Curriculum Vitae

Switching Careers (Part 2)

Exploring the New Career

After deciding what career best suits you, and have listed all the needed skills and talents, and what skills that you already have and will transfer over into your new career, it’s time to get the needed experience that will help you to bridge the gap of experience of the new field.

  • Training

One of the biggest obstacles you face when switching careers is having the knowledge and skills to do the job. Check universities, colleges, schools or institutes that have relevant degree programs. This doesn’t necessarily mean an extra degree or even years of classroom time. It could be as simple as attending a one-day sales seminar, a 1-3 week vocational workshop, or an evening writing class. Night classes can be a worthy alternative if you are still at your current day job. Your instructor and/or class mates can be a good source of advice.

  • Informational Interviews

Search for opportunities to undergo informational interviews. They can provide you straight face-to-face talk with actual professionals about your considered career. You do not only gain their opinions, but also the opportunity to network with them, get well known, and get recommendations for future vacancies.

  • Family and Friends

Family and friends are always a good source of information. They all simply know you well. Discuss your plans with them and seek their opinion about your new career and whether you can fit in it or not. If not, what other possibilities, in their opinions, can suite you?

  • Networking

Network with people in your new career field, this could be achieved via attending formal events, joining professional associations, or simply catching up with friends in a party. A network can be family, neighbors, friends, colleagues, friends of friends, colleagues of colleagues. Exchange with them your contact information, be in contact with them on regular basis to greet them, congratulate them, not only when you need them, try to meet them in person, show respect and sincerity in their careers/businesses. Networking with new people will not only help you to learn more about your new career, it can also open the door to possible job opportunities.

  • Engaging with a Mentor

It is wise to find someone you can talk to sort out everything and put you on the right path. Lots of experts and researchers agree that having a mentor is huge when it comes to career success. A mentor can best be a senior professional in your desired field or a career counselor. Someone you’d love to talk to and exchange ideas with. The mentor can help you to explore the field in which you’re interested, meet people in that field, find a job/start the business and settle in it. You may find a mentor program in your company, why not use it?

  • Time Donation

Another way to seek relevant experience in your dream career is to volunteer your time in a related lower-level job, for free or less pay. Volunteer at an animal vet or a zoo if you want a career related to animals. If you think of opening a cafe, find a well-run cafe and ask if they have any part-time jobs. If you dream of working as an architectural engineer, you can start as a trainee at a real estate construction company participating in doing small real tasks. Want to scrutinize if working as a nurse is the right choice for you, volunteer at a hospital and check how you will perform and cope with the various parameters in such environment.

Doing real tasks, very close to co-workers in your new field can enrich your knowledge about the day-to-day duties and the needed relevant skills. This will also show if this new career is fitting into your life or not.

Prepare a new Resume and Cover Letter

Do not be terrified due to the lack of full job experience. Adjust your resume to reflect the new skills you have learned from trainings and volunteering. Focus on your talents and specific accomplishments rather than the previous job experience. List books read, conferences attended, research conducted, and formal education. Also list the transferrable skills attained from previous professional experiences that can be used in the new job.

To discuss more about the shift in career, talk about it in your cover letter. State what interested you in the new career and the steps you have taken to be prepared for the job. Show how you can add value in the job you are applying for.

Job Search

One good advice is to keep your current job while you are searching for the new one. Visit employment agencies, viewing job listings and classifieds to locate a new vacancy. Before looking outside, consider searching within your company, another department and or another location. Make sure that your resume and cover letter are ready in hand. Think of jobs that allow you to do what you really want to do, at least in some form, and apply your skills and talents every day. Be creative and open-minded. Focus on what your inner feelings guide you to do. Once you are at the door for an interview, focus on the talents you have and the future you want to live, keep it short, do not divert the interviewer by lengthy explanations.

Final Advice

Although lots of people dream of changing careers, but some don’t actually do it. Making a change, whether big or small, is going to stir up some apprehension, some people are terrified of change either because they are too old, cannot handle the financial risk accompanied by that change, or even they don’t know the right way to do it.

You have to accept the sacrifice. You should pay the right effort and time to reach your satisfactory career. You may have to start all over from the beginning, leaving all your previous years of experience and knowledge. You could possibly face a little rejection at the beginning due to your little experience.

Set clear plan of changing career to-do tasks; commit to at least one daily task. A task could be a half-hour to send e-mails, or doing networking phones during your work break. Be mindful that there will be hecklers and/or inner negative thoughts all along the way. “You spent all that money on your degree and now you aren’t even going to USE it.” “You can’t have your own business, you just don’t have the business mindset.” “You won’t be able to afford the change, what about your current financial commitments?” Balance those skeptics by having a support network.

Learn how to just ignore them. Don’t allow skeptics and pessimists to draw your attention away from your goal. There is no shame to rethink and switch things up. It could be a real intimidating decision. But it is never too late to start. If you have confidence in your abilities, the skills and experience to back it up, you will be well on your way to successfully entering an exciting new career in the field you absolutely love.

My Story

For me, I took the decision of changing careers 6 years ago, when I decided to move to the human resources field after spending 7 years in the computer engineering and programming field. I had the idea in my head for like few years, but things started to get more serious when I came to read the book Never Say Never by Phyllis George. It is really inspiring and enlightening, including real live cases concerning being flexible in career life.

Switching Careers (Part 1)

Deciding to change careers is not an uncommon choice.  Many career experts say that a typical person will change jobs at least 13 times during his working life. People usually think of changing their careers due to chasing their life dream, emerging interest in a new evolving field, seeing a successful example (a relative, a neighbor, a friend, a celebrity… etc.), or mismatched expectations of the current job (outcome from the job, declining industry, increased level of stress, looking for more challenge… etc.).

Making the Decision

First you need to distinguish between a job and a career. Some people hate their jobs (occupations, employment) but love their career. This article is targeting people who think that it is not the problem of the current job, but rather a whole career/function.

Second, you have to understand what turns you off currently. Imagine if you have all the money, what would you be doing? Ask yourself, are you happy to be supervised by a manager? Or do you enjoy working on your own?  Do you have the talent of leading other people? What hours are you willing to work? How do you cope with stress? Are you creative? Are you organized? Does helping others make you happy? Do you like techy stuff? Handcrafts? Is just moving to another job, not changing the whole careers, a solution? Open your mind to various possibilities, but be realistic.

Third, having all on paper can help to visualize matters. Make a list of all the things you would strive to achieve with a new career. Write down all of your interests and hobbies, remember, you should have a career that is both interesting to you and makes you excited about going to work each day. The new career should naturally match your personality, lifestyle, interests, talents, beliefs and values.

Review Your Current Financial Situation

Since starting a new career may encounter having you unemployed for some time, especially when you are starting a new business, it is crucial to be financially secure. How much does it cost, on a monthly and annual basis, to support your current standard of living? Are you willing to lower your standard so that you can take a job that pays less? It takes a great deal of courage to do something your heart desires at the cost of some financial loss. Distinguish between your wants and your needs. Go for it if this will make you happy. If you are not financially secure enough, you need to save/budget for however long you think it’ll take to find a job in your new career, then start the switching. To make due in the meantime, you’ll have to either remain at your current job or find a short-term job that will help support you while you find a job in your career field.

Career/Talent Assessment

When you want to change career ask yourself one question do I know what I want to be? If the answer is NO, then you need to start with a career/talent assessment. If the answer is YES, you still may be surprised to know that you are not suited for your dream career at all. Rather than finding this out the hard way and being forced to make another career switch, you can undergo a career and talent assessments.

We are all born with lots of natural talents. As we grow up, progress with studying, change jobs, our interests and talents keep changing. Career/talent assessments will help you to discover what your hidden natural and developed talents are, and what type of jobs that can fit them. Look for a professional career consultant or a specialized institution. Online assessment surveys such as The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Campbell Interest and Skill Survey (CISS), Strong Interest Inventory (SII) and Holland Self-Directed Search, can be of good benefit too.

You should be aware of the skills that can be transferred from one job to another, transferrable skills, that can help you market yourself. For example, the ability to learn, ability to meet deadlines, being a team player, communicating and dealing with the public, researching skills, negotiating skills, computer experience and adaptability to change.

Professionalism at Work

Maintaining professionalism is all about adopting the right kind of attitude. If you want to achieve success in the corporate world, you should look like a true professional. Making the transition from the classroom to the workplace can be challenging and intimidating. In addition to the information and skills you learned in the classroom, there is more to know when it comes to how to become a professional. In your first professional job, it can be difficult to know what your employer expects from you on a day-to-day basis. There’s a certain code of behavior that’s expected by most employers, and your adherence is key to being a successful employee for your company. The more you practice it, the better you get at it, and the more successful you will be. The following are some tips to help you become more professional at the workplace:

Keep an Impeccable Appearance

Pay special attention to your image. Always be presentable valuing a good impression. Always check the dress code or policy of your company and stick to it. Do not show up at work with a sloppily clothes and/or, with uncombed hair. Professionals are polished, well groomed, with clean, pressed, not too tight or not too loose clothing. Professionals dress appropriately for the situation, adhere to the dress code, and they follow good hygiene practices. This will help you look more confident and project a positive impression.

Care about Yourself, Care about Your Job

Being healthy does not mean taking care of your body only, but also your mind and spirit. The more strong and healthy the better you will be at your job. Eat and sleep well. Keep a good posture while sitting or standing. Exercise regularly for a more energetic life and a higher self-esteem.

Always be on Time

One of the most important ways to maintain professionalism in the workplace is to arrive on time and to respect other colleagues or customers time. A good practice is to arrive 10 minutes early, whether it’s about going to the office, attending a business event or meeting with a customer.

Know the Policies of your Company

It’s important to review your company’s policies on all of these issues, and don’t be afraid to ask your manager or human resources department if anything is not clear for you. Sticking to company rules is a must and can be difficult at first, but when you are knowledgeable about your company’s expectations, your professionalism in the workplace will show up.

Stay Work-Focused

Do not indulge yourself in office gossip. Gossiping in the workplace shows you are not fully committed to your job. Gossiping about someone will show that you gossip about others too. Also avoid discussing personal matters at work this will waste your actual work time and interrupt your schedule. Making personal phone calls while at work is sometimes necessary, but keep them to a minimum. If at all possible, conduct your personal affairs during your personal time, for instance, during lunch hour. It’s legitimate to make friends, interact socially in the workplace, and act silly with your friends at work, but only after you are off the clock or within breaks. Remember, you need to be productive.

Stand to Your Commitments

Whenever you are committed to task or a goal, whether to your manager, subordinates, colleagues, or customers, keep it. In case you won’t be able to meet a deadline, you should manage expectations up front by letting them know as soon as possible, giving them the right justification with the new expected time to have the job done. Professionals don’t hold themselves accountable for their work commitments only, but also for their thoughts, words, and actions.

Own up to Mistakes

If you made a mistake, own up to it. Any of us can make mistakes. Do not make excuses or blame it on coworkers. Instead, focus on finding solutions and meeting expectations as best as you can, and on making the situation right. Admitting your mistakes doesn’t put you down. In fact, such professional attitude enhances your image even more. Your boss will appreciate the heads up and the fact you are trying to fix the situation. However, always be ready to learn from your mistakes so that you can deliver better the next time.

Relate to Others

Know the distinctive capabilities of other employees. Refer to their ideas, their opinions and patents by giving them the right credit. Train yourself to delegate out-of-your-scope work to others and get them to take responsibility for their outputs.

Be Emotionally Intelligent

One of the greatest difficulties in a workplace is developing work relationships with colleagues and customers who may have different backgrounds, opinions, viewpoints, politics, religions or work styles than you. Developing such relationships would involve arising some emotion at some point. To become a professional you must handle your emotions with intelligence. You might have a disagreement with a coworker or a customer, or there can be incidents on the job, a weird look, a teasing remark or a negative feedback, that may trigger your anger or dissatisfaction. You do not want to act like an immature child, it is natural to feel angry, however, that does not mean that you can act out on that anger. Figure out how to, promptly, calmly, and listening actively, discuss this with the appropriate party, avoiding fights, shouts and endless debates simply let it go and focus on your work.

Represent the Organization

Whenever you are, wherever you are, your company considers you an ambassador of it. Be ready to explain to others the company’s mission, its unique accomplishments, and your role in that company. Know your company products and/or services. Also read about its social and environmental responsibilities. Always conduct yourself with pride, thought, dignity and commitment as an employee in that company. You should mind your words, opinions and comments when in public, especially in social media. You should clearly differentiate between your relationship to that company and your own personal opinions and comments.

Respect Rivals

A good sign of professionalism is not to get aggressive when you are talking about competitors. It simply signals bad attitude. Even when a competitor is a part of a discussion, you should refrain of talking bad about them and avoid any clashes. Just focus on showing how your products and/or services are better than others. This shows you are a true professional and have enough confidence in your company and the products it offers.

Be Courteous to Everyone

Be kind, polite and considerate to everyone you come into contact with, no matter what their role is, and no matter how you’re feeling, looking at everyone in the workplace in the same manner. Respect should be shown to all colleagues including elderly, junior or inexperienced colleagues, as well as those with special needs. Show up to all with a smile and make sure that you praise and appreciate their good work.

 Specialized Knowledge

A professional is an expert who is master in a specific field. It is true that not all areas demand extensive knowledge to practice successfully; and not all professionals have top degrees in their field. What matters, though, is that these professionals have worked in a serious, thoughtful and sustained way to master the specialized knowledge needed to succeed in their fields; and that they keep this knowledge up-to-date, so that they can continue to deliver the best work possible. However, it is highly recommended when appropriate, that the professional knowledge is supported by degrees and certifications that serve as the foundation of this knowledge.

Have Complete Signatures on E-mails

Having signatures on e-mails are very professional. They should contain your full name, as known internally in the company, your job title, your work phone and Fax, your organization/department, your office working hours, break times, and weekend days (when working in a multinational environment).

 Manage your Out-of-office Time

Most companies offer personal off time as paid vacation days, sick leaves, and other types of leaves. The leave policy and leave request procedures differs from company to another, this is why it is important that that you read carefully the procedure within your first days on the job. In some companies it is mandated that you give a certain amount of notice before taking a vacation, even if optional, it is still appreciated to notify your supervisor prior your leave. Not only leaves, but even if you are unable to make a shift or will be late. In case of emergency personal or sick leavers, when you are unable to notify your supervisor prior, it is important to have your manager notified as soon as you can. Doing so helps your supervisor ensure there is an adequate coverage during your absence. Before leaving your office, you should ensure that you delegate all important tasks or responsibilities to your coverage peer. An Out-of-office message should be prepared on voice mail and e-mail, it should contain:

  • Your name, your organization/department.
  • Your emergency contact.
  • Delegated peer(s) contacts.
  • The date when you will return back to office.

From these traits above, professionals are the kind of colleagues, managers, subordinates that others respect and value. They are an added value to their companies. They are the first to be nominated for promotions, and awarded valuable projects and key client accounts. They are by nature successful in their careers. If you think that you are still somehow far from that status, start now and train yourself to earn a professional reputation in the workplace.

17 Tips to a Winning CV

Curriculum Vitae, Latin phrase, translates to ‘course of life’. A curriculum vitae (usually abbreviated to CV) is a very important document that represents an overview of professional achievements and experiences. A curriculum vitae is mainly required when applying for jobs, but it can also be required when applying for fellowships, honors and awards, or postgraduate educational opportunities. A good CV may be the difference between you getting a job interview or not. The following are some guidelines that would help you create a winning CV and land you in your career job.

1-       Pay the Effort

Most people don’t put much time and effort into their CV. CVs that are rushed would lead to typing errors, missing information and information flow incompatibility. Poor preparation and composition will undermine your credibility and will put doubts into the employers’ mind about your eagerness to win the job in addition to your attention to detail. So with some effort, you can easily make your CV stand out.

2-       How to Start?.. Start with a Draft

Do not panic, just start by writing down all your qualifications, experiences, employment history, personal information, and extracurricular activities, with no order or structure, and let this be your first draft. Second, read that draft and start the refining process, but grouping relevant data together and eliminating the unwanted data after having a second eye. Let this be your second draft. Third, structure your CV by adding headings to each part of your CV and then choose the order of each part of the CV, which part will go first and which will go next and so on. My recommended structure is as below (having each part presented chronologically in a reverse date order starting with most recent), you are free to choose it or follow your own preferences:

  1. Start with your name, phone number and e-mail
  2. Career summary, including career objectives, key skills and achievements.
  3. Education
  4. Professional Experience
  5. Trainings
  6. Extracurricular Activities
  7. Other Personal Information that may be needed.

3-       Sell Yourself

Mention all your skills in the CV. It is important to focus on the soft skills, transferrable skills, such as communication, problem-solving and management. You should also speak about each of you’re the skills related to each job role how it was utilized or developed in that role, illustrating the skills with examples, and with achievements if any. Don’t forget to include specific skills, such as languages, administrative or computing skills, in a separate section in your CV, or within each job role. When writing about skills, don’t just list them, make sure that you give an example of how you’ve leveraged each skill. Identify what you actions did you do, all setting in which the activity was carried out, and what were the results. Employers look more for a solutions rather than a skill set. A sense of what you can do more than what you are. For example, how were you able to solve problems and did you make the company more profitable.

4-       Career Objectives

Be specific about your career goals or objectives. General statements, such as “Looking to utilize my skills” or “seeking a rewarding position” add nothing to a CV and would show that you are incapable of planning your career. Write your career aspirations in more detail, and with a planned time-line, example, “planning to be a team leader within the next three years, during this period I am planning to utilize, finish the training course of… etc.”.

5-       Responsibilities vs. Achievements

CVs that include long lists of responsibilities are boring, and not efficient in selling yourself. Instead of listing responsibilities, describe your professional achievements. Don’t focus on the tasks or the list of duties, but on the added value related to them. Having this in mind, it’s essential that you focus on proving that you are the type of person who can use your competences to deliver real value, not just doing tasks. Share in your CV all your achievements and taken decisions that made positive impact in the employer business.

6-       Include Numbers

Support your achievements stated in CV with numbers. Mention the numbers, helps to quantify your ability and experience and makes selling yourself much easier. When writing your work history, don’t just say that you reduced losses; but say you were successful to reduce company losses by 20% during over a two-year period. Mention numbers wherever there are significant numbers involved, such as count of personnel in departments, budgets, sales, or problem resolution time.

7-       Extracurricular Activities

Don’t miss out the social/sports activities, voluntary work, and the other personal activities not relating to the professional career. Applicants often neglect the experiences and accomplishments gained in voluntary work they’ve participated in, such as caring for the elderly, serving community, fundraising, being a member in a sport team, or any other extracurricular activities. Neglecting such information is a mistake, valuable skills may have been acquired during these activities. But be sure not to make it the main bulk of your CV, more important, you CV needs to show your professional experience and skillset.

8-       Keep your CV Info Relevant

One must highlight the important details for career history. Be clever about presenting your experience. If your most relevant experience isn’t the most recent, you can split your experience under two headings: relevant employment and additional experience.  There is no need to include your salary history, or references in your CV. References should be provided to employers upon request. There is no need to include your reasons for leaving each job, but this info might be requested in your interview. Don’t mention things that you are bad at or say negative things about yourself nor your previous employers. Do not touch on sensitive areas, like politics and religion. And finally keep away of abbreviations or technical jargon.

9-       Use Active Language and Give Detail

Use “power words” such as “managed,” “conducted,” and “designed” to emphasize your accomplishments. Say “Managed a team of 25 sales personnel” instead of “Sales management”. The use of such active verbs and positive language allows you to put your experience across with more impact. Use the past tense for previous jobs and the present tense for your current job.

10-   Don’t Exaggerate

You must make sure to mention all the good points about yourself relevant to the job but do not, under any circumstances, exaggerate. Yes. This is the most important advice, be completely honest on your CV. There is a huge difference between making the most of your experience and exaggerating or falsifying it. Although you obviously want to present yourself well, but don’t go too far and exaggerate the truth. Even small lies must be avoided. Nowadays, employers conduct reference checking and background checking and if your CV doesn’t match your actual work history, education, or performance history, you will most likely get caught at some point and you will either not get the job or you may get fired if you have already been hired. You will end up doing work that you are unable to do, resulting in stress, confusion and frustration for you, your colleagues and the employer. Having caught, whether at the interview level or after hiring, would ruin your credibility in the employment market.

11-   Check for Mistakes

It is essential that there are no mistakes on your CV. It is a sign of bad communication if your CV is full of mistakes. Always check for mistakes. This includes spelling and grammar mistakes, factual errors such as mistyped dates and names, layout problems and illogical order of information. When you have finished your CV print it and read it over again. Proofreading it once is not enough, so do it twice, or as many as necessary. When you have been working on your CV for hours, it can be difficult to spot the errors. So get someone else to read over carefully and comment on it. It is sometimes hard to catch your own mistakes Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can pick something up you missed, or spot irrelevant information. It would be recommended not only to check the content mistakes, but also the format of your CV, and again, let someone else to take a look. Is there plenty of white space? Or is it crowded? Is your formatting consistent (font type, font size, headers, body, bullets and numbering, etc.) and is the overall picture that your CV provides a professional look?

12-   Keep it Up to Date

It’s often difficult remembering the joining/leaving dates, achievements figures, and the projects you have been involved in. To avoid missing important information you need to keep your CV up to date, so you don’t later forget something that could be significant. It is advised that you revisit your CV from time to time to ensure that is up to date. Add all the new information, gained skills, courses, training programs and other academic qualifications that you may attain.

13-   Do not Include a Photo

You should avoid attaching your photo to the CV, except when you are applying for a job where the physical characteristics are very important and request proof (e.g., modeling, acting… etc.), and unless the employer specifically requested it..

14-   Sending your CV via E-mail

It is recommended if you create a special e-mail address for your career correspondence, so as to keep track of all your career-related e-mails. Make sure that your display name and e-mail address are professional as possible, including your first name and last name. Example, if you name is Magdy Kamel then your display name (appearing as the sender’s name) should show as “Magdy Kamel” and your e-mail should be as “magdykamel@hotmail.com”, “mkamel@yahoo.com”… etc. Don’t use nicknames, number or any other symbols, such as momo79, lion_heart, job.seeker789… etc.. This would affect your professional image. Do not make a list of emails and send to them all at once either on the To line, CC or Bcc. You need to send individual targeted emails. You have to research the recipient of your email first and target your message to him or her. The subject of your email is very important. But make sure that your subject line isn’t too long. Long subject lines are indicative of spam content and do not reach the inbox some times. It should include the word CV, Curriculum Vitae, Resume, and of course the job title and reference (if exists) that you are applying for, or wish to have.  Do you best to reach to the recipient of your e-mail and greet him or her by their actual name “Dear Karim” or “Dear Mrs. Khalifa”, that way your message is much more likely to be read. If not, then use Dear Sir/Madam.

In the body of the e-mail, you can either write your key experiences, such as “10 years of civil engineering experience and project management”, or you can choose to copy and paste your cover letter. Before you attach your CV file to the email, rename the file to something more meaningful. The more meaningful your file name is, the more frequently it will show up when a search is made. Naming the file after your name adding the word CV or resume, and/or adding the job reference would do the job. The recommended formats of your CV file are .docx and .pdf.

15-   Take a Copy of Your CV to Interviews You Attend

It is useful to print a copy out for yourself and make additional notes on it to prepare for any unexpected questions the interviewer may be interested to ask from information included on you CV.

16-   Consider getting professional help

If you are having a hard time creating your CV, not happy of the current version, or if you are receiving no response or rejection letters from companies, you could consider hiring a professional CV writing service. There are lots of online options available, and usually the investment will be worth the money.

17-   Format Tips

  • Skip writing the word Curriculum Vitae or CV .
  • Use consistent template (font size and type) for header and body text throughout your CV. If you aren’t sure of the fonts to use, try easily read fonts like Calibri, Arial or Helvetica. Avoid unusual font types. Use a font size of 10pt or 11pt.
  • To make it more readable, to jam your CV with text, leave adequate white space. Maintain a one-inch margin at the top and bottom of each page of your curriculum vitae.
  • Avoid the use of graphics or fancy design.
  • Don’t go over 3 pages, unless when you cannot compromise by having some significant information not mentioned.
  • Avoid long paragraphs; divide them with line spaces or bullet points. Bullet points keep the sentences relatively short, and allow each point to be distinct.
  • Print it to make sure that it is printable with no out of margin or font incompatibility.