I highly recommend that you buy a copy of “Brilliant CV: What Employers Want to See and How to Write it” by Jim Bright and Joanne Earl, which is the best book I have read on the subject.
The reason I liked Brilliant CV is partly because it happened to agree with most of the views I already held on what makes a good CV (yes, I know that’s highly suspect confirmation bias but, as I said earlier, the whole area of evaluating CVs is a highly subjective business).
More importantly, they were the only authors who had made any attempt quantitatively to test the impact of various CV formats on HR Recruitment Managers and Headhunters, and so were able to base their recommendations on what works and does not work on actual fact. So, if I were to only buy one book on CV-writing, Brilliant CV is the one I would use.
One of the best ways that I know to work out what it is you like doing and what it is you are good at is in a book called “What Color is your Parachute” by Richard Bolles. This is one of the all-time best selling job hunting books. I first read it in 1992, and re-read it again in 1997, and again just last year. What struck me from my most recent reading is how much the book has changed, and how contemporary it is. Boles himself says that ‘it’s changed its shape and content. It’s morphed into something very different, over time. The 2012 edition is quite different even from the 2011.’
He’s right: the book I read last year is quite different to the one I read in 1997, with extensive coverage of social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, etc. Overall, I think it’s an excellent job hunting guide. There are a couple of chapters which have an unusual (to a UK audience) religiosity to them – Bolles used to be a Baptist Minister – which one person I recommended to complained about. To be fair to him, Bolles puts the religious chapters in the Appendices, so you can skip those if you find that a turn-off. It didn’t bother me. The vocabulary is a little US in tone and spelling (words like ‘Color’ and ‘Resume’) and the resources he cites tend to be US-centric, so less relevant to the UK market.
But overall, it’s superbly comprehensive, covering everything from the psychological to the practical. There’s a chapter on how to keep morale up (called “How to Find Hope”); and, crucially, “The need to Understand More Fully Who You Are”. This is covered in Chapter 5, where there is a systematic workbook for teasing out what you like doing and what you are good at. Chapters 6 and 7 then help you work out how to apply that to identifying a job that might suit you, to help focus your job search.
I very strongly recommend that anyone about to start on a job hunt complete the exercises in Chapter 5. Frankly, if you are serious about finding a job, you should read the whole book not once but twice. In particular, people who are trying to change careers will find it very helpful. At the very least, it will help you answer, in detail and with conviction, a whole range of standard interview questions, such as: “What are you best at? What are your weaknesses? What are the achievements you are proudest of in your life? In your professional life?” , etc.
Most importantly, it will give you a solid foundation to write your CV, as you will be able clearly to articulate your key skills and achievements.
This book was recommended to me by my business coach about 8 years ago. Written by Roger Dawson, I have recommended it to hundreds of people both currently in employment and seeking employment. It is full of practical negotiating strategies which are easy to implement and results on more elegant negotiations, where both side leave the table feeling good about the deal finally struck. If you are someone who feels uncomfortable asking for a raise, then you should read this.