Saturday, 22 June 2013

The perfect CV

The headline might have caught your interest - so let me get one thing straight to begin with:

The one perfect CV doesn't exist.

Now that that's out of the way, let's make a start.

There are two aspects to be distinguished - content and structure.

To get the CONTENT right:

  • Make a list of ALL the things you've ever done - and I mean everything. If you haven't done this before, make sure you have one file somewhere that contains ALL your roles, responsibilities, achievements (not just what you think might be relevant for a particular job which you want to apply for right now):

    people or budgets you have been responsible for / savings you have achieved / teams you have led and where they were successful / projects you have contributed to ...
  • Try to get a mix of things where you can identify your own contribution as a member of a team and things you initiated or led; don't worry too much if you don't have much of the latter:

    be honest with what you write down, don't make things up. You will get caught out otherwise.
  • Over time, you will add to this document as you take on new roles or tasks and, yes, as you remember things you had previously forgotten.
Now look at the role description of the post you're applying for. Or, if you haven't yet reached that stage, try to find descriptions of roles you might be interested in.

Then comes the tedious job of going through the requirements one by one and picking from your comprehensive list those aspects which will illustrate that you are a good match for this particular job.

At this stage, you should give your CV to somebody to read it - to check if you have addressed everything, if you come over interesting enough and - very important - to make sure that the language can be understood.

A simple example:
"2IC" is really bad - "2nd in Command" is marginally better - "deputy to ..." is what you should write.

Do NOT try to disguise that a substantial part (or all of) your experience was gained in the Military. It will become apparent anyway. Most civilian employers will not be able to navigate through ranks and regiments - but you should still be slightly more precise than just state "HM Forces".

A CV always needs to be tailored to a specific role. You cannot use one CV for a variety of applications. Even if you do not respond to a vacancy - tailor it to the organisation / department / role you are interested in. And, if at all possible, talk this through with somebody.

The structure of your CV:

There are numerous templates available online - if you only have a cursory look, you will pick up the basics.

Here's what's really important:
  • At the top is your name and contact details (unless - and it happens - you are asked to submit a CV without those!) Neatly centered.
  • Check that your email address and mobile phone number are correct. And make sure your email address looks professional - what might appear funny in a personal context is generally NOT appropriate for a CV.
  • Do NOT list the abbreviations of all your various qualifications after your name! (Limit yourself to anything which is a requirement or personally important to you. For my part, I sometimes keep the "PhD" - sometimes I don't point it out.)
  • Do NOT add a header "curriculum vitae" or CV - the reader knows what's in front of him or her.
  • Your profile:
    Keep it concise. Four or five lines ought to be enough. Don't overuse the same words everybody else uses - "highly motivated" - "extremely committed" - that's a given and will be expected anyway. "Energetic" could mean anything. Choose adjectives that describe you - don't write what you think the other person will want to read.
  • And don't say "now looking for a career in security or engineering". Maybe it's a poor example - but you need to make up your mind. Otherwise you'll come over as someone who doesn't know what he or she wants.
What then follows is a reverse chronological list of your roles and responsibilities to date. Pick and choose from the list I've suggested above - make sure it fits the role you're applying for as closely as possible.

Before you tire of reading - I'll put together an example and add it to a separate post in this blog.

The second section is your education. But please consider:
  • If you are in your 40s when you write your CV - there's no need to list your GCSEs.
  • If you have only recently gained a numeracy and / or literacy qualification: well done!!! - But don't mention that unless it is a specific requirement of the job.
  • Don't list all the training you've ever done. It might be tough, but limit yourself to what is or might be relevant. (First aid training might not be a requirement but is always useful.)
At the end - any interests which can include voluntary work. You will all have interests - but if all you can think of is travelling, going out and meeting people - don't say it.

Don't try to squeeze it all onto one page - and don't make it worse by resorting to a font size for which the average reader will need a magnifying glass. Up to three pages are generally accepted for a professional CV. But don't waste space either - it will become clearer in the example I'm preparing.

Finally - proof read!!! Then proof read again. (And should you find a typo in this post - I'll buy you a drink when you come through London!)

Watch this space for an example - now scrol back up and get going. It really is easy - just time consuming.


Monday, 17 June 2013

Troops to Teachers - killers in the classroom?

I think I might gradually becoming angry ... and I would like to apologize if it appears as if I'm not considering the full context of the blog I'm referring to - I can't repeat it all. And it is in the nature of quotations that they are, on occasion, out of context.

Mr Northice kindly insists that:
My view of the military’s purpose, and the violence therein, is one of its broader political — and historical — role, not that of individuals’ motivation for enlisting.

Not an indivitual's motivation for enlisting - thank you very much - but that doesn't stop him from saying:
the Armed Forces are about using violence, force, aggression and/ or coercion to maintain the dominance of a nationalist narrative within a country’s domestic and foreign policy, and the experiences of its citizens’ cultural life.

Yes, again he claims to be referring to the wider political context - but he's just hiding behind this statement.

Mr Northice, why do you dislike the Military so much? You make attempts to convince your audience that you distinguish between "the Military" and people serving in the Armed Forces. But, really, you don't. (And I wonder what made you choose "from the frontline" as the header for your own blog.) You also don't seem to know it very well:
Teaching also needs, desperately, to be more representative of the cultural makeup of the UK. [...] As mentioned, those in the Armed Forces represent something of a specific political position, albeit through somewhat more diverse individual opinions and a slowly improving intake-demographic.

I just so happen to be currently reading a book by Tim Collins - "Rules of Engagement". He writes there about the 1st Batallion the Royal Irish Regiment - going back as far as 2001(!):
"A total of nineteen nationalities served within our ranks. [...] Prejudice of any sort was unforgiveable." (p.26)

Narrowing the gap between the strongest and the weakest is also part of Military ethics - nobody is being left behind. My friend has tried to describe this as well []. But you are as committed to your opinion as I am to mine.

Now I would like to go back, once more, to the issue of violence which seems to be underlying so much of what Mr. Northice writes.

I have a friend - a very dear friend - whose experience will, by no means, be unique. I don't know much about his time in the army, because that's not something he generally talks about. If he does, then he'll talk about some funny aspects - the kind of stories soldiers tell who have seen a fair bit of the world. (And I really wish Prince Harry - Captain Wales - had not told the world of his own achievements ... But that is a whole different issue about which I have written elsewhere.)

However, I do know that this dear friend of mine was involved in people getting killed - whether due to orders he gave, or by his own hand. I don't really care. I know that he didn't enjoy it; that he probably wishes he didn't have to do it; but that he accepted - and still accepts - it as part of his job. (Until mankind has learned to live peacefully, we will probably have armed forces somewhere on the planet.)
You know, Mr. Northice: This very experience has made him one of the most peaceful people I know. He doesn't like conflict; he prefers not to have arguments (which, in conversation with me, can be a bit of a challenge). He is incredibly supportive of the people around him - even if it is to his own disadvantage. He wants the best for other people. And he knows an awful lot about motivating people and about team work.

I would trust him with children or vulnerable people any time. In fact, I would trust him with my own life without a moment's hesitation. And I would have no problem whatsoever if he stood any chance at all of being "fast tracked" - which he doesn't, because he left the army long before any such projects came into existence.

Mr. Northice, you accuse me of misinterpretations; of making assumptions. Regarding the latter - guilty as charged. I will make assumptions about men (and women!) who have served. Misinterpretations? This is not an exchange about facts. There are no "scientific" facts on which we could base this exchange. This is a debate based on fundamental differences in the beliefs we hold. Strangely enough - not differences in what we believe good education is.

I am not saying and will never say that every person with a military background will per se make a good teacher or role model. I do believe, however, that I will find a good many in that group - and they will have to go through a selection process and through training before they can teach. this nation's children.

Lastly - I would love to conduct a research project to evaluate this idea of Troops to Teachers. I am a trained researcher. My research would have to be designed in such a way that it is far more likely I'm proven wrong in my assumptions than that they are confirmed. Trust me, I know how to do that. But somehow I don't believe that either side will make the money available.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Troops to teachers

And why ever not?

An article today in The Guardian / The Observer is sparking a debate on Twitter. (You can read the article here.) Teachers come from all walks of life, so why should this be an issue? According to the article:

Candidates, from the army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, wouldn't need a degree and would undertake two years training on the job, with one day a week at university, qualifying them in around half the time it usually takes to become a teacher.

And why ever not?

I regularly have tears in my eyes when I look over the CV of a service leaver - what they have undertaken in terms of training and qualifications could easily fill a page. They have trained, led, planned, worked in teams. None of it - repeat: none - seems worth anything in civvie street. 

Now, if "troops" become teachers, they still have to go through all the same assessments, tests, and exams. They won't automatically become teachers - they have to pass.

So what's the problem?

Nobody says - as suggested by Mr. Northice from the "frontline" (I assume he  means the frontline in the classroom") - that someone who has served is, per se, a good role model for children. That's why they don't automatically qualify as teachers!

But he's more seriously wrong in his assumptions about service personnel. He says that:

the Armed Forces are about using violence, force, aggression and/ or coercion to maintain the dominance of a nationalist narrative within a country's domestic and foreign policy, and the experience of its citizens' cultural life. That is not teaching.    

No, of course it isn't. Nor does it reflect the daily reality of being in HM Armed Forces. Mr. Northice - if that is your name - have you actually ever spoken to somebody who is serving? I  have spend a lot of time over the past two years doing just that; and I can assure you that 99% of the time, aggression, force, violence would get you nowhere and would be sanctioned. Even out in Afghanistan, their aim is to work with the local police and population - not fight them.

The Service personnel I have met were, without exception, friendly, polite, humble, articulate, attentive - and calm. I've never witnessed any of them lose their temper, raise their voice, or insist on being right. 

So - if they pass and make it into teacher training - then they will be extremely good role models, indeed.

Friday, 7 June 2013

"That sort of thing"

Yesterday, I attended the monthly meeting of The Liquid List (The List UK) in London. The guest speaker this time was Major General James Rupert Everard CBE, the current Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff. He spoke about transferable skills of service leavers.

Now, he didn't say anything with which I would disagree; but it was a strangely detached speech.

     Service leavers have a range of transferable skills.
     We all know what those are.
     They are generally appreciated by employers.
     All you have to do is identify and describe them.
     Good luck with it.

I'm over-simplifying, of course. However, several times during his short speech, he used the expression "that sort of thing" - when referring to CV writing, preparing for interviews, planning a new career. As if all that was something dirty with which he didn't really want to be associated.

Not for the first time it dawned on me:
In the not too distant future, he will be one of "them" - a service leaver. He might not be made redundant, but he might still not feel ready for "retirement", for doing nothing. Like all the others, he will have to deal with "that sort of thing". And he won't be any better prepared than any of them.

Initially, I was disappointed with the speech. Now I think I understand. I have spoken with so many service leavers - Private, Naval Commander, Lieutenant Colonel, Brigadier - initially, "that sort of thing" is alien to all of them. Fortunately, they all have the skills to master this challenge eventually - it just takes a bit of time and determination ... and a little bit of competent, coordinated and compassionate help.

The MOD is a long way from embracing the challenge that a career in the Military is no longer "for life" - for anybody. (I know, for many that has never been the case.) New recruits are joining every day - but, quite likely, they will be no better prepared for "that sort of thing" when their time comes.

Maybe, just maybe, the Veterans' Transition Review will make a difference - but that remains to be seen.