“How would it look on your CV?” Do you get asked that much? There’s a chance you could be missing a trick. People can screw up their careers for the sake of their CVs.
You can tell that I am not a fan of the CV mindset. Doing something that results in failure, or something where you won’t get the credit, or making a decision that quietly prevents something adverse from happening – all these things look pretty bad or are tough to translate onto the CV. But they can be the most meaningful experiences and your greatest achievements. The danger is that you might decline to pursue them if you are CV-obsessed.
I was talking to someone the other day who was interviewing for Managing Director roles at two places. One was a real CV box-ticker, even though it sounded a bit uninspiring. The other sounded intriguing, but it was small and she felt it might have a flawed business model, so she probably shouldn’t go for it.
As we talked more about the “flawed” one, we both began to find that it could be a fascinating case where a new MD could attempt to steer through some uncomfortable but transformational change. She suspected that the incumbents might not be open to having their approach fundamentally challenged, so the chances of failure would be high.
But the insights gained from this failure might be the key to making the next job a real success. The exercise could be an important means to learn, rather than being the conventional CV highlight on which she had initially fixated. Plus, more exciting.
People need to put others in boxes in order to make sense of things, and CVs help with this. When your CV starts to drive your decisions towards pleasing other people rather than yourself, that’s when it can start to close off some interesting and fruitful avenues.
Don’t make the wrong decision for the sake of your CV!