A few days ago, desperate to address a number of topics that would not fit in with this blog or on Kenya Imagine, I put together a couple of drafts for posts and decided to start a new blog, along with a linked Twitter account. Now, this could be ill-advised, as I’ve already got multiple Twitter accounts to deal with, plus my obligations here and elsewhere, and I’m not sure how much time I’ll be able to dedicate to each project without sacrificing either quality or my social life. Not only that, but should I ever want to cite on my CV, they could look rather haphazard, as there’s no real link between the topics they cover, and I have different levels of output and engagement in each.
Thinking back to the post I did on portfolio careers, I realised that even as I have eased more into adding writer/blogger to my list of skills, it would be difficult for a potential employer to pull my various contributions together into a coherent space. Not only that, but the diverse topics I cover mean that pinning down my “voice” could also have its own problems. On the one hand, for the projects that I consider as possible career opportunities, I want to project an image that is professional and knowledgeable; those that I am doing for myself don’t need to be quite so focused on emphasising my competencies.
If you have diverse skills and have worked in a variety of areas, you probably tailor your CV to fit each particular job you apply for. You don’t need to mention your stint as an environmental officer when applying for the event management position, but you might very well mention the stage management job you did a couple of years ago. Sending your credentials off to a family-run firm means that you won’t necessarily expound on your stint as a corporate drone in a huge conglomerate as much as you do your ability to work in small autonomous teams. This can all work well if you are given enough leeway to pick and choose the details you divulge. If you are asked for a complete work history, however, the overall impression can seem… messy.
One solution, therefore, might be to keep everything separate in practice, with one point of reference for an overview of everything you’ve accomplished. If you have worked for a couple of political thinktanks, have also volunteered for a charity and are now retraining as a international development worker, it can seem difficult to tie all of these together, particularly if you don’t wan to favour one over the other. Nevertheless, you can take a couple of steps to make your career seem more coherent.
First, recognise that each of your accomplishments and skill sets has value. Even my part-time job in a call centre is something I am grateful for, though I wasn’t at the time. Next, come up with a narrative for each of the major areas of your career, explaining how you got to where you are now. Finally, bring together the different narratives to reach an overarching conclusion. For instance, I started out as a translator, progressed to giving additional business advice, branched out into writing business plans, and as a result of blogging about tech and business, landed a gig at Kenya Imagine, where I am now picking up additional skills as a writer and editor, along with some management skillls to boot.
I do still keep my various projects apart from each other, and intend to keep doing so. Where I will pull them together to give an overview of everything I do is on a separate blog, yet to be set up, where I will explain my various projects, what I hope to achieve from them, and how they related to each other. Yes, it’s a bit more work than plonking everything down in one place, but when somebody comes to look at what I have been up to, they will be able to see everything I have done so far, without it seeming like I have flitted between various interests and areas without being able to make my mind up. Were I to pull together everything into one blog, or on to one CV, I wouldn’t make any sense.
I believe that in future it is going to become increasingly common for people to have varied CVs, as they work in a number of different sectors rather than having a specific career progression, and as the business environment changes to embrace all-rounders rather than single-skilled toilers. Nevertheless, employers will still want to be able to see how a prospective employee’s career up until the present will fulfil their job requirements, and as such it’s important that no matter how eclectic your job history is, you are able to demonstrate that you fit the part. Each part of your career may be a story in itself, but you need to marshall them to reach an overall theme.
[Image by Amanda Azzi]