Making your work and life experience work for you


Q. I have worked in lots of different jobs in the past, and, in fact, I’m seeking for jobs in three different industries. How can I make my CV work for all three?
– JB (email)

A. Very simply, think like a marketer – think about your target market. The CV is a sales document, and you’re the product. So who are you selling it to? What are they looking for in an employee? What have you done in the past that qualifies you for this job? Think about the job you’re applying for, and tailor your CV accordingly. List your key achievements relevant to that job. Clever arrangement of your experience in a CV draws attention to that area. So if you’re going for a sales role, talk up and make more prominent your sales successes in the past. Tell them about the €1m sales you generated five years ago. Let them know your sales philosophy. You can then play down irrelevant work experience. The two years spent as a night watchman are not crucial in this instance. While it is important to avoid leaving blanks on your CV, you don’t need to give exhaustive details on irrelevant previous jobs.

You need to tailor your CV to reflect each sector. You should never send out your CV without first thinking deeply about where it’s going. Remember; that your CV needs to have a flow so be consistent throughout. Highlight the corresponding skills in each section. For example, If you worked in Financial Sales and Customer Service in a Telecommunications company, highlight your ability to work in a target-driven environment. Try to connect each job to each other and let this be the theme of the CV rather than confusing the reader with your experience in multiple areas.

Your CV needs to communicate directly to the person reading it.

Q. I have never actually had what you might call a proper job – or even a job interview, for that matter! I worked in the family business when I left college, and then set up my own painting and decorating business for the past seven years. That’s gone now, and I am on the jobs trail. How can I make my CV interesting?
– TC (email)

A. The first thing you’ve got to lose the sense of your experience to date not being of any value. It is common for people not to see their own assets as clearly as they should. The fact that you ran your own business for seven years is very attractive to an employer. As you probably know only too well, running your own business takes drive, determination, initiative, innovation, and self-belief. Those are the attributes an employer is looking for – so highlight them. Create a section in your CV that describes the highlights of your career. Connect this to the industry you hope to enter. Running your own business involves specific tasks such as business development, mentoring staff, strong administrative skills and the ability to be resourceful. These are transferable skills that can be used in multiple industries.

Focus not on absence of structured jobs in the past, and use your CV to highlight the good things you have. When it comes to the interview, use real-life examples from your self-employed career to transmit a strong sense of the kind of individual you are.

Running your own business is something to use now, not hide away. Make a list of all you learned while making a business succeed, and all you learned as it fell away. What you’ll find is that you’re just the kind of person many employers are looking for: people with the guts to really make things happen.

Sli Nua Careers (tel 094 95 42965 / 091 528 883, are based on Watson’s Lane, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo / Drum East, Bushy Park, Galway, and carry out CV Preparation, Interview Training, Mock Interviews and Career Direction. For your free e-book on interview & CV tips, email