The “Critical” C.V.! – Claire Carroll

I recently took part in a conversation that was to be relayed and recounted to friends and family in the days that followed while steam bellowed from my ears and froth dripped from my mouth. In short, I was angry. The comment that triggered my seething tirade?

“I hate people who do things just to build up their C.V.s.”

Well, it seems relatively innocuous but like everything in life, its true meaning is in the eye of the beholder. For me, a graduate student who has been applying for every job she can since 2012, it was just plain insulting. Almost everything I do now earns some space on an imaginary C.V. in my mind. This smarmy person wasn’t making a throw-away remark; she was insulting what has become my very way of being!

Some context; the comment was made by a medical student who went on to say that extra-curricular activities weren’t well-respected in medicine. It should be noted that this particular student was an undergraduate and as yet hadn’t faced, and perhaps never would face, the demoralising trauma of a long-term job hunt. Maybe she was right, maybe medicine is different but who is she to judge my ambition? Good for her if she doesn’t have to consciously build her C.V. Let’s face it though, that’s not the “case” the law, if the readers will pardon the pun. I have learned through bitter experience that you ignore C.V. building at your own cost. Most of us, as aspiring legal eagles are under immense pressure, not only to get really good grades but to cast ourselves in the role of Clarke Kent. “Yes, that’s me, refined professional by day, Superman in my spare time.”

I first came across this phenomenon in the second year of my Bachelor’s Degree when my classmates and I interviewed for various job placements. If we got an interview, our names were placed on lists in a corridor. Some peoples’ names were on every list, they had interviews with lots of employers. I had good grades but barely got an interview; I was only on one list. At the time, I decided that my grades simply must not have been good enough. It gave me a shock and I pressed on to get a First in my Degree- definite lemonade out of a definite lemon! However, I fear I erred in my interpretation of my lacklustre interview invites.

Looking back, it was the Law Society and debating people, the people who wrote for the college Paper, or ran for student elections who got all the good interviews. The picture became clearer after I graduated when again, it was these people whose C.V.s shone and these people who got the best jobs. I’ll admit my approach to University was somewhat naïve and one dimensional. I dutifully confined myself to the library on long Spring evenings never imagining that all that fuss and hot air over at the Student’s Union would help me get anywhere in life. My mother was the first of her generation to attend University and my father left school at fifteen. There was no one prudent enough in my household or circle of friends to whisper in my ear that running for Committee on the Law Society would be a good idea. Coupled with that, I had my head so deep in exams, I couldn’t see anything else. To me, the idea of politics and societies seemed about as bright and as useful as hanging my head out of the window of a moving car.

Author Claire Carroll

Author Claire Carroll

Now though, I finally get it and when it comes to the extra-curricular I’m all in! Those student Union advocates, the passionate debaters, the people who gave their time to build societies from the ground up were an army of Wonder Women and Supermen, honing skills that were essential in the real world of commerce and law- I was just too blind to see it. Landing your dream career in law is not just about good grades. It’s about becoming a dynamic and capable person. It’s about channelling your inner superhero every day and moving out of your comfort zone whether that be the library or the pub.

My advice to you then is to join the C.V. building brigade. Fun-run and with every fun-run, refine your online “brand” and cast yourself in the role of the health conscious amateur athlete. Get more connections on LinkedIn. Join every club or society and neatly assimilate them into the “Hobbies and Interests” section of your C.V.. Yes, this is a C.V. building exercise but the means becomes the end. A good C.V. will not only get you in the door, but will ensure that when step inside you have the skills and confidence to really work it. So the next time you meet someone who says “I hate people who do things just to build up their C.V.s.” get out your red cape and carry on regardless.

Claire Carroll is an Irish law graduate, holds a Masters in general law and is completing a Masters in Mental Health Law at Northumbria University. She aspires to the Bar of England and Wales and is currently a student member of the Inner Temple.

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