CVs have changed throughout the centuries, but their goal is the same: To persuade. In 1482, Leonardo Da Vinci applied for a position on the ruler of Milan’s court. He marketed himself as a military engineer who can occasionally work as a painter, an architect, or a sculptor. Interestingly, his great contributions to the art world were left out and, in their place, he wrote about what the ruler needed. In one example, he said, ‘I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy.’ With this persuasive argument, he was offered the job.
Be purposeful; not general…Gone are the days where you’d print off your CV and hand it out to anyone who’d accept it. The digital age has seen to that. We’re now expected to have someone already in mind when writing it. Leonardo's premeditated approach paid off (literally!) so it could for you too.
Be authentic but selective…He wasn’t lying when he neglected his other achievements. Like, when you’re writing an essay, you’re not lying when you miss out your nickname from the author section. It just isn’t important. Still, if you’re proud of something, there is no harm in showing it off as long as it leaves room for the relevant stuff.
You are more than your CV…Like Leonardo’s CV isn’t him; your CV isn’t you either. It can be a “storied self” or a “narrative identity” that reflects only a facet of you. You could view it as a professional persona that changes and develops over time and context. That way, you’re not getting your personal identity entangled in your career. When we define ourselves by our jobs, it can be a slippery slope into defining our self-worth. This BBC article encapsulates this human experience really well. I hope it takes away some of the pressure that often comes with writing a CV.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the CV, check out this infographic from the National Careers Service. It’s fascinating to see how job applications have evolved.