A Modern CV

I have been at this office for many years. The work is exciting, the promotions have been periodic and in general the progression of my career graph here has been very successful. Now saturated with this workplace, I thought I would apply for a new job.

Understandably, it’s been years since I had to hand in a CV so I asked them – my friends, younger colleagues, smarter family members, an advisory committee of sorts.

“It’s all changed” they told me- my friends, family, colleagues and even the online ‘How to write a CV/resume’ and ‘how to write the best job application’ etc. websites.

They told me that the main thing was the length of the CV. No one had time to read through my years of experience, noteworthy projects that I had conceived and managed, research papers published, training workshops conducted at conferences, my first class education itself would take up several lines then my internships at world class institutions.

“Just one side of A4” they said, “No longer than that.” So I sat down to concentrate on this piece of A4 paper. It didn’t look very big or accommodating to me. Half my brain was needlessly whirling information like only 500 words, that’s about 50 lines, maybe a few more can be squeezed in with a smaller font size.  But the font size should not be too small. Legible. The other part of my brain was all bluff and bluster, “500 words? That’s going to be nothing to sum up 2 decades of sterling work! How small can the font be?” “But it can’t be more than A4, just looks unprofessional, trying too hard, waffling on….” the advisory committee butted helpfully into my thoughts.

So I started as advised on this modern CV.

Name: Shouldn’t matter, as long as it wasn’t anything rude or sensational.

Age: Shouldn’t matter, unless specified in the advert or if the job demands it. If not, it’s discrimination.

Sex: Should be irrelevant. If not, it’s discrimination. (Although I had a secret hankering to write ‘yes, please’).

Location: Shouldn’t make a difference since the job is online and telecommute has been specified in the advert.

Time zone: Shouldn’t make a difference as the vacancy is open to applicants worldwide. So now, if they fuss about it, it’s discrimination.

Photo: Shouldn’t matter what you look like. You should be judged on your skills not by your looks, that would be discrimination.

When I asked them how to present my many qualifications, they said “Put in a link to your online professional profile.”

When I asked them how to summarise my various roles and responsibilities, they said “Put in a link to your current company’s personnel profile.”

When I asked how I could present my list of published papers and other publications, they said “Put in a link to your online professional organisations and publications profile.”

And so I did.

Name: Something something

Age: Over 18 years

Sex: –

Location: –

Timezone: –

Photo: Picture of a stick figure drawn by my son.

Then I had 3 links listed one below the other and 3 referees, who would be named only upon request.

That was 15 lines, in a font as small as I dared to use and the best part of the A4 page was still empty.

For the first time in my working life, I felt as if I should have done much more in my career spanning 2 decades.




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A Quick Bite

I had half an hour before my next meeting, just long enough for a quick bite.

Knowing time was at a premium I picked a coffee shop that did not have a long queue and walked in. An overly cheerful staff member greeted me in 3 different languages from very far away places! I could have greeted her back but time was of essence so I just smiled. She proceeded to give me more information than I really cared for.

“Welcome to Coffee Dregs’ Tower Mall outlet, Miss …. (a pause for my name which I did not give), the ninth largest coffee franchise worldwide. My name is Kan Doo” (or something like that) and I will be your server this morning.”

Behind her, tilted 3 large boards, Auld Favourites, Happening and Today’s Specials. I had barely glanced at them when she said, “Our specials are googochica, madacino, hazelnut fondue gichabicha with cinnamon, raspberry ice combo, babinatto, hatte, kichie and pepper infused apple. We also have decaf ….”

I was already confused and decided to keep it simple. “Just plain hot coffee and a cheese sand…”.

“Plain coffee, would that be Americano, Java, Turkish, Blue Jamaican, Barista’s choice or regular brewed?”

“Regular please.” I chose the last one because it seemed the least innocuous and easy to repeat. I didn’t care about the other choices today and did not know the barista personally, so wasn’t sure about that choice. I sighed, so much discussion over a cup of coffee! But the coffee train had moved on and the next station was …..

“Would you like milk or cream?”

“Milk please.”

“Would that be full fat, skimmed, semi-skimmed or half and half?”

“Half and half please” (Yep, last one was always the easiest to remember!) but we were rapidly pulling out of that station too.

“Sugar, brown or white?”

“White.” (last one!) My triumph was short lived as I got a disapproving look from ‘my server.’

“Would you prefer cubes or granules, miss?”

“Granules!”  My manners were taking a beating in the light of all these choices and my watch was racing with reckless abandon.

Should I abandon the idea of a sandwich altogether? … I wondered but too late. ‘My server’ was already off on the sandwich train dragging me with her.

“Sandwich, would that be on baguette, focaccia, wholegrain, country grain or white?”

“White” I said following my last choice theory and again I got that look which said I had chosen unwisely.

“Would you like butter, mayo, margarine or vegetable spread?”

I thought I would be smart and bypass the intricacies cleverly. “None” I said. She smiled!! She approved of my choice!!

“Salad?” she enquired.

Mistaking my silence for ignorance she elaborated …salad like lettuce? Tomatoes? Green peppers? Cucumber? … ”

“None.” Determined to keep her smiling, I decided I was best off with my minimalist theory. But I only got the look again. Now I had to be a mind reader as well?!

“Cheese, would you like cheddar, edam, gruyere or emmental?”

“Cheddar” I said, abandoning my last choice theory and I got the look again! Cheddar was obviously the wrong choice. Now I was in some quiz show?!

“Salt and pepper?”

“No thank you.” Did not want to know about the umpteen different choices that I am sure she had to offer.

“Would you like the sandwich toasted?”

“Surprise me!” I said but the sarcasm was lost on her.

She said, “The policy is that toasted sandwiches must have butter or margarine and  ….”  A policy?!! They had a policy about toasted sandwiches! I gave up and said, “Untoasted then, please.” After all, how could I defy a policy!

Finally, she reached the till where I thought we should have been ages ago! Then she rattled off my entire order including disapproving looks for the wrong answers. Why did she do that again? I am sure I have had surgery with less discussion and fewer questions! All I wanted was coffee with milk and sugar and a slice of cheddar pushed between two slices of bread!

The till pinged! She gave me a metre-long bill and asked for an obscene amount of money that I gave her promptly just so that I could get on with my sandwich. The clock was now urging me to consume the food by osmosis or have a takeaway. I opted for the latter.

“I really have to rush, please could I have those as a takeaway?”

“Yes, of course. Would that be a container or a bag?”

“Bag please.”

“Would that be paper or plastic?”

“Either one will do.”

“We have recyclable plastic, plastic coated paper, classic wax paper bag……”

I wanted to say, “Whatever!!” like a sulky teenager, so I did the adult version, a shrug.

She fiddled and fussed, folding tissues and Styrofoam cup this way and that, trying not to mess up the barista art. Gently coaxing the lid on, no urgency at all, she said conversationally, “It’s cheaper if you have takeaway…” with that she moved to the till again!

The sandwich was still not packed up. “Look, I really must leave NOW so thanks for the coffee, never mind the money or the sandwich. Thanks for all your help.”

“You mean you want to leave your food here? Uneaten, untouched?”

“Yes, bye!”

“But you can’t do that! Why won’t you take it? Was it not to your satisfaction? How can we improve our service to you? We do have a customer feedback form that you need to fill out. Your opinion is important to us.”

She deftly pulled the coffee out of my reach and rummaged efficiently under the counter, smiling as she handed me a wad of forms that made tax returns look easy. Then she offered a tiny tray with ballpoint pens in six different colours. Catching the look on my face, she picked one out herself and handed it to me. Then she ushered me to a trendy looking desk in the corner. I sat down like a punished child. Every time I made a move to leave Kan Doo pinned me with a glance and nodded curtly to the forms.

As I sat there, held visual prisoner by ‘my server’, I watched helplessly as a woman walked up to the counter and said, “Takeaway, ice latte, vanilla, skim, no sugar, sandwich not toasted, foccaccia, low mayo chicken and lettuce please.” She paid, collected her food and walked away in 3 minutes or less!




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