Careers clinic: Self promotion
The CV that has suited your current employers might need some rejigging before you send it elsewhere. Caroline Tolond shows you how
A The careers team at the RSC provide feedback on CVs every week and recently we've seen a lot written by people who have worked for the same company for a considerable period of time. Many of these CVs undersold the experience that these individuals had, and further exploration revealed they were often based on old internal CVs. The problem with this is that internal CVs often contain company terminology and assumptions about experiences. When these CVs are then tweaked for an external position often experiences are not clarified or expanded on and the presentation is not adapted - the same language and focus that you might include on an internal CV is not always what is needed for another employer.
So how do you take an internal CV and refocus it to an external market? Well, start by stepping away from the CV and sitting down with a blank piece of paper. I make this suggestion as sometimes it is the very structure of a CV that can limit what you include as it's easy to get bogged down trying to fit information into a certain space on the page.
On this blank piece of paper think about what you want your CV to say about you. Bear in mind that your most recent role or two (covering the last five to six years) is likely to contain the experiences that will get you your next job, so focus on what the key points from these periods are. Condense them down to three or four unique selling points, which should be the things that will make you stand out in the job market. Next to these, note examples that support these points, include facts and figures, such as the size and scale of projects, teams and budgets. Structure these so that they explain the context of each experience, what actions you took and, finally, what results you achieved. This approach is helpful to analyse your experiences methodically in both CVs and interviews.
The final sentence of your question suggests that you feel constrained about what you can include in your CV due to the confidential nature of your work. When considering what evidence to include think what is confidential about your work - it's likely that it's about detail, such as technical information about a product or particular research areas, rather than bigger picture aspects. You should be able to give examples of the way you manage your day-to-day work and projects, problem solving skills, along with technical skills and experience of particular bits of equipment (if relevant) without the detail of the work and so maintain the confidentiality.
At this point it can be helpful to go back to your internal CV. When you look at it now do your unique selling points come across? If you are working at a high level or on a particular project that would be of interest to a new employer is this clear? If it isn't, decide whether it's possible make the changes to your old CV or if a complete redraft is going to be a better option.
As I mentioned earlier, terminology can also be a stumbling block. Review the language and any acronyms you have used within your CV. Ask yourself if they would be understood outside your current organisation. If you are not sure then replace them.
Finally, one question we often ask the owner of the CV is, do they like it? On the surface it sounds an odd question to ask - why should you like a summary of your career history? However, your CV may be all a recruiter knows about you, so it's important you're happy with the way it's presented and its content. Take the time to get it as good as it can be and seek feedback from others about it. You should be able to create a polished CV which you can tailor to individual vacancies should you need to.
What is an internal CV?
If you've ever created a CV for use within your company, such as applying for a new job or going for a promotion, then this would be your internal CV. Often they are written in a more functional style and can include things that would be less important externally, such as company awards, particular training courses or using project titles that would only be known in the company.