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Navigating a Career Change – How to update your CV

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If COVID-19 has left you facing a career change, you’ll want to know how to stand out in the sea of applicants. With employers drowning in CVs, how can you make sure yours gets looked at – especially if your experience is in a different field?

The secret lies in being prepared.

Ever had a surprise job interview – and had to scramble to get your hair cut and find something to wear? Stressful, wasn’t it? Did you perform at your best?

Now imagine you find the perfect job ad… and the deadline for submissions is today. How’s your CV looking? Will you have to scramble to get it ready? Given the volume of candidates out there looking for work, you must make your CV stand out and be immediately relevant to the job.

Keeping your CV up to date is never a waste of time, but it’s vital in the time of COVID. If you want to be ready to seize unexpected job opportunities, read on...

1. Update your most recent role

Think about what you’ve learned from your last role, and what you’ve contributed. Give specific, quantified examples of results you created and why they mattered. Even if it wasn’t in the same field, this will still showcase your abilities.

2. Update your skills

Go over the skills on your CV and see if you can add better or more relevant examples to support them. Also, think laterally – are there any transferable skills you can add? Think IT skills, tech skills, any professional or other ability that could help you in the job you’re going for.

3. Add your achievements

Too many people forget to add achievements to their CV. Achievements are your little successes at work, from winning a reward or recognition to solving a problem or delivering an important project. Listing these will make you stand out.

4. Update your career objective

If your CV doesn’t include a career summary, it’s a good idea to put a career objective. Get clear on what you want, and make sure you tailor it specifically to each role.

5. Align your format with your purpose

If you’re updating your CV for a career change, keep your purpose in mind when you’re choosing a CV format, and it’ll come across to potential employers.

6. Add more keywords

Many hirers now use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to scan CVs for relevant skills and experience. So for each role, pick key words and phrases from the job description (such as “MS Office” or “communication skills”) and sprinkle them into your CV. Otherwise, it could be weeded out before a human even sees it. One size does not fit all. You should be prepared to modify your CV (and cover letter) so that it hits the sweet spots from the job advert. It needs to tick the boxes that the recruiter or company have outlined in the job spec – and should do that within the first page of the CV.

7. Update your education

This is especially important for your first few jobs. Put the dates and grades of each qualification you’ve achieved, and any course and module descriptions that are relevant to the role. If your dissertation or thesis was relevant, add the title and a quick explanation.

8. Cut the fluff

As you gain more work experience, those first few jobs will become less relevant, especially when they’re not in the field you’re applying for. So feel free to delete that summer job in the sandwich factory, as well as irrelevant info like your home address, age, and nationality.

9. Add volunteering and interests

Volunteer experience shows you’re a well-rounded character with initiative and dedication. Hobbies can also give insight into your character, especially if you don’t have much relevant professional experience.

10. Update your CV design

Does your CV look dated? If you’ve been adding to the same old Word doc for a decade, it’s time for a redesign. Take a look at current examples online, and research the culture of the company or field you want to work in. For example, investment banking calls for a traditional design, but for creative fields you can be innovative and even bring in different media like infographics or video. Have you also considered your professional online presence? Nowadays your online personal branding is just as important as your physical CV. Employers will look for your social profiles so make sure you use them to your best advantage.

11. Proofread again

Please triple-check your spelling and grammar. Even the smartest and most conscientious people make typos. Ideally, hire a proofreader, or at least ask a friend to look at it – if you’ve left out the ‘l’ in ‘public’, spell check won’t save you.

12. Check for consistency

Does your CV make you look inconsistent? Make sure your sections are in a logical order and your fonts, headings, and layout are consistent. Finally, look at the printed version from a distance and make sure there’s enough white space.

Bonus: Refresh your online profile

While we’re talking consistency – when you update your CV, update your LinkedIn and any other online profiles to match. Ask your friends to endorse your skills or give you recommendations.

Finally, now you’ve got your CV up to date, don’t think you’re done! Keep an eye on the latest CV trends, and give it a refresher update every 6 months to a year.