How Struggles Shape Our Life and Career and How to Present Them on a CV

by Eric Halsey

If you’ve ever applied for a job and signed that all the information you supplied was accurate, I have some bad news.

Okay, you’re not getting fired.

But honestly, your job application probably wasn’t accurate. Why? Because it was missing struggles. And a CV without struggles just doesn’t tell the whole story.

CVs that turn us into liars

It’s not really our fault. Beyond CVs, we’ve been taught that revealing vulnerabilities shows weakness and can even be downright socially awkward. When your friend says “how are you” when they run into you, actually giving a full answer (especially if the answer is “terrible”) is not exactly encouraged.

This has seeped into CVs, where we’re expected to present nothing less than a glowing portrait of a superhuman success machine who saves children and puppies in their spare time. Problem is, that person doesn’t exist. The result is a system that creates “imposters”.

Imposter syndrome and the gender gap

When you’re expected to create a CV that totally leaves out all struggles and failures, you become a prime candidate for imposter syndrome. You get the job but maybe feel like you did so under false pretences, or are simply plagued by a sense that you won’t be able to live up to the person you portrayed on your CV.

More problematically, this affects women far more than men, greatly contributing to the gender gap in the workforce. In short, CVs expect the presentation of high confidence and playing that game is easier for men, meaning that qualified women miss out on more opportunities and fall prey to more imposter syndrome.

Okay, but if the way CVs are done causes all of these problems, what are we supposed to do to change it? Let me start with my own CV along with my own struggles.

How suicide and immigration shaped me

Just a few months after turning 18 and starting university, my world was rocked by the sudden suicide of my father. Needless to say, keeping my grades up during that first year while supporting my family and coming to grips with what happened was a real struggle. But ultimately, the support that came to me and my family taught me an invaluable lesson about the importance of support networks.

That event also taught me to plan for the worst, to be independent in how I make decisions and live my life. One of those decisions was to emigrate from the United States. Learning not to take life for granted, I wanted to make big decisions, and it was with that in mind that I ended up settling in Europe.

If you want to learn about how to solve complex problems, I recommend trying immigration. From visa applications to figuring out how to pay your water bill, you’re bombarded with problems to solve. Being creative, determined, and building support networks are all critical to thrive. After more than 6 years living here, I can say that experience has taught me more than nearly anything else in my life. As such, I think it deserves a spot on my CV.

Here’s how my CV looks with both my achievements and my struggles on full display:

What you can do to make CVs better

  1. Have the right attitude. Don’t think of creating a CV as something like filling out a form. It’s an expression of who you are and creating one should be something more like a self-discovery process. Take the time to think about what you’re proud of, passionate about, what you’ve achieved, and where you want to go.
  2. Be specific. Don’t just say you improved something, say how you improved it.
  3. Be memorable. When someone looks at your CV, they should leave with a sense of you as a person. Done right, that means they will remember you!
  4. Think about your audience. Ultimately, the most important person here is the one who’s going to look at your CV and make a decision. So think about them, where they work, what they’re looking for, etc. Put yourself in their shoes and create your CV accordingly.
  5. Include your struggles. In the end, this ties the other 4 tips here together. A CV with struggles shows you’ve got the right attitude and makes an impression.

 

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Eric Halsey is a writer with a passionate belief in the power of peer to peer learning and storytelling to change lives. Wants nothing more than to spend a day cooking, reading books, playing board games, and discussing history and politics with friends. Also always up for an adventure! You can find more of his work at EnhanCV.

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