Wondering how to boost your CV during lockdown? COVID-19 has been tough on many of us. For some, it’s been a time of reflection and reevaluation. Especially if you’ve been laid off, or suffered a loss of income, which, sadly, I have.
How do you respond to a crisis? Do you simply wait out the storm, or does it get you motivated to try harder and push more aggressively? In my case, it was the latter. The unexpected downturn made me realise that now is the perfect time to change careers and go freelance.
It sounds risky, but the future of work is uncertain anyway. Plus, many so-called high-status jobs became non-essential. You might as well turn this into an opportunity and finally focus on your values and what makes a job essential to you.
I’ve wanted to reinvent myself for a long time; and yet, when the world was ‘normal’, I always found excuses not to do it. Sure, I took baby steps, but somehow, when you’re about to shake up your entire life, it’s best to throw yourself into deep waters and — at the risk of sounding like Nike’s slogan — just do it.
How to boost your CV during lockdown: 4 tips
I managed to secure my first few clients following these four tips. So go grab some coffee, and let me tell you how to boost your CV during lockdown.
1. Fill the gaps
When you’re starting from scratch, you will probably lack a skill or two. Take a look at your CV and your capabilities. Think of yourself like a product, which you’re about to repackage.
First of all, who is your target audience? (Hint: it’s your potential employer.)
What qualities are they looking for? You can find out by checking out the job description.
Let’s say you want to become a social media manager. Go ahead and search for that job title on LinkedIn and read the descriptions. There’s usually a section with ‘key requirements’ or similar. What skills — or keywords — do they have in common? Focus on those.
Here’s a little secret: nobody can check every single requirement, so don’t panic if you don’t match any of them. You’ll be able to transfer some skills from your previous roles (more on that later), and you can also develop them with some hard work and patience.
Next, think of the ways you can close that gap. Perhaps you can return to college and enrol in a social media marketing course. It can be quite costly, but if you can afford it, it’s worth the investment.
Otherwise, you could investigate portals like Skillshare or Udemy, which offer affordable online courses that you can follow in your own time. You can also find some free online classes at Harvard University.
2. Work for free
I know what you’re thinking — working for free? Martyna, are you out of your mind?
Well, learning new skills through education is one thing. However, what most employers want is actual experience.
In my case, I wanted to transition into copywriting, so I needed some samples. I started writing for my side project Trips & Taste (watch this space) and various publications at Medium. I also pitched to several magazines and reputable blogs for a guest writing spot. Having your work published somewhere that’s not your website can significantly boost your credibility.
Note that you can start guest posting even if you don’t aspire for writing jobs. For instance, if you’re good at social media, you could show off your expertise and write a few articles on the topic. Who knows, a potential employer might read them and think that you really know your stuff (which is what we want!).
Don’t get me wrong; it won’t be easy. Once you start applying, you’ll receive countless rejections, and you’ll probably feel like you’re hopeless and going nowhere. Don’t listen to that voice. Keep writing, and keep pitching. Eventually, you’ll get your foot in the door.
You can also gain some experience by offering to help out for free. For instance, you could start volunteering at a charity. A few years ago, I was interested in event management, so I volunteered to organise the Rock 4 Choice festival in aid of the Irish Abortion Rights Campaign. It was a fantastic experience, which gave me a chance to verify whether events were truly my thing.
Similarly, you could reach out to companies and offer to work pro bono or apply for internships. If you’re currently employed, perhaps you can ask to help out with a project at work. The possibilities are endless if you think outside the box. And remember: every little bit of experience counts!
3. Rewrite and repackage
Now that you have a few new skills to add, it’s time for a major CV rewrite. I know, I know — it’s extremely daunting and uninteresting. However, if you want to get invited to an interview, your CV must make a good impression within six seconds or so.
Start with your current experience. Is there anything that you can ‘repackage’? Lying is never a good idea, but you can choose to highlight specific projects — or transferable skills — that may be relevant to what you want to do next.
For instance, when I worked in insurance, one of my tasks was to rewrite a company handbook. So I focused on this quality when applying to copywriting jobs, rather than a multitude of other, irrelevant tasks. Doing this boosts your profile from having zero to some experience. Plus, your career transition will look smoother and more logical.
Make sure you include all your new courses as well, even if they’re still a work in progress. Also, don’t forget to include all those freebies you’ve been doing to gain experience. This is where they will finally pay off.
Lastly, scan though your dream jobs again and note down the most common keywords (such as copywriting, SEO, content marketing). You’ll need to include them as much as possible — but of course, don’t do it randomly.
It needs to make sense with the rest of your CV. For instance, if one of your admin jobs required you to update the company’s website whenever new products were added, you could say your responsibilities included content management. It’s all about the choice of words.
4. Link with LinkedIn
If you don’t have a LinkedIn account yet, it’s smart to join the bandwagon and put some effort into completing your profile. Why? By doing this, you’re boosting your chances of being invited to an interview by a whopping 71 per cent. Crazy, I know!
Don’t just rely on a photo and a few jobs in your profile, though. LinkedIn is still a social platform, so you need to treat it as such. Write a description of each role to tell others what you’ve been doing (don’t forget about the keywords!).
Then, add your skills, education, and interesting projects. Include relevant links or files that best showcase your work. Also, make sure to write a compelling bio and tailor your profile to highlight your newly acquired skills.
Finally, ask friends for recommendations, engage with others, and post regularly about the niche you’re targeting. You never know, your next opportunity might be just a few clicks away.
How do you boost your CV during lockdown? Let me know in the comments section below!