Why a CV Will Never Portray Who You Really Are

We are more than our qualifications

As a student at the final leg of her master’s degree (a.k.a. dissertation station) and with no relevant job experience, I find myself at a crossroads: How on Earth am I going to get a job? This made me reflect on what people think of me when they see my CV. What is going through all of those recruiters’ heads when a random Ana appears on their candidate list?

Well, unfortunately, your guess is as good as mine! However, there is one thing that is certain: that one-page document will never be an accurate portrayal of me. Why? That is a question that begs a little more thought.

A CV, or curriculum vitae (“course of life”), is a short summary of one’s qualifications and career path. It includes the person’s schooling, past jobs, and other sorts of work experience, personal information (such as contacts and location), specific certifications (usually related to software usage and languages), among other “relevant” information regarding one’s professional skills.

To a certain extent, a CV is your professional ID.

Now, if like me you’re still a student who hasn’t had the opportunity to go through internships or other sorts of work experience, what do our CVs say about us? That we are people who studied here and there, belonged to such and such associations, maybe took a language course two years back, among others? For such a personal document, it’s surprising how impersonal it can be. It will never express the subtleties of your identity or of the life experiences that helped you become what you are.

In my case, my CV will never tell of how much I love art, of how I’ve been drawing and playing with colours ever since I can remember. It will never tell of my personal struggles with bullying when I was younger and of how I was able to overcome them. It will never tell of the trip I helped plan for my Scouts group when thirteen spent two weeks in a foreign country, or about the multiple fundraisers we planned together to achieve that. It will also never tell that I love travelling and museums, that I love experiencing cultures and discovering beautiful details about them.

My CV will never really capture the real Ana, it will only capture Ana’s qualifications.

The only thing my CV tells my prospective employers is that I wrote a blog about books for seven years (working to get back to that once my dissertation is finished), that I went on Erasmus to England for a semester, that I have a B.A. in Languages, Literature, and Culture, among others. It will only ever show glimpses of what makes me me.

So, why is it important to recognise this? Because we live in a culture where we send out multiple CVs a day (sometimes up to 20) in order to hear back from three companies and often not even being able to secure an offer. With this happening as often as it does, it is very easy to fall down the rabbit hole of lack of trust and thinking that we will never be enough.

I have news for you! Yes, we need to improve ourselves and have good CVs in order to create a better professional path. However, we will never be just what is depicted in that document. Human experience surpasses professional skills and what you really are at your core will never be expressed in a tidy piece of paper.

Say it with me: life is more than what is shown on your career path.

The next time you get a negative answer (or none at all) from one of the many companies you applied to don’t be discouraged. Try to think of all the things you are that are not written in that document you delivered. Because even all the things that are deemed unprofessional to discuss and talk about are part of your personal path and your identity. And, in the end, your identity is much more than your CV.

Final Message

I wrote this piece for all of those who, like me, are trying to enter the professional world and keep being discouraged by the negative (or inexistent) reactions from the placements we apply for. Sometimes we forget that even though having goals and a career is important, the recruiters will never glimpse our personal “essence” from the few words that pass through their desks and screens.

Don’t be disheartened and keep pushing on! In the end, is being yourself that matters.

Passionate reader and writer with a profound interest in history and literature. B.A. in Languages, Literature and Culture; current M.A. Communication student.

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