In my role at CAL, one of the jobs I’m often asked to do is to revamp and/or update a CV from one of our mature age students who are desperate to get a job using the new skills and knowledge they’ve learned in the course of study they’re just about to complete.
So, I see a lot of CVs.
One of the things that strikes me far too often than I’d like is the inability of mature age workers – particularly women – to be able to recognise and value the often considerable skills and underpinning knowledge they’ve developed over their working lives.
I find this frustrating and quite amazing as women, in particular, seem to de-value or perhaps not even notice the skills they’ve developed as they’ve progressed through their career and life in general. Nor do they find it easy to put the skills they’ve gained throughout their working life into a new and/or different context.
Let me give you a recent example of one such CV that blew me away – for all the wrong reasons.
The owner of this CV is a mature woman who had spent a 4 year chunk of her working life as a home tutor for her children. Now that’s fine, but, in reading her CV, it was this that jumped out at me and seemed to define her. Aware of the ways this might be read, she had used a number of words describing and justifying the role. She currently held a cleaning support service role in the mines and so her 2-page and very brief CV focused largely on these 2 roles, but, who she was and what skills she had were all literally viewed through the prism of ‘home schooler mum’.
At first glance, I thought this CV and the selling of the person behind it was pretty much a lost cause, so much so that I doubted I could do anything to help her but, then I started to wonder why she had commenced the Diploma of Human Resources Management in the first place? In fact, I wondered whether CAL’s enrolment process had failed to identify a clearly unsuitable person for the demanding course that comprises the Diploma of HRM. I was thinking a mistake had been made and she had been incorrectly approved to enrol in the Diploma.
This made me quite anxious and concerned so I went back to her CV. It was then, as I started to see what was initially hidden from me in a couple of sentences in the CV, I began to realise that this woman did indeed have potential and heaps of it and yes, she was selected for the Diploma program because she had experience in people management and many of the skills needed to be a professional HRM.
She is an experienced people manager who, through her study of the Diploma of HRM has consolidated her newly gained knowledge with her many real life experiences and become way more than the simplistic bits and pieces she would have an employer believe of her (through her CV).
Why then is her CV so lacking in any sort of appeal and why, oh why, is she selling herself short in the competitive jobs market?
It seems to me there are two main reasons why mature age women sell themselves short in their CV:
- They lack the confidence to spell out their skills and experience and tell the world how skilled they are and,
- They also lack training to do the leap required to transfer their skills and knowledge from one context to another and so sell their skillsets in a different and perhaps challenging or at least new context and/or environment. Yet this new environment is one they have studied part time for 12 months or more!
This is not usually an issue with the men I assist with their CV’s. It seems to be a gender issue and one that is often caused (at least in part) by broken work histories where women have either stopped work to bring up a family or, they have perhaps taken a lower level role that allows them to manage both work and family duties.
I am not trying to analyse the psyche of Australian working mothers, I’ll happily leave that to the experts. What I am trying to do is respond to a real and crippling issue that is clearly affecting many talented women looking to gain better jobs and/or progress their careers, and that’s their inability to sell themselves in their CV for whatever reason.
Aside from a cover letter, your CV is usually the first and often the only important piece of information about you that a prospective employer may ever see.
To get ahead, to get that job you’ve always wanted and/or to change your career you must sell yourself, your skills, knowledge, abilities and experience in your CV.
Employers aren’t mind-readers, and they often see hundreds of CVs every year. Your CV must stand out from the crowd.
What makes your CV stand out from the rest is your ability to sell yourself and position your CV to sit on the very top of the pile.