How to present your CV

Enough annoyed twitter rants, I will be more productive and helpful.

This is for young and budding job hunters looking to stake their place in a creative field, whether it’s writing, design, advertising, broadcast media, or publishing.

As someone who is sometimes tasked with filtering and screening applications, I have seen graduates of top schools make really bad mistakes with their application. Here are some tips to get you through the mess.

1) Do the one-page CV

Unless otherwise noted. Employers are not looking for your life story, they’re looking at how capable you will be in the job. They are also ridiculously busy, so make it as easy as possible to go through. Note your work experience in the field you’re applying for, filter out irrelevant work experience (you can put that under ‘skills’ if you must). Highlight your awards and achievements. And don’t forget your contact details.

2) Get your portfolio together

Not too long ago, we had to kill entire forests with prints and reprints of our portfolio and CV. In this day and age, you have no excuse not to have a portfolio. Go online, open up a tumblr, wix, wordpress, or blogspot account. Learn to work it. You don’t have to be a celebrity blogger, but you should learn to archive and collate your best work.

Remember: for as long as you write and/or design, you will always be working on your portfolio. Set up your account, then make a commitment to update and fill it up with as much work as possible. If you do not have a portfolio, you will not be taken seriously.

For writers starting out: If you haven’t been published, put in your most readable work. It can be samples of concept ad copy, short poetry and fiction, blog entries, amateur reviews, script treatments.

For starting artists and designers: scan your drawings, put in whatever it is you expertly photoshopped, concept ads, photography.

I think this article best sums up how to put together your portfolio (even for writers), so make it your bible: 9 steps to a better portfolio.

Rule of thumb with portfolios: always show your best, and a range of what you can do for the position you’re applying for.

3) Even if you personally know who you’re directing your CV and portfolio to, have a short cover letter.

This applies to print and e-mail. Chances are, your friend or whoever will not be the one to screen you. Even your CEO uncle, aunt, or friend, will have to forward it to HR or an assistant. For a cover letter, Put in a short and sweet paragraph that states what position you’re applying for, your skillset and experience (if any), and contact details (contact number and e-mail will suffice).

And for the love of christ, please proofread anything you write. Forget what your parents say: first impressions do matter. So refresh the basic rules of English subject-verb agreement.

Know of any other ways that helped you nab a creative job? Share it in the comments.


[Day 19] A talent of yours

I would like to say storytelling, but it’s a talent I’m still trying to hone.

This calls for a writing sample. I wrote this as a copywriting exercise in the agency I used to work for. The challenge was to write a story based on this news article. I was also given this (rather disturbing) tribute as a peg. Isn’t it amazing how you can look as if you know someone just by tracking them online?

The instructions were: write about the incident, and it has to mention that the victim’s eyes were donated to the blood bank.

Part of the 30 Day Writing Meme. Next is Day 20: A Hobby of Yours.

Short Story: The Wake

Pa couldn’t sleep the night through, not since Josh, his son, died.
It was the second day of the wake, a good few hours after the guests left.

His wife, exhausted, slept in the chapel pantry. Pa decided to take a smoke outside the chapel, his breather from being surrounded by people and the sickening-sweet scent of funeral flowers.

He lit up a Marlboro Red. As he inhaled the first smoke, he realized he’d been a smoker for twenty years now. Funny, he mused, that he has yet to be diagnosed for anything more serious. He smiled at his own wit, which hurt.
He still expects his son to show up.

Continue reading

[Day 14] A non-fictional book

I recently picked up ‘I should have stayed at home: The worst trips of great writers’. It’s an anthology of anecdotes from different writers on the worst trips they’ve ever been on. Among the writers featured are Pico Iyer, Isabel Allende, Paul Thereoux, and many more.

Isabelle Allende writes about going around Europe on $1 a day, while Pico Iyer and a companion dodge sexual predators in Egypt. In another chapter, a writer talks about an impromptu trip around the world by a US president and the toll it took on his press corps. It’s more than little cautionary tales while on the road, it is, in essence, the best of the worst.

After all, as Mary Morris says in her introduction, “But it is not our comforts we remember–or that anyone else cares to remember for that matter. What is memorable is misery. It is our dismay, our disbelief, and the fact that we made it through. There is some perverse natural law that makes adversity lead to inspiration.”

Oh whew, finally reached the halfway point of this meme!

Part of the 30 Day Writing Meme. Next is Day 15: A fanfic.

[Day 13] A fictional book

I’ll count the last entry as the one for day 12.

Funny, when made to name a fictional book, I’m at a loss for words. Where to start? I already wrote about Harriet the Spy.

Ah, I know, I’ll write about the Jessica Darling series.

The Jessica Darling Books by Megan McCafferty

I make no excuses: this is chick-lit. I actually like chick-lit when the female protagonist is not so simplistic. It isn’t all about settling down and getting married after all. As a twenty-something girl who often feels like someone in a chick-lit setting, it’s a juggling act of work, love, friendship, and coming to terms with myself. It is a cliche because it’s true.

Jessica Darling from books one to three narrates through a compilation of letters to her best friend. She is a frustrated achiever, smarter and more aware of what goes on outside of her little town. Of all the people to empathize with her, it’s with Marcus, the high school druggie. What follows is a rollercoaster relationship with Marcus, as well as struggling to stick to the bigger picture no matter how small-minded the world around her is. As she enters Columbia University in New York, she finds that even she looks as small as the town she left behind. Add to that is the complex on-off relationship with Marcus, who has chosen to tread an alternative approach to life.

In book 4, Jessica Darling chooses to make her life without Marcus. It’s not a spoiler, I think this is a plus in the Jessica Darling series – book 5, she encounters Marcus again. They don’t end up together, but they finally understand what it is that has kept them together for all that time.

The Jessica Darling series was lent to me at an interesting time. I had a Marcus, one I’m still coming to terms with. It is one of those things a friend and I often agree to be, “when smart people become stupid”. I’m not ashamed to own up to my smarts, but I know I have HUGE potholes in my rationale.

I always appreciate female leads who don’t have to be right all the time. That is more real to me than someone who actually makes the dream of having it all. I only know one person who finally had it all, and it was a lifetime struggle for her. I like that the series writes about the struggle. Jessica Darling is often unsatisfied, but it rings true. It helps that McCafferty made it so timely: she did her research and grounded it very well into the time it was written.

Everything just read so well and felt so real. I still read it from time to time when hit by nostalgia, or confusion.

Part of the 30 Day Writing Meme. Next is Day 14: A Non-fictional book.

[Writing Meme] Day 6: Whatever catches your fancy

I am a workaholic because I don’t like being restless. I also like money a lot, like any person really. I don’t like being tied down by poverty, and I abhor being bored.

Of course, juggling labor-heavy jobs such as crew-work and teaching will take its toll on the body. I hate getting sick, and I should be taking my vitamins more diligently. Even when that doesn’t work, I can only hope to stave off the flu with home remedy I picked off a talk show during college. It’s what I like to call the anti-flu marinade.

Anti-Flu Marinade


(1/2) Cup Rock Salt

(1) Lemon wedge (can be replaced with 2-4 calamansis)

(1) Tablespoon of olive oil


Pour the rock salt into a small bowl, then mix in the olive oil. Squeeze in the lemon or calamansi.

How to use:

Scrub down with this mixture in a hot shower or bath. Rinse off.

You’ll feel refreshed right after. In my experience, if you do this during early symptoms of the flu (low fever, slight sniffles) it’s sometimes enough to keep it away.

So that’s what I’m doing now for a speedy recovery for the flu. I have tech week, bills to pay, and I need to be in tip-top shape!

Part of the 30 Day Writing Meme. Next is Day 7: A photo that makes you happy.

[Writing Meme] Day 5: Your Favorite Quote

Two stick to me —

“From the ashes of my failures shall rise the empire of my successes.” -as seen by Jessica Zafra on the back of a jeep


“The world is not perfect, therefore it is.” -Kino no Tabi/Kino’s Journey. This is the fansub translation in the anime. The official English manga translation says it’s “The world is not beautiful, therefore it is”, which could also apply, but I much prefer the insight from the fansub.

Part of the 30 Day Meme. Next is Day 6: Whatever tickles your fancy.

[Writing Meme] Day 4: Your Favorite Book

I was a funny kid. I was more enamored by a list of banned books than I was by any best seller or recommended library list. Harriet the Spy caught my eye on a list of banned books in one of those almanacs. I was intrigued about the story of the spunky young kid who writes notes about other people. My first writing workshop with Teacher Maya Jacinto used an excerpt from Harriet as an example for worldbuilding, and a few months later I managed to find a copy from a boutique bookstore.

I had this vague notion of wanting to be a writer, and I automatically took to anything that talked about writing. I was eleven years old at the time and didn’t really understand the emotional range and complications Harriet went through, even though we were about the same age. I realized later that I probably saw myself through Harriet: the awkward kid who wrote a lot and were open to a lot of things my peers weren’t open to. At the time I started reading Harrier the Spy I really was growing up, and growing out from my colleagues. My elementary school was one of those most students stayed in from kindergarten through grade 7. I got the feeling, though I couldn’t quite put it to words at the time, that change was not something my peers were open to. I didn’t feel free to try new things, and in the few times I did I wasn’t prepared for the ridicule and criticism that followed.

It took a few reads for me to get Harriet, and a few more years before I really understood how much the book taught me. To this day I read the book when I feel that I’m in an awkward place, or when I’m about to come face-to-face with dangerous, beautiful truth.

Part of the 30 Day Writing Meme. Next is Day 5: Your Favorite Quote.