And Why Your Current CV is Holding You Back
What’s the point of you? It may sound a little rude to ask that, and perhaps downright imprudent to blurt it out at the beginning of a blog post that I’m hoping you’ll read, so let’s try again: What are you for? No… that’s worse, if anything. I’d ask you about your hopes and dreams, but… I just… don’t care. Nobody does, apart from your mum and your friends, and they’re faking it a lot of the time.
This only sounds so terrible, I think, because we now live in a world in which everyone is supposed to be special. You’ve grown up being told that you’re worth it and fascinating and important, and so it can seem a bit much when Mr Random Internet Man contradicts it. You might try and feel better by telling yourself that I’m just a damaged, broken mess who gets pleasure from hurting others. Or you might laugh at me and shout about your qualifications and experience and intelligence and all those other wonderful things. And even if I could hear you, I still wouldn’t care, because, honestly, why should I?
If you’re still reading this, then I guess you know that I can’t possibly plan to write the rest of this article in a similar vein; it’s got to get less offensive and more interesting at some point, surely? Well, yes it will, and to thank you for pushing on this far, I’m going to give you probably the most valuable advice you’ve had all year, in just the next paragraph.
That was a bold claim, wasn’t it? I hope I live up to it! Well, let’s give it a try: in order to be both fascinating and rich, you need to work out what my problem is and prove to me you can solve it. If you can do that, I will find you extremely interesting and I’ll gladly give you some money. Then do the same for lots of other people. Because in order to be fascinating and rich, you need to stop thinking about you and your needs and your hopes and your dreams and your problems and your stuff and your things, because you are the only person in this world that will ever find those things interesting. The secret to true success is really understanding other people’s problems and solving them for a fair price.
And this applies to you whether you’re a business owner like me, or an employee. Don’t be tempted to make the excuse that this doesn’t apply to you; it does, and I know I’ve just repeated myself but that’s how important it is.
You see, the trick to writing a CV, or giving an interview, or engaging in practically any kind of professional activity is a simple one: identifying a problem you can solve and proving you can solve it. And while this may seem simple and, I hope, obvious, I can tell you that doing this is very rare. Most CVs that I see are a jumbled mess of management-speak, qualifications and duties. They’re poorly-written, hard to read and lack a key message. But therein lies your opportunity: the fact that most CVs are like this. With some careful thought and an understanding of the problems you can solve, you can write a CV that really speaks to hiring managers and gets you invited for an interview.
But before I can address how to start doing that, I want to tackle the question of why so few people do this anyway. ‘I don’t know’, is the short answer, but the long answer is speculative.
Certainly, from my own perspective, I’ve never really been trained in how to sell myself. Nobody ever explained the point of a CV. I knew it was a document that you had to write, that it was a total pain in the arse, and that recruiters asked for them. As far as I was concerned, it was just a hoop you had to jump through. And then I started to think about it more carefully. I think that people possibly get so bogged down in formalities and procedure, that they start to lose sight of what a CV is and what it should do.
A CV is, at it’s heart, a list of all the jobs you’ve ever done and what they involved, as well as your qualifications etc. But if you write it because you think that that is the purpose of a CV, then you’re entirely missing the point. The purpose of the CV is to say to the person who would be your next boss, ‘I know what your problem is and I can fix it.’ If you can do that, you’ve got an interview. And that’s why it’s crucial to understand what your professional value is. It’s so important that I’m going to make the sentence a standalone paragraph in italics.
Your professional value is your capacity to solve the problem of someone who can pay you for it.
Forget the formality of the recruitment process. Forget the requirements in the job ad. Forget the myriad doubts that buzz around your head, and ask yourself these questions:
- What is my professional value?
- What problem do I solve?
- Who has this problem?
If you’re in Sales, your professional value is that you increase the company’s revenue; the problem is that there are people who need your company’s products that don’t buy them; this is a problem for the Sales Director.
If you’re in HR, your professional value is that you get the maximum amount of value from the company’s employees; the problem you solve is that people don’t deliver maximum value 100% of the time; the HR Director has this problem.
And here are some things that are not your professional value: your willingness to go the extra mile; your 10 years of experience; the letters after your name; your ambition; your hunger. These things may lie behind your professional value, but they are not, in themselves, your value. The reason being that these things are of no interest to anyone because they are not solutions to their problem.
Yes, companies have policies and recruiters have requirements, but these can easily be overcome and waived if somebody important enough will benefit from it. The trick is to show, through the narrative you create with your CV, that you can solve your next boss’s problem.
And in the next blog post, I’ll show you how to do just that.