All this week I have been preparing for New Designers furiously and ordering business cards, checking my travel and accommodation requirements, sorting press packs (blog soon on that) and doing work. Part of my press packs and my preparation comes in the form of that unholy piece of A4 paper- the CV.
I'll admit, I've never actually had to write a CV before other than exercises in school. I've always got by with personal statements which is just a really wordy version of the same thing and **boasting here** my exam certificates have done me proud to get me thus far.
But alas now the time has come for the proper CV. And writing it was appalling. I think it is something inherently human not to want to show off too much and proclaim how amazing you are and that is exactly what you need to do in a CV. You need to show off to the best of your ability how excellent you are, how much you have achieved and how qualified you are for the job in hand.
As an illustrator and all round creative person I am used to having to justify why I have done something and why it's worth a look at. You have to prove your worth in the creative industries and nobody will look for you if you don't shout from the rooftops that you are working and you are employable. That somehow feels different to me than writing a CV, it seems more informal, you're normally bigging yourself up to someone standing in front of you and you can afford to be a bit more modest, a bit self deprecating, a bit humorous. But CV writing is writing down how great you are to a total stranger with no form of communicating your tone. It's tough work.
It's easy enough to find out what you need to include in a CV. Google has 4,700,000 hits in 2 seconds to help you and there are a billion and one companies offering to write yours for you. Don't get sucked in, only you can write your CV sufficiently, it has to be personal and catered to you only. Looking for templates and ideas however is no bad idea, I certainly did it to research what was the most important areas to cover and what I should include. All in all it's a pretty simple set up. Here are a few rules to (loosely) follow:
1. Start with a small personal statement, one paragraph, 5 or 6 lines summing up who you are, what you're about and what you're interested in.
2. Include your contact details-how do you expect your potential employer to get in touch with you otherwise?
3. Summarise your education including where it was, what course you did and how long you were there starting with the most recent first. You *probably* don't need to include your primary school, you didn't sit any exams there and your biggest achievement was most likely 1st place in the egg and spoon race. For example mine went like this....
4. List your qualifications starting with the highest qualification first eg Masters or Undergraduate Degree followed by A Levels, AS Levels (if you sat more than you continued on), GCSE's and other relevant grades for example Welsh/International Baccalaureate . Include the level of qualification, the title of that qualification and the grade you got. When listing numerous grades for example A Level of GCSE start with the highest grade first and work down to the lowest.
5. Include all your work experience. This could be your last job, Saturday jobs, babysitting, dog walking, volunteering, exhibitions you took part in, commissions you worked on in your spare time- basically anything that is relevant and that you learnt from.
6. List any other experience or skills you have. Include study trips, gap years, awards you've won, relevant essays you wrote, class projects you led, software skills you have, anything that can make you seem more shiny, experienced and employable.
7. References.These need to be people who've known you a long time and can be a solid character reference, people who aren't going to slag you off and people in a profession- it cannot just be your Mum. Good references are normally personal tutors from uni, your previous employer or someone you have known all your life (just for character references to say yes, you are a real person).
These are the 7 things I consider key to the general CV. This is a pretty good place to start but it is by no means the only things you can include. I am a firm believer that when going for a specific role you need to tailor your CV to that job or that company and that might mean tweaking some areas and adding in more relevant information.
One thing I found when writing my CV was that as an individual looking to get more work in the creative industries, I needed to be a bit more flexible with my CV. For one thing I didn't include any references at all. It's pretty hard to get a decent quote of how amazing you are from a customer and in the illustration market your reputation is thrown around by word of mouth more than anything. Also, generally speaking it doesn't matter so much where you went to university, whether you got a C at GCSE Maths or not; your portfolio does the talking for you.
Another idea to consider if you are in a more artistic profession is to make your CV visually interesting. You are trying to get employed based on your talent and if you don't show your artwork off at every opportunity, nobody is going to get the message. It's a really sound plan to put your logo and your business name on your CV and you can even stray away from plain old black and white for some colour and sweet typography.
And finally, make sure you link your website/twitter/instagram/blog/flickr/whatever you use to promote yourself because if your potential client can't see your work you certainly will not be getting the job.