We need to talk / sing / dance / paint / rap / rhyme about CVs.

posted in: Mindset | 0

Before Christmas I helped a school with some Year 10 virtual interview experience. It was well-organised, each of the students had a time slot at one of eighty connected devices in three major zones in the school (hall, dining room, library) and the 30-minute slots were filled with volunteers like me interviewing four of the students in set appointments.

Aside from initial teething issues as the school’s WiFi was stretched to beyond its limits, headphones were inserted, volumes were adjusted, and devices were positioned correctly the sessions were, on the whole good. The students eased into it (in the main), most of them were able to outline their major interests and inspirations, their positive points and their aspirations.

The feedback I gave was factual and largely positive with a focus on each person’s best qualities whilst gently supporting a couple of things each of them could improve in a future ‘real’ interview.

What was the feedback I wish I’d given?

That their CVs were utterly terrible. Seriously awful. Dull, dull, dull. The format (from a standardised structured careers package which probably costs the schools thousands a year) was bland and even when turned into a PDF still made for challenging reading…the format and the way each student had (in)completed their details was dead.

The format of the CV in this package is more dead that the goldfish your granny won at a fair when she was eleven years old. Kaput, late, deceased, it is an ex-format.


Curriculum Vitae means ‘the course of my life’ or‘life list’ which, admittedly in the case of most 14 or 15 year olds is going to be pretty similar in most cases and unless they’ve had an exceptional life story isn’t necessarilygoing to set the world on fire when it’s crow-barred into a bland format which is the SAME AS EVERYONE ELSE’S.

So, why do we do it this way?

Because it’s expected that we do it this way, that’s why.

It seems to me that when schools spend time and money developing innovative ways to inspire their students with careers and enterprise activities, they take time to get involved with initiatives like National Careers Week and Apprenticeship Week and striving to meet the Gatsby Benchmarks then all of this inspiration is likely to be lost when we ask then to sit in front of a white template on a computer screen and get them to fill-in the blanks answering questions about themselves [1]. Aside from being dull, it’s not going to be helpful. if your student has a learning difficulty, finds self-reflection challenging or expresses themselves better in other ways.

This needs some innovation[2] and young people have the tools, the aptitude and the creativity to make themselves stand out, so let’s help them to use them and let’s revolutionise the way we ask them to list their lives…after all, if they’re not inspired by their life and their dreams, why would anyone else be inspired by them?

90% of your students will have a mobile device by the age of 11 and ownership at KS4 is ‘almost universal’[3]and they use this all the time to create their own content on SnapChat, TikTok and other social media. The mobile phone (or tablet device) is a tool that gives them unprecedented access to technology – a design studio, film lab and graphics workshop – in their pockets. SO LET THEM USE IT.

Imagine a submission from a young person blank aside from a CLICK HERE link to a webpage which was the answer to one of the prompts below:

  • Task them with a challenge to design their own TikTik CV with their favourite (clean-lyric) music track and have them point to text popping up around them which describes their skills, talents and ambitions;


  • Task an artist to design a mural about them on paper which shows their skills, abilities and future plans;


  • Ask dancers to develop a piece about them and their future selves;


  • Students interested in design could create a mood-board or design layout with their own future-design brief as if for a client;


  • A student who spends time on rap or spoken-word poetry could create their own piece about their life and future plans underpinned with their favourite instrumental beat track;


  • A young person interested in magic or comedy could perform a short routine about their plans;


  • Craft or vocationally-skilled students could create a wiring or plumbing diagram and present this as a route map to their future;


  • Pupils interested in travel and leisure can design a travel brochure or tube-map about their interests and future plans;


  • Musicians can develop a song about themselves; 


  • Graphic design students could create an infographic about themselves and their visions for the future..

Get the idea?

In a period when your students have got a little more time on their hands and you’re looking for them to be inspired by something, what better way to get them to do some self-reflection and present themselves in a positive light, rather than shoe-horning themselves into a tired old format? If ever there was a time that young people needed a way to make themselves stand out and have the chance to use their creativity it’s now. It’s a risk, but when has a risk ever been more important if it makes you REALLY stand out?

What’s the old story-writing mantra? Oh yes, it’s show don’t tell. Let’s really claim that for the process of asking a young person to represent themselves shall we?



NB: My book, The Ladder to help all school and college staff with the aim of supporting students towards successful futures and confident career choices released at the end of February is available with 30% off until the end of March 2021 here.


[1]Not all packages do this, GlobalBridge for example asks students to create their own LinkedIn style page.

[2]Ok, some applications REQUIRE information to be laid out in a certain way, but the process of creating an inviting, inspirational and personal display of their lives will be valuable in this process.