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The Jobless Journalist: Week two: CVs and style guides

September 8th, 2009Posted by in Job losses, Jobs

This is the second post in a series from an anonymous UK-based journalist recently made redundant. To follow the series, you can subscribe to this feed.

You can also read posts by our previous ‘Redundant Journalist’ blogger at this link.

When I was made redundant my CV was a bit like an ex-race horse: out of shape and in need of attention. That’s the thing with CVs – after you get the job they get put out to grass and tend to become a little moth-eaten.

But, after two weeks of serious overhauling, I’ve finally got it to the stage where with each application I can just alter a few words to suit the prospective employer.

If you’re a reporter and there’s a features job going, what should you do? I’m trained in news and specialise in the arts and have developed CVs tailored to each sector.

Having spent a lot of time on both CVs I think I might be developing career schizophrenia. Should I concentrate on one or keep them both on the boil?

I’m not a big fan of self-help books or books ‘for dummies’, but a journalist friend recommended I read Max Eggert’s the ‘Perfect CV’. It’s a great guide to writing CVs and covering letters and offers neat tips such as ending a covering letter with the suggestion of a follow up call.

With hindsight I should have read this book before I even started applying for jobs. It would have saved me cringing at things I had written (and sent) that Eggert categorically says you shouldn’t include, like cracking a joke in your CV.

Now, I completely agree with this. Your CV is a formal and professional representation of you and your career. But what about your covering letter? This is where you’ve got to get yourself noticed and what better way to do this than with a bit of wit?

I suppose I have to come clean here. In a recent application to the Sunday Times I included a line about how I’d doorstepped Steve McQueen at the Venice Biennale with my dressed accidentally tucked into my knickers.

I thought it showed I had the confidence to approach anyone in any circumstance. And I did get my quote, although I didn’t get an interview, which makes me think that comedy is probably not the best policy.

I spent a lot of time on this particular application. When I’m freelancing or blogging I usually write to the Guardian style guide, but this time I matched my CV to the Times style guide.

A friend of mine has since confided that she thought I was going slightly mad and I have to admit I thought my attention to detail bordered on the obsessive.

The trouble is, when you’re applying for a job with a national where they might get 1,000 applications in one week [or a reported 1,200 - Ed], you really have to go the extra mile to get noticed.

If anyone who has had to sift through thousands of covering letters has any tips for what you should and shouldn’t include, I’d be very interested to hear from you.

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