When people find out I teach writing, they assume it’s creative writing. Novels, stories, poetry. (Except that one dude who thought I teach handwriting. Weirdo.)
And I can teach those things. I have a master’s degree in creative writing. But without being a hugely successful published author, I don’t feel the same credibility there as I do with my business writing. Creative writing is not my specialty. Also, I’ve always been hyper-sensitive about NOT being one of the those who can’t, teach. Nope, not me. I can, I do, and I teach.
When you want to make a go of something
I had a young man approach me recently. He wants to become a copywriter. He’s been studying media arts, and that particular course really grabbed him.
He asked me how he could get into the industry, and he sent me his ‘portfolio’.
His portfolio consisted of exactly 3 pieces of work. Pieces he had done as assignments in his course. Two of the three were one sentence long – visual print ads for which he’d written the copy.
You need to do the work, buddy.
We met. I think he was hoping I’d just give him a job. But, a) I don’t hire copywriters, and b) not a chance. I repeat: one sentence long.
I do appreciate people taking some initiative, so I met him to get a feel for the kind of guy he is and to give him some advice.
I’ll give you the same advice I gave him.
You. Have to. Do. The THING.
If you want credibility in any profession, you have to DO IT. If you want to develop credibility as a writer, you have to WRITE. It’s a long game. You can’t expect fast results (which I think he was hoping for). You also can’t necessarily expect to get paid for it.
I spent about 7 years writing, editing, and proofreading FOR FREE before I started charging for my services. Before that, I’d spent years publishing and entering writing competitions. After all that, if someone wanted evidence of the writing I’d done, it was easy. I could turn around and pull up evidence in any direction I looked. I had a publishing profile and a huge portfolio of business and academic writing.
I’m NOT suggesting that the only way to develop credibility in your profession is to work for free. I had jobs during that entire period. I was teaching, and writing in my job, and I took other opportunities to produce work when they came up. I helped people. I developed my skill and my reputation.
You want to be known as a teacher? Teach. Give free classes in your community.
You want to be known as an artist? Get your art out there. At charity auctions and other events where you can contribute work and get your name out there.
You want to be known as an advocate? Advocate. Support people to navigate systems.
You want to be known in governance? Get on boards. Start with small, local. Work your way up.
What do you want to develop credibility in?
Are you doing it?
Well, that’s not how you want to stand out!
Let’s talk about your CV. Résumé. Whatever you call it. It’s the thing you rely on to show a prospective employer that you’re shit hot. It needs to yell, I’M THE ONE FOR YOU!! It’s often your first chance to make an impression.
What intrigues me is how much boring, run of the mill advice is out there. If you follow it, you’ll get your CV aaaall the way to the… middle of the heap. Yay.
If we do what’s always been done, what’s expected, what’s conventional, you’ll fit right in with everyone else. That’s lovely and safe if you want to blend in.
BUT YOU DON’T WANT TO BLEND IN, DUH!
The entire point of a CV is to get noticed. In a good way.
I’ve seen a few good articles around lately:
And guess what? As a writer (who gets asked to develop CVs for some amazing people), I have thoughts on this, too. Surprise, surprise.
I talk a lot on social media about how I love enhancv.com. If you read no further, just go check them out. If you want more convincing, here are some reasons why I love it!
Words are important but first impressions last
Yes, word choice in your CV is important. But words only have impact once someone decides to start reading. I believe we write our CVs based on an incorrect presupposition: that people are going to read them, word for word. Like a novel. For fun.
But that’s not what happens at first glance.
At first glance, people scan. They skim. And they make instant judgements about you, based on whatever jumps out at them, and especially on the layout – Does it look polished? Does it look professional?
The next question then, is: what does professional look like? A page full of black and white text with very little differentiation that requires you to read it word for word? That isn’t appealing to the eye, and it doesn’t invite engagement.
But if you use a more graphically designed layout, something where the headings and key words jump out, that’s gonna get attention. In fact, the reader would have to consciously try NOT to notice a word here and there.
So, use a layout that’s different from the traditional black and white sections and paragraphs. Instead, add a little pop of colour – nothing over-the-top. Make sure there’s a visual element, that’s going to make your CV stand out in the pile.
We hire people not qualifications or experience
Yes, there are minimum qualifications and ideal experience that recruiters are looking for. But ultimately, your CV is going to be placed alongside someone else’s, or 5 or 10 someone elses’. And they might all meet those same criteria perfectly.
At that point, what’s going to give you the edge? YOU! Your personality, your character, your authentic self. So I truly believe your CV needs to give clear insight into what kind of person you are.
I absolutely detest words in CVs that are the same words everyone else is using:
- I’m a people person! (Yay! Anyone on the planet can say they’re a people person!)
- Highly motivated (Sounds great. Where’s the evidence?)
- Integrity (You get the picture…)
- Work autonomously
- Work well in a team
Anyone can say those things. How can you illustrate them?
Let’s not pretend that a CV is anything other than a selling document.
It’s your opportunity to sell yourself to a prospective employer. And if there’s anything that you wanna be in that position – it’s confident.
When you’re willing to step a little outside of the norm of convention, just a little, that comes across as confident. I’m not talking about pushing the boundaries hugely. There is such a thing as being overly confident, arrogant, borderline ridiculous. That’s completely up to you whether you think that’s going to sell or not.
But you know what? That’s what I choose to do with mine. Over-the-top Rockstar Writer, check me out! It fits my brand. It sends the message that I want to send. In some situations you might wanna do that. In others it might alienate a prospective employer. But the point is, don’t be exactly the same as everyone else.
Don’t toe the line. BE YOU.
Check out my CV here.
Or download my infographic: How to write a RockStar CV!