CV – Curriculum Vitae: Curriculum vitae is a Latin expression which can be loosely translated as [the] course of [my] life.
The above is the Wikipedia definition of what a CV is. I prefer the American term ‘Résumé’ myself which Wikipedia defines as: –
“…a document used by individuals to present their background and skillsets.” Which is to my way of thinking a much better definition of how CVs are used.
Essentially a CV is a marketing tool most people use to secure their next job or any job for that matter. I remember doing my first CV near thirty years ago, it was eight pages long, detailed everything I had done and achieved since the age of sixteen (and I had done a lot). Needless to say, I never had a response from any job I applied for nor any speculative letter of application with CV attached that I ever made. It would be another eight years before I knew where I had been going wrong, which was my CV was far too long! I was pretty much in uncharted waters back then. While I and every other job applicant was being told to do CVs, the vast and overwhelming numbers of prospective employers still demanded and required that you contact them for an ‘Application Form’ that later morphed into an ‘Application Pack’, read through all the mind numbing information and instructions before filling in the actual form itself. Needless to say I was brain dead before I got to the Form and despite my best efforts, I don’t think there is one single application form I ever filled in to the expressed wishes of the organisation concerned that got me an interview. My problem then as now was I felt I was a square peg trying to squeeze himself into a rather small hole. So even back in those dark days of employment application and recruitment, I could see the need to actively market one’s self. Needless to say I stayed away from those applications where forms were required to be filled in and submitted. I called time on all that back in 2002 when I had made several applications to the London Borough of Camden and had several copies of the same application pack that needed to be filled in. Not only was it a drain on my time and resources but a soul destroying endeavour. I moved on and decided to pursue my first love which was Acting and gave all that nonsense a miss or so I thought.
Times have changed and filling in application forms/packs now seems to be a thing of the past. A telephone conversation this afternoon prompted me to write this piece. On Sunday night though Monday night I burned more than the Midnight Oil creating new CVs to forward on to temping agencies I have worked for and potential new ones. One lesson I have learned over the past twenty-five years or more is that one CV does not fit all and despite wishes to have a one CV fits all, I have found out the hard way this is not the case but I digress.
Once I had done my CVs (four in all,) I uploaded three of them onto various CV repository websites where they were automatically uploaded onto a website for a company called Fuller CV. I was given a Customer ID for a free CV Review Service. I called them this afternoon and spoke to one of their consultants.
What the gentleman had to say made perfect sense to me but in the near thirty years of being in the jobs market, his advice was the first time I had heard any real commonsense in terms of constructing a CV. His Organisation’s website only allows for one CV to be uploaded so his advice while making perfect sense was clearly off because he had only seen one aspect of my efforts i.e. He had only seen one of the four CVs I had done. He had sixteen years as a recruitment consultant. I have more than thirty years experience of dealing with recruitment consultants and good as he was at his job which clearly shone through, he is a rare breed in that sector. The more things change, the more they stay the same and this gentleman aside, I have been experiencing the same kind of nonsense from recruitment consultants. The faces change but the same bloody attitude remains the same. As it always has!
What I tried to explain to him and think I managed to get the point across that while I take on many of his views regarding my CV in front of him, he was looking at one of four CVs. He had not seen the other three. Yes, in an ideal world one CV that fits all would do the trick and make one’s life far easier but anyone who has ever watched the later stages of the UK version of ‘The Apprentice’ knows when the final five have to sit in front of Lord Alan Sugar’s team of experts, one CV does not fit all. One’s CV is subjective and only has as much value as the person who is looking at it. And when they don’t like what they see and it doesn’t have what they are looking for, then you are done. You are finished. You can like myself do a number of CVs but where one person will like what you have done and how you have marketed yourself, you can be sure someone else looking at that same CV will have a problem with it. More recently I sent an email to an agency called Broadcasting Agency. In my email I explained who I was, how long I had been in the business as an actor and included a weblink to my Website (which I had constructed myself, saving myself a great deal of money in the process). Their response? There wasn’t one! I have had many positive comments about my Website but clearly the people at Broadcasting Agency thought differently. And that is how the world works. No matter how hard you try, some people never appreciate your efforts. So much so as with the above Agency, they didn’t dignify my correspondence with a reply.
I try to be as original as I can be. I have had a somewhat interesting working background. Anyone who has ever read anything I have written about myself will know this. Despite what this gentleman at Fuller CV told me, I know from bitter experience that no prospective employer offering me a temporary contract of employment, (let alone a permanent contract of employment,) wants to see any mention of my acting career on my CV. Unfortunately for them, there is no getting away from the fact, I am a Professional Actor. Not only that, there have been periods where I have done nothing other than pursuing that career, working, developing that career, writing, coaching students on their essay writing, assisting them with their research, helping them in the structure of their writing etc. These are just some of the things I have done when I am not working as an Administrator or any of the other contract agency jobs I have done. My CV was too polite and by putting ‘Administrator’ as the main title, I had pigeon-holed myself as the Gentleman from Fuller CV put it. I argued anyone taking the time to read my CV would see I am anything but a pigeon in a hole. He was correct in that one’s CV has a twenty second time limit to catch anyone’s attention. My mission statement was too polite. Listen, I don’t bullshit! I have seen too many people blow their own trumpet and get caught out because they could not back up the elaborate claims they made on their CV. One’s CV should be a two page sales document. Yes there are ways around it and while I have taken my advisor’s comments and will implement them at some point, I am still going to be dealing with people who stick with what they know or don’t know. I have a wealth of work experience much of it transferable to other areas of work but if an organisation wants something or somebody specific then I am not that person because I don’t have the experience of doing one job for the past twenty odd years. That is not what I am about. That is why I am an Actor, a Performer. I get to do different things, be different people, learn different things, and expand my knowledge of who I am, people and life in general.
The CV I am most proud of is my Actor’s CV. You can’t play around with it. Like any good actor CV it is direct and tells a casting director or anyone else, exactly what you have done, your experience and how long you have been in the business. My CV as an Actor tells it like it is. For better or worse. There is no need for fancy wording or trying to blindside or con people. Or paying a recruitment consultant £190GBP in order to devise a CV that will open doors. The last time I did that was back 2002 when via another company, I paid more than £100GBP for the same service to get a CV that couldn’t even get me arrested let alone an Interview. It would be a further four years before someone would look at that CV (after I made amendments to it,) and register me with their agency. In fact I have devised CVs (free of charge,) for people which actually contributed to those people actually getting the jobs or at the very least got them into the Interview Room.
Unlike many professionals, I am not saying I know it all. My experience comes from many years of trial, error and learning matters the hard way. My friend the gentleman from Fuller CV came across as a genuine, thoughtful person but his thinking though commonsense was essentially flawed in that it did not take on board one significant fact: Different things mean different things to different people. One man’s fish is another man’s poison. CVs are subjective. One person can look at your CV and like it in terms of the information it contains, the design, the layout, while someone will hate it or not even understand it. This I have experienced even with a professionally produced CV I paid for. A telephone conversation with my Law Tutor later that evening where the subject came up confirmed much of what I discussed when he said it was flawed thinking to think one CV fits all and can be presented for every single job one applies for. One needs to have more than one type of CV that reflects their experience. Obviously if you have not much in terms of a varied working life then your CV will be a much simpler affair and an easier document to produce. However, if you are like my good self and have led an interesting and varied working life then that life in the world of work is going to be presented (or represented,) in more than one CV format tailored to whatever job you go for. This in itself is commonsense and as a smart lady called Amanda Palmer once told me ‘commonsense is not all that common.’
What I am trying to say in my own unique way is this: It is a very competitive world out there and in such a world we need to use everything that comes our way to our full advantage. However, we cannot blindly accept what people tell us and part with our money because we think and feel such a strategy gets us up the ladder that much faster. In many cases such a strategy works but only when we spend wisely, sensibly and think things through before we part with our cash. I have seen people spend thousands on getting a showreel produced when they could have got one produced of the same quality for a fraction of what they paid. The galling fact is they wasted so much money on an inferior product only to go to someone better and get a quality showreel produced at a fraction of the cost of what they initially paid for complete rubbish.
To conclude, don’t accept at face value what people tell you. There is always one more way of doing things and that is your way and you have the right to at least try it once. This I have learned the hard way through time and experience.