV. It may mean leaving out other stuff however noble you thought the work.

3. Don’t lose the plot

The plotless novel is a niche of literary fiction which only a few great writers can pull off. If your CV doesn’t have any meaningful plot, by that a mean some narrative progress, it’s going to be hard. Ideally, it would be nice if all your roles were perfectly aligned to the role you’re applying for. According to research from The Ladder, recruiters often don’t get past skimming that sort of headline detail.

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What you can to is emphasize what is appropriate and make your career coherent to the reader. One way of doing this is to make sure your job history emphasizes the major themes of your skills and sector experience. Job titles can be a tricky area – never change them just to match the job you want. It is reasonable though to add clarity by summarizing long titles or changing niche terms that obscure what you did so that they make sense to a wider audience.

The best place to change a job title is when you’re in that job. I’ve done this and the little bit of effort with HR and your manager is worth it to avoid confusion later. In the end losing the plot is having an incoherent CV that isn’t tuned to each opportunity.

4. Make it a page turner

Well-chosen words mean you’ll have a chance the recruiter will look at the second page. But, remember if it’s a page-turner there’s only a need for one (or in exceptional situations two) page turns. No one likes to receive an epic CV to try a pick through it for relevant content. Make every word count and work for its place on the page. So, leave out the dull job descriptions in favor of what you achieve. Also, never ever reduce the number of pages by making the font very small. Assume the reader has tired eyes from reading too many other CVs and that they’ve lost their reading glasses.

5. Leave out the flowery prose

Clear writing is what you’re aiming for. Avoid jargon, business-speak, and abbreviations except for when these terms are part of the understood language of the area you work in. Kind of like sci-fi will have some odd terms, it’s okay for accountants to use terms like accruals that other mere mortals don’t understand.

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CVs need to be written in tight language and bullets points. Leave out the long-winded drivel and let the relevant stuff have room to be seen by a reader quickly skimming the content.

6. Make sure you’re the hero

One section that is an absolute must is the recent achievements section. This is your chance to shine as a hero. And that’s the point; the CV is your story, you’re the hero. The issue is not how great who you worked for was but how great you were. List your achievements not those of the organization.

Recruiters only look for extras when there’s a film being made so write about your contribution and what you did. You might not think your achievements amount to much but it will make a big difference if you present even the simplest one well.

7. Tie up loose ends

In first drafting your CV do what any self-respecting writer does and get into a state of flow so that you’re getting the words down. You can always edit later. Don’t be critical of the content or worry about missing information like end dates and specific qualification titles. Add a note in in brackets as a reminder to add the details later.

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But having done that you must then go away and find out all the specific dates and descriptions that you need and accurately add them in afterwards. Don’t leave anything out you meant to put in and don’t leave anything that looks half-written.

8. Review and edit

By now you should have a reasonably good draft of your CV, especially if you have tidied up your first draft. It’s tempting at this point to send out the CV too quickly but time spent improving the details now can really lift the CV to new heights. Here’s an editing check-list:

  • Is there anything that’s unnecessary or missing?
  • Can you improve the flow?
  • Do your achievements stand out and have you quantified them e.g. how much did your initiative/project save the company?
  • Is it 2 pages in a standard font of normal size?
  • Is it relevant to the role it’s targeted at?
  • Is the profile an exciting representation of who you really are?
  • Does a quick skim still give a good picture of you and your career story?

Once you’ve done this then you can then get a trusted friend (ideally a mentor and not just a drinking buddy) to give it a review and out their editor’s pencil to work. And if it’s doesn’t work keep submitting it and keep improving it.

Featured photo credit: Scabble Application/Flazingo Photos via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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