Okay, so this is not a recent story, but I remember it well. And it made me grumpy at the time.
At the end of an unforgiving summer I found myself in Perth, Western Australia almost broke and in desperate need of gainful employment. It was 1993 – I was still young and relatively foolish. A couple of months of having too much fun and drinking too much beer was finally catching up with me.
With the summer easing its intensity, the prospect of getting out to see the bush was rapidly gaining appeal. As far as I could tell the best way to do this was by working in mineral exploration. Mining was, and still is, one of the largest industries in Western Australia, if not the largest, and Perth is the headquarters of many companies.
A quick glance at my CV showed it needed some work. I didn’t think my limited experience working in warehouses and sawmills was going to count for much. However, not being familiar with the conventions for writing such documents in Australia there was a strong chance that I would need some help. An advert in the West Australian newspaper suggested that such help was available. It directed me to a place called The Resume Graveyard, or Resume’s Rn’t Us, or something similarly uplifting.
Once there, a man who called himself Chaz. He had slicked back hair and dressed in a three-piece suit (I should have picked up on the signs as soon as I saw him), sat me down and together we went through my experiences. Chaz came up with a document that was about 10 pages long. It was, in my opinion, unwieldy and unreadable. Who was going to sit down and wade through all of that? I was very much convinced that the gold personal survival swimming award I gained at the age of fifteen was not going to hold much sway with prospective employers I in the mining industry, or that a comprehensive list of my interests outside work was going to persuade anybody to employ me. Chaz thought it was groovy. It was clear that Chaz was a fuckwit.
‘Isn’t this a bit lengthy?’ I asked, testing the water to see what response would be forthcoming. Chaz was now sweating, maybe due to wearing his unnecessary suit on such a hot day, but most likely because he thought I’d rumbled him as the charlatan that he was.
‘No, it’s just what companies want,’ he assured me, his eyes darting all over the room.
‘Bollocks is it. This was a total waste of my time and money.’
That is what I wanted to say, but I was too polite. Instead I put a smile on my face and thanked him profusely for taking the time to help me. I also agreed to spread the word about his services. However, I made no promises concerning what I would say about my experiences in his office. I think that not confirming that I would be positive showed a distinct lack of gumption on his part. Anyhow, after parting with about sixty dollars I could ill-afford to lose to gain the benefit of his incompetence, I headed down the stairs and dumped his work in the first available bin.
Once back at the youth hostel I put together a two-page summary of my experience and qualifications. I then ran it past a couple of travellers who were in publishing in the USA and who regularly employed people. They were not fuckwits.
After gaining some tips and fixing my early efforts, I decided my CV would do the job. I was only twenty-three so I was not going to have a lot of experience or a long CV. The only way I could stand out was use very light grey paper to make my slim excuse for experience become visible in a pile of white.
It sounds like a bit of a fairy tale I know, but having now worked on the other side of the employment game I will happily admit that a CV that is a subtly different colour (not garish pink or bright yellow or any other ridiculous colour – remember I said subtle), such as light grey or beige, does indeed stand out in a pile of 50 such documents.
Within two weeks I had a job and was working on a sheep station (I cannot remember the name, no matter how hard I have tried) cutting up drill cores. That job spawned a year’s worth of work. And when I wandered into a West Perth office the next April with a year’s experience as Field Assistant under my belt, Keith, the boss, didn’t even look at my CV. He just asked me a couple of questions, looked me up and down, and said something like, ‘You’ll do. We’ll be leaving for the Kimberley in June.’ We then had a short chat about the UK before I left and tried to work out what to do for the next couple of months. Working for Keith turned out to be the best job I have ever had.
The moral of this story? Watch our for dodgy guys called Chaz telling you they can help you write you resume!