Thursday, August 19, 2010

Making Your Curriculum Vitae (CV) 'Marketable'!

A very informal survey on employers and potential employees in Tanzania has tentatively revealed that one of the main challenges facing upcoming professionals, even the most talented among them, is developing a 'marketable' Curriculum Vitae (CV). As one expert on providing capacity building for CV writing put it, a lot of CVs are nothing more than a shopping list. It seem then that there is a need to help each others to develop our CVs in such a way that they truly reflect our capabilities and show what we can offer. Here are some few basics tips which are by no means exhaustive and could be debated/challenged especially by those who are against conventions made by the neoliberal (free) market economy:

1. Just let what you have done so far speak for itself i.e. you don't have to spend a lot of time and space pompously saying I am good on this or I am great on that (e.g. if you describe what you did well e.g. I was the coordinator of Roots and Shoots, tasked with organizing environmental awareness campaigns then the reader of your CV will know that you have good leadership skills even if you won't say I am a good leader and orator just ike Barack Obama). This rule of thumb has to do with the adage 'actions speaks louder than words' so let the evidence speaks for itself. It is also in line with this comment from a colleague - which I am still working on - regarding my CV: "It is too crowded"!

2. Make sure that you describes exactly, albeit very briefly, what kind of tasks/activitiies/responsibilities you were undertaking while holding a certain post/position (e.g. it is not enough to say I was an intern or a program officer at a Research Foundation - the reader of your CV will want to know what this was all about e.g. you can say I was an intern responsible for conducting documentary research, organising research workshop and writing research reports; this will make the reader get a feel of what you can really do). This ties with HakiElimu's motto on 'Elimu ni Ujuzi Siyo Cheti.'

3. The CV is not a complete autobiography; it supposed to be short/concise (some experts even claim it should not be more than 3 pages) therefore you really have to strictly prioritize the things you want to put in there - if your audience/target/reader is someone from an academic institution who is interested in knowing how many papers you have written or published then s/he may not be that interested to know that you worked at Shoprite as a teller while you were on holiday; s/he may actually be more interested to know that you work as an intern in a publishing house or in a library - of course this depends on whether s/he want to know how flexible you are to work in different contexts (e.g. in this regard one colleague advised me to include my soccer/football medal in my CV) but, again, sometimes it is just better to omit some things that do not really apply to what you are looking for; if you want a job as a mechanic in my garage then I won't be much interested in knowing that you wrote so many articles in a newspaper about African Philosophy)

4. If you are fresh from school/college/university it may be a good idea to briefly state what you did in your major projects so as to give an idea of what you can do when employed. As a fresh graduate your best shot is not only the grades - those dreaded GPAs - you got but also the stuff you can do both at the curricular and extra-curricular levels. For example, if you took a degree in Business Administration and Management, you can briefly explain how you managed a business project as a part of your course. Or if you have a degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology you can briefly explain a research you conducted and its relevance to the job you are applying to, lets say, a job on medical research. All in all don't get carried away for a 'CV is a summary of what you have done in the past but not everything'.

5. Due to our messed up education system in Tanzania, especially in regard to the confused medium/language of instruction in schools and colleges, we have a very serious challenge when it comes to writing so let us not shy away from asking others to proofread and/or edit our CVs.

So far those are some of the points I could come up with now so others can chip in with more tips and/or cautions. Otherwise, for anyone who is interested in exchanging CVs as a way of supporting each others you are welcome to directly email me your CV at chambi78@yahoo.com and I will do the same. Freely you have been given freely give, so they say them believers in the power of sharing.

Carpe Diem!


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