Choppy CV? Get a Portfolio Career!

An HR consultant once told me, “Make sure you stay at a job at least 2 years, otherwise it looks like you have no stickability”. Sage advice apart from the downsizing of the mid 1980’s depression, post GFC I or the “right sizing” in Canberra right now. At such times corporate compassion hits at an all-time low and so does employee loyalty.

My dad worked in the same organisation for 40 years. Within that vast company he had plenty of space to move around, but his career centered on engineering. That’s not an uncommon story from his generation. It was a noble undertaking. Back in the day longevity was rewarded by a corporation that rewarded loyalty with stable tenure, regular pay checks and sometimes delivered soul destroying work.

Then along came the Baby Boomers and they got a bit antsy. Boomers shifted jobs 4-7 times, sometimes changing industry along the way. Anytime a new and exciting opportunity opened up, they felt at liberty to take it. Next came Gen X. The slackers, the roamers, the latch key kids who can’t decide what they want to be when they grow up (or is it just the economy that’s changed?) X-ers are expected to have 5-15 jobs across multiple industries over their extended work life. Gen Y will crank 25 changes over a 50 year working life!

This poses a problem for job seekers because their CV starts to look a bit messy. I’ve been working for 25 years now and had quite the range of career changes. On paper most of them don’t look like they go together. Try this: coaching, consulting & facilitation/ accounting, auditing & fraud investigation/ public speaking, training & publishing/ writing, journalism & photography/ tourism, hotels & hospitality/ pastoral ministry. That flow looks ugly right? Well there are a couple of ways of dealing with it…

The Portfolio
Present your career the way an artist does. You have a range of portfolios, each with your best shots in it. “I can do this, and I can do this, oh yeah and I can do this as well.” What a flexible person you are, so broad minded and experienced! The downside is that you might come across as a bit of a jack of all trades and master of none.

The Backslash
Describe your career with a series of semi colons or backslashes in it. Separate each coherent season and include the various jobs related to one another by theme. The difficulty might come in not having a “meme” that ties them all together. Well then, define your emerging expertise or your passion. Mine is “human behaviour expert”.

The Biography
Write your career like a biographer capturing the chapters of your life. It has been a journey, a story arc or narrative. It has a beginning (I didn’t know what to do out of college), a middle (I was exploring my options) and a direction toward the goal you have now set for yourself (an ending you have not reached yet). The one liner after a person’s name says it all e.g. “lifestyle entrepreneur”.