A picture told a thousand stories

By Ashley Cahillane, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers

ASHLEY CAHILLANE, Career Coach, Galway

Q: I haven’t a question, as such, just a piece of advice or insight from a recent experience. I’ve read this column previously talking about the value of a portfolio and showing people what you can do, rather than just telling them. I never took much notice of it – and, really, I should have. I’m a graphic designer.

Three weeks ago, I went to an interview. This time, I brought my portfolio with me. The interview wasn’t going great, and, probably a little sheepishly, I took out my portfolio and gave it to them.

The whole dynamic of the interview changed. Suddenly, we were talking in a real way. It actually felt like being at work – rather than trying to get a job. I explained why I did certain things; they made some observations and suggestions. We weren’t interviewing. We were brainstorming.

I just thought I’d share that. I got the job. I knew leaving the interview that I was very seriously in the running. I had never previously got into that kind of conversation in a job interview. (TE, email).

A: Bravo. From my time in college, an enduring image is of graphic design students lugging black, outsized portfolios around the place to show to all sorts of people, writes Ashley Cahillane, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

Your work is your interview. Judge not what I say, but what I do. Get into your area of expertise. The lesson can be well learned by all sorts of people whose work can be presented visually – a mechanic can show pictures of the vintage car they restored (might be hard to actually drive it into the interview room) and so on.

How to prune my CV

Q: I’m working on my CV and struggling badly to get it below five pages. I’ve just been involved in so many different things, between full time work and running my own business, that I don’t where to start, or, indeed, stop. Any suggestions? (DR, email).

A: Start as if you were the next potential recruiter or employer reading your CV. And write down what that person would like to see there (clue: it will likely be in the job spec, on the company website or waiting to be picked from the minds of people already working there, or who worked there previously).

What would that person like some detail on? What are their exact areas of professional interest? Where are the parallels between what you have done and what this person wants you to do?

Be brutal as you answer those questions. Imagine they insisted on only getting half a page from you. What would you put on that? When you ask, and answer, those questions in a very honest manner, you will get closer to shortening your CV.

Some candidates fixate on getting ‘everything’ into their CV, as if they are obliged to show in exhaustive detail that they are hard-working and committed.

In reality, a CV like that is likely to confuse or bore the reader.

In short, figure out what that employer needs to know about your career. And focus on that. Other stuff, you can mention in passing or delete in full. And, then, do the same for the next job.

Ashley Cahillane is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers. We have offices nationwide, plus a full online service. Our services include CV preparation, interview training, mock interviews, personal statements, career planning / direction, LinkedIn profiles and application forms.