‘Be prepared’ is a good motto for life in general and is certainly relevant to our employment situation and prospects. One day you might feel settled in a job, seeing a good career trajectory ahead, whether employed or self-employed. Then the next day sudden change occurs, taking all that away and leaving you wondering if you could have been better prepared for your new situation.
Whilst it’s impossible to predict when circumstances beyond our control might occur, it’s good advice to always keep your CV updated.
We live in a time of rapidly changing employment patterns and roles with more people moving across sectors, different contracts and ways of working. This means you should regularly check how your CV looks and keep it updated.
Whether a change in your employment situation comes through personal choice or external factors foisted upon you, it’s best to have your CV good to go.
It’s useful to remind ourselves what exactly a CV is.
- A succinct, accurate record of your key qualifications, educational and employment experience, skills, responsibilities and achievements.
- It should be no longer than two sides of A4.
Here are some key points to consider:
When did you last update your CV?
- Have you had it checked by a colleague/peer? If not, ask someone to read and offer feedback.
- Are you happy with it? If you’re not, probably potential employers won’t be either.
- Is it likely to grab the attention of those reading it? You have to make it stand out.
It’s only for potential employers, job applications, isn’t it?
No- it’s also for yourself- a reminder of where you are now and what you might do going forward. Even in times of economic stability and job security, you may consider where else you could go in terms of your career progression.
A CV is a useful reminder of your achievements so far and may inspire you to undertake something new. If sudden change forces you to consider where to go next, your updated CV will be a very helpful friend.
It’s meant to impress, isn’t it? And get me that job?
- Your CV alone usually doesn’t get you a job but it’s the first step in the process. Without a good CV you won’t get on those desired shortlists.
- Whilst you certainly want to gain the attention of recruiters, it should be accurate and well-presented- no vague, unsubstantiated claims.
What should I include?
- Your personal details.
- Short personal statement (one or two few sentences) at the top.
- Educational qualifications and courses of study with dates
- Professional/work experience and any professional qualifications.
- Key skills: these will show what you can do going forward, not just what you’ve done so far. These might include communication, administrative, numerical, IT, languages.
- Responsibilities and achievements- some specific results
Include enough detail but be succinct.
Your CV as your own Template
- If you’ve had it checked and taken on board advice and if you feel it’s accurate, you can use this as your template to adapt when necessary.
- Don’t forget to update as you gain qualifications or work experience.
Remember that volunteering is valid work experience: include that even if a relatively short stint.
Can I submit the same version of my CV for each application?
This is not the best strategy. You’ll need to tailor your CV according to the job role you are applying for.
One size does not fit all! This is not to say you must completely rewrite your CV each time but that you can make small amendments to highlight certain parts. When tailoring your CV for specific applications do ensure you read the job description and person spec very carefully as a guide to making changes. Include the work/professional experience/skills relevant for the post with some examples of achievements that will make you stand out as a suitable candidate.
Remember that your skills are transferable to other roles so make the most of these. Skills might be more important than qualifications in some situations.
A note on speculative CVs
- You can submit a speculative CV to companies and organisations you are interested in working for even if they are not currently recruiting.
- You may have something specific to offer such as an area of research you are working on or voluntary work in the community experience.
- They may want to keep on file in case something suitable comes up. Like individuals, they need to be prepared for sudden changes in their own situation.