Updated: Mar 10, 2021
A lot of the conversations I have with clients take the form of me sharing advice, guidance and feedback about their CV, their job search strategy and how they can increase their impact during the application process - all good and important stuff, of course. Applicant Tracking Systems, personalising LinkedIn URLs and tailoring CV content for every role are some the areas that can be real discovery moments for my clients, and I am grateful for the opportunity I have to help build people's capability, confidence and resilience with this knowledge.
It's fair to say, though, that learning is a two-way process and I have been humbled by the talented people I have worked with over the past 10 months. I have helped clients in a huge range of sectors including biomedical science, manufacturing, education, communications, performing arts, HR and public sector policy. Without exception, my clients have brought depth of experience, breadth of skills and authentic personal strengths to their professional practice - the bit they find hard is consolidating this into a 2-page document that does it all justice. That's the bit I can do, and my conversations with clients continue to develop my ability to do so with excellence. Here are some insights:
Telling (and selling) your story isn't easy: most of us aren't very comfortable with selling ourselves. Clients worry about being boastful, big-headed or arrogant and have a tendency to underplay the results they have delivered. I sometimes get to the end of a consultation and a client says "oh, one more thing I did was..." and it's an absolute gem of an achievement! Clients who work in large organisations often gloss over the size and scale of what they do, which could be leading £multimillion operations or teams of 100+ people - "oh well that's just the job" they tell me, and they're right but let's make sure we showcase it because your CV isn't the place to be shy...
Find yourself redundant is incredibly difficult: I spoke with a client recently who described leaving the company they've been with for two decades as a kind of bereavement. We talked through his life experiences in the organisation and how he feels about leaving, and it served as a real reminder of the impact that process has on people. There's a principle in coaching known as "unconditional positive regard" and that's the approach I take with clients by adopting a person-centric approach that fully supports them through the CV writing process. Career transition, especially if driven by redundancy, can be a confusing and emotional time, and I often find myself in awe of what my clients are dealing with as well as their focus in taking control of their journeys. If you're facing redundancy cry the tears, be kind to yourself and remember that it's not about you as a person - you have skills, experience and value to offer so centre yourself on what you can control, and the possibilities that the next chapter might bring.
Feeling good about yourself is key to job-hunting: whenever I am writing a CV, I do so in partnership with my client and with the sole intention of helping them achieve their goals, to feel good about themselves and have a tool to use in their job search that reflects who they truly are. Hitting the job boards when you feel overwhelmed, underconfident or unsure about your skills isn't going to work and the clients who take the time to reflect, prepare and take a focused approach to targeting new opportunities are the ones who see the most return on the investment of their energy. Don't leave it all until your dream job pops us with 5 days to complete the application: aim to be ready rather than get ready.
Keep a record of your achievements: clients often kick themselves when I ask them to evidence the outcome of their work: "I wish I'd kept a record" is something I hear a lot. There are ways to work around this, but if clients can demonstrate the value they have added, such as their people engagement survey scores, an increase in sales or growing the number of accounts, then it can really lift their CV and means we don't need to talk about track records, - we can just show it! When clients do go away and dig out their results, sometimes as part of their post-consultation "homework", then inevitably it makes them feel positive and assured that they really did deliver some great stuff in previous roles! This is an important part of the process in more ways than just for inclusion in a CV: it's part of preparation for describing your achievements at interview stage which is exactly where the CV aims to get you. Clients find the act of doing this reflective, valuable and encouraging, and they always vow to keep a log of the results they deliver in future roles!
A great CV is a life changer: at the end of last year I worked with a wonderful client who was (is!) highly capable, focused and driven; she knew she could interview well, but she was being rejected outright for everything she had applied for at the first stage of the process. We booked a consultation, she gathered her evidence, we talked through the projects she'd managed and we created an impressive, and truthful, account of the value she had consistently delivered. Very quickly she had almost more interviews than she knew what to do with, and secured her dream opportunity working for a huge international brand. This will be life changing in so many ways and I am genuinely thrilled for her - not least because she will absolutely rock it! She's still the same person and always had that in her - it was her CV that held her back but now she's got the confidence to work with her new CV, and make it work for her.
I am so lucky to work with talented clients who are so open to seeking support, seeing themselves reflected back and taking on board advice. In return, my clients help me expand my perspective, remind me of the resilience of the human spirit and their success keeps me doing what I love.
In owning your CV you own your talent, you own your career and you own your future. A day after International Women's Day, as Maya Angelou said: still I rise.