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Evidencing your skills: the so what principle

Last updated 5-Oct-17 05:47

The most useful feedback on my first attempt at a graduate CV was “so what?” This pearl of wisdom was given to me rather bluntly by my university careers service. I was rather hoping that they would either tell me my CV was brilliant, or tell me in very specific detail what I had to say to make it brilliant. Instead I got “so what?” So why was this so useful?

Well luckily the careers service rep took pity my look of absolute horror and disappointment and told me what she actually meant. You see, I had fallen into the trap of finding a list of buzzwords and skills and basically said that I had them. For example “I am a dynamic individual capable of using my own initiative as well as being a productive member of a team.” To me that was team working, check, initiative, check, motivation and productivity, check, can I have the job now please? But really, if I can find a list of skills and say I have them so can everyone else and you can guarantee the first thing an employer will think is “so what?”

This experience taught me to remember to evidence where I had got those skills from, not just say I had them. So, “I am a dynamic individual capable of using my own initiative” becomes “I am a dynamic individual capable of using my own initiative. For example whilst volunteering on the xyz project I used my initiative to contact local businesses to sponsor the project which increased the project budget by x%.”  Immediately the reaction to this sentence goes from “so what?” or “you and every other applicant” to “actually that’s quite impressive”.

Using the So What Principle in practice

The next time you see a job you want to apply for, make a list of all the skills, competencies and personal qualities the job asks for. Then, wrack your brains for recent examples of when you have demonstrated that skill either at uni, in part time work, volunteering or through societies etc. Then you can start writing your CV and for every skill you say you have, add in your example or your “so what” comment. This is a fail safe way to prove to any recruiter that you really do have the skills and experience to do the job and you aren’t just doing what I did and filling your CV with meaningless buzzwords. 



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