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8 Creative Writing Techniques to Build a Brilliant CV

8 Creative Writing Techniques to Build a Brilliant CV
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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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