When I was about 13 I started at a new school. Starting a school aged 13 you don’t get a lot of choices about what you get to do, which is fair as I remember me aged 13 and I wouldn’t have trusted me to decide on a sandwich filling, let alone anything about my education. But one thing I did get to choose was my Thursday afternoon activity, which was a choice of either doing Duke of Edinburgh (D of E) or Combined Cadet Force (CCF).

For those not part of the British school system D of E is essentially a walking club and CCF is pretend army for kids. I chose D of E because I was more of a ‘yeah but why?’ kid which I’m pretty sure isn’t something that’s greatly appreciated in pretend army. Also I kept calling it pretend army which I’m pretty sure is making anyone that did CCF grate their teeth.

Why am I talking about all this? Well, this was the earliest occasion at which I was told by someone (the head of D of E) that doing it would be “good for your CV” and later was something I have never ever included on my CV.

Since then basically everything I’ve been able to enrol in, volunteer for or just attend has at some point involved someone saying “..and this will be good for your CV”.

If I was to conservatively estimate the length of my CV if I included everything which was sold to me with “this will be good for your CV” then my CV would be in danger of reaching the built-in page limit in Word (~5000 pages). But obviously I’m being conservative.

Some examples of these ‘vital’ CV contents include: being social secretary of the biological society, attending a one day talk on CE regulations, and being a ‘preferred customer’ of a large lab sales company (I actually didn’t really understand that one).

Now some things I’ve been told will be CV headliners were clearly things that at the time were really worth including on my CV. University admissions and interviewers want to see what part time jobs you had, what hobbies you have and what you might be passionate about.

And even now there are plenty of things I include on my CV for some jobs but not for others. If I’m applying for work as a cartoonist I rarely include lots about how I can write Python software or have gone on several LabVIEW training courses, people that want me to draw cartoons about mouse farts rarely care about that.

Vice versa, when I’m applying for research positions I often mention that I do cartoons as form of outreach but don’t talk about contract work I’ve done cartooning or the types of cartoons I make or the awards I’ve won (partly because the only ones I’ve won are the imaginary ones in my head).

So yes, lots of things will look good on my CV, but statistically (and because of the 2 page limit for most applications) it’s not going to be the course I’m currently taking on 16th century basket weaving. What is and isn’t good for my CV is less about the quality or the topic and a LOT more about what job I’m applying to.

So course conveners and training facilitators, stop saying it. Your training course has lots of value as it is because we’re all sitting here, don’t pretend that it’s the pinnacle of our future job application paperwork… Unless it’s a course on CV writing, in which case carry on.

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Simon Leather · 8 November 2017 at 13:23

Resonates with me as I remember choosing to do musical appreciation with the girls rather than join the CCF which was ‘compulsory’. For some unknown reason the head of the CCF thought that being threatened with an afternoon listening to records in the company of girls 🙂 I felt a little guilty about this as once other boys saw it wasn’t compulsory after all, they started deserting in droves and the CCf was disbanded a few years later.

Saying no to writing this article – ErrantScience · 26 September 2018 at 13:00

[…] strong. Don’t listen to any pleas of “but it’ll only take 5mins” or “it’ll look good on your CV“. You have your own priorities and need to stick to them to make sure you do the work you […]

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