Unqualified jack-of-all-trades

Young people struggle with their resume at the start of their career. What the hell do you put in there if you have no professional experience? I remember writing filler to make the CV at least one page long. There was even a section about “hobbies”.

Where the juniors have troubles filling their CV’s, the more experienced have difficulties focusing it. When you are in the middle of your career, your resume becomes crowded.

Over time, you amass experience in different fields and career switches are very common. That’s a positive thing, but it can feel like it works against you.

In my career, I’ve been a software developer, architect, tech lead, project manager, Scrum master,… And that’s just what’s written down.

The combination of your different skill sets is what makes you you. I’m a better developer for having been a manager and vice versa.

That should make my CV stand out, right? That sweet spot between management and IT should sell itself, right? Alas, that’s not how it works.

Hiring managers and recruiters don’t care about the person behind the CV until they meet you. Up until that point, they are looking for a solution to their problem and you are just a lead. They are searching for a specific profile and will ignore all the rest. What they want, is a story that matches theirs.

Let’s say you are a software developer and you’ve worked with multiple technology stacks. You have some PHP, some .NET, a little bit of NodeJS and some database skills under your belt. You find a .NET Backend Developer position that you would really like.

Most people will just send their CV. Their one CV. That one Word document they’ve been updating for years. But mid-career, that’s so crowded, it confuses the reader.

We think of a CV as a historical archive of our achievements. A clear list of all our projects and proof of our experience. It’s not.

A CV is a sales pitch. And like any good sales pitch, it’s not about you. It’s about your audience.

That hiring manager will not see a match. They will see a bunch of unrelated technologies and might conclude that you don’t have the right experience. They might dismiss you as unqualified for a job you could definitely do.

Your job, if you want the job, is to land an interview. And that’s the only purpose of the CV.

So adapt the CV to fit your audience. Make sure your document matches their expectations. Tell the story their need to hear, so they can see a match.

In the case of the developer above, they could build their CV around their .NET experience and highlight their Javascript knowledge in the other projects. They don’t even mention the other stuff. All of a sudden, they are no longer a mediocre jack-of-all-trades, but a Fullstack .NET developer. A perfect match.

If you are mid-career and you have a hard time even landing interviews for that PM job because you are “too technical” or the other way around, try adapting the sales pitch.

If you’re sure you could do it, make sure they know it too.

Tell your story in a way that captivates your audience.