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09. Oktober 2006

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Saudia Arabia - Should I leave out my Deep Sea Diving?

Connecting private and public life in CVs and other self-marketing tools.

When was the last time you updated your CV?, Or asked yourself, where am I going in life? In fact both questions should amount to the same thing: a strategic approach to your personal and professional development.

Saudi culture is traditionally private; socialising is often still sex-segregated. Degrees and careers for young women are often family inspired or selected from opportunities to hand. The women I met were not even obliged to generate income. So the idea of translating a personal strength or particular hobbies into a marketable skill is not yet obvious to them.

My main task then in the Riyadh workshops, was to help the young graduates see their CV’s not as a shopping list of achievements, but as a strategic tool, to compete with others, to position yourself in a challenging market. Only by having a goal can one choose which accomplishments help to achieve it and which can be left out. Only by knowing yourself well, can one be sure which aspects to highlight. Only by honestly accessing real examples of your strengths can you vividly qualify your successes.

This concept came as news to many young participants. They responded very well, but in practice it was much harder to be concrete. One participant says she wants to do something ‘in a bank’ and I tease; saying that I know someone who is very happy cleaning at a bank. Another says she is very responsible. I say that I would not consider employing anyone who is not responsible, so what makes her special. The participants are not used to thinking in such terms. Two language student friends are trained interpreters and work on their CV’s together. I ask them to think of ways they better than the other. ‘She is very quick!’ blurts a friend, and slowly the participants make a giant leap to commercial thinking.

It is very exciting when women see they themselves can generate change. One participant says that she is good with children, and writes her application letter to a group for handicap children. Another tells me ‘I don’t need to practice letters; I already have a small coffee shop!’ After a group chat, she writes to an organic coffee bean company as a potential distributor of their products. Another whispered to me ‘I make my own chocolate brownies; maybe she can sell my cakes in her shop!’ This is exciting to me, great ideas evolving from new information and new networks.

By the end of three days, the participants are both euphorically emboldened and critically self-aware. This last part is vital. As one young lady laments ‘I don’t have any qualities that employers want’. So I say that knowing our weakness is not a fault, it is great starting place for action. All of us need to move out of our comfort zone sometimes, do something extra and make sure that we are stretched, on our toes ready for action. Everything we learn from these extra curricular activities builds up our characters, makes us who we are and develops interests that play a part in our professional careers.

Deep sea diving then, says a great deal about a person, adventurous, curious, precise, energetic, bold, detail-oriented: do you need someone like that on your team?

Georgina Nitzsche


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