Are you a long-serving employee seeking a new job outside of your company?
Are you feeling unconfident about your transferable value in the ‘real world’ outside your organisation?
Are you worried that recruiters will take one look at your CV and view you as ‘institutionalised’?
Individuals who have worked in the same company for 10, 15, 20 years or more often experience a creeping uneasiness that they may be considered ‘institutionalised’ due to the length of their service.
In a world where many change jobs almost as frequently as their mobile handset, there is something ‘head turning’ about reading the CV of someone who has stuck with the same employer through thick and thin for more than a decade.
It can elicit a range of reactions, from ‘well, you don’t see that much anymore’ to leaving the reader wondering what kind of person has the loyalty, patience and tenacity to stick it out with one employer for an extended period of time.
Just because it is unusual, it isn’t necessarily out of fashion, and it may even buy you a few more seconds of the reader’s attention, if presented in the right way. Having piqued the interest of the recruiter, it is important to deliver a self-assured insight into what you are now offering.
So what is it that your length of service can bring to the table that others, whose career history is more chequered, won’t have? And how should you best present your experience to maximise your marketability?
I have set out nine CV tips which will help you to present yourself as a valuable and attractive proposition:
1. Consider yourself ‘hot property’
Lengthy service is often associated with key insight and a unique understanding of a particular market and, potentially, an extensive industry network which can be leveraged for a new employer’s advantage. The fact you have not made yourself available for offers before, can actually make you more desirable – a previously unseen opportunity to be snapped up right now!
Last year, I wrote a CV for a market research professional with over 15 years of industry experience gained with two major players within his sector. He was snapped up within days of his CV being finalised – by a competitor company who was keen to channel and utilise his skills, insight and contacts for their strategic advantage.
2. Show progression from within
Just because the name of your employer has stayed the same for a number of years, it doesn’t necessarily follow that your job role and responsibilities have remained frozen in time, exactly as they were on your first day of employment.
Whether you have been promoted through the ranks, transferred between departments, taken on additional responsibilities or refocused your efforts in line with changing business strategy – demonstrating movement on your CV is a good tactic to avoid being classed as institutionalised. If you have performed different roles or worked on different projects within your organisation, outline them as distinct experiences. Presenting different roles and responsibilities in a clear way on your CV will help the recruiter to see your employment as dynamic and progressive rather than staid and static.
3. Omit the gobbledegook (or business jargon)
Using them will feel like second nature, so who can blame you for wanting to describe your role and achievements in the terms you and your peers have come to rely on?
Though certainly important to know within the context of your job, use of business jargon on your CV can be a real turn off for someone outside of your organisation.
It can appear as complete gobbledegook or another language and, with seconds to spare, there is simply no time for the reader to decipher your meaning.
4. Demonstrate your inner poise and flexibility when faced with the wind of change
Over the course of several years, most companies evolve in order to avoid being left behind. If your organisation has changed, and you have changed with it, this adaptability is a positive personal trait which can be drawn out on your CV. Demonstrating that you have survived organisational restructures; that you have embraced change; that you have evolved along with the needs of your employer; or even driven the evolution of your organisation – can indicate you recognise that business transformation is a necessity, and that you are someone who will embrace your organisation’s efforts to move forward.
Imagine yourself as a surfer with immense core strength, coolness of character, agility, flexibility and foresight to stay upright in the face of unpredictable waves. Gnarly dude!
5. Don’t take your experience for granted
I see some customers who have been involved in some AMAZING projects – real high value, ground breaking or interesting initiatives, that they are simply taking for granted. ‘What, this old thing?’ is their attitude, as if this amazing thing they have been involved with is just ordinary, everyday stuff. Within the context of your organisation, where everybody is aware of that particular project, it may well be considered old hat, but to a fresh pair of eyes it is big, exciting news, and it is important to convey it as such on your CV.
6. Highlight your training
Many do not realise the true, transferable value of professional training they have completed with existing or previous employers. When you remain with a particular employer for a long time, they may have invested in professional development by funding industry-recognised training courses, which have a tangible value to recruiters and target employers. Whether this is PRINCE2, an ITIL foundation, ILM leadership training or an NVQ Level 3 Customer Service, it is worth highlighting on your CV. If you can demonstrate this training and others can’t, then you have a competitive advantage that may make all the difference.
7. Demonstrate ability to work with external partners and stakeholders
Evidencing your ability to work with people outside your organisation is another way to dispel any suggestion of being institutionalised. Use your CV to show you work well with both internal and external stakeholders in a range of situations. Even better, if you have a LinkedIn profile, consider asking for recommendations from external contacts in relation to how you worked with them within the context of your employment. Ideally, seek a range of recommendations from partners, suppliers, project stakeholders and even customers. This breadth will help to position you as someone who can collaborate effectively with others in a variety of contexts.
8. Think in terms of your target role, not current role
It is important to write about your current job with the needs of the recruiter and your target job in mind. Avoid a brain dump of everything your job has ever involved – instead carefully select the information that will position you as an ideal fit for your next role. Take a mental step away from the challenges of your current role and think forward to your happy place, the role you would most like to do next. What skills are required for your target role? What does your dream job involve? Now consider any overlap with your current role. What aspects of your current employment will be of interest to your target employer? Draw these out to ensure you tick the recruiter’s boxes.
9. Banish the demons and realise the value of you
The very things that made you stay with your current employer for so long are actually very marketable character traits. Don’t listen to the demons, realise the value of what you have to offer and present it on your CV:
Commitment/Loyalty: You have proven your capacity to be faithful to your employer and your commitment to your role has seen you stay the course.
Flexibility: You are flexible enough to evolve in line with organisational and market needs.
Tenacity: Tenacious, you persevere in the face of change and adversity to achieve set goals.