Give context

This video is 10 minutes long. It explains how context helps build your story, and makes your accomplishments worth more.

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Hello, my name is Matt Krause, and I am the CV Doctor in Istanbul, Turkey.

Today’s lesson is called, “Give context”.

Adding context to your CV achieves a similar purpose as adding numbers. It gives live to your accomplishments. It gives them a shape, it gives them a background. It paints a bigger picture.

Let me give you an example of “giving context”…

Pretend you’re a finance person, an Accounts Receivable manager…

Here’s your accomplishment:

“Raised Accounts Receivable 20%.”

Wait a minute, that’s not a good thing, right? I mean, the job of an Accounts Receivable manager is to REDUCE accounts receivable, right? Accounts receivable means people owe you money. You want to collect that money, you want to convert it into cash, so you can put it in the bank, right?

But here’s another way to say that…

“Kept growth of A/R balance at 20%, when sales grew 53%.”

Now, THAT’S an accomplishment. Sales went up by a lot, but Accounts Receivable only went up by a little. Meaning, you were doing your job really well. You were collecting cash really fast.

That’s what I mean by “give context”. Sometimes, the larger story makes your own individual story more meaningful.

Now, let’s look at my own CV, and find some examples…

Under Communications Coach, look at this sentence…

“Trained educational cooperative how to use internet as a marketing and customer acquisition tool.”

Yeah, that’s cool, but it could be better.

How? Well, let’s give it some context.

You see, at the time, there was an economic crisis. The worldwide economic crisis has been a big event for the past year, but this CV doesn’t mention it anywhere.

This particular job, training the educational cooperative, happened during the crisis.

And you know what? Those new marketing tools helped them maintain their prices. Everyone else was cutting their prices, losing money, but not them.

So, let’s add this…

“The new techniques allowed them to maintain prices and protect margins when an economic crisis pressured competitors to drop theirs.”

So at first, we had “I taught someone how to do something”. Now, we have “I taught someone how to do something during a crisis”, and even better, “I taught someone how to do something during a crisis, so they wouldn’t lose money”.

That’s a pretty good use of context.

Okay, let’s look for another example..

Let’s look here at Moda Jewels…

Here’s some context to the Moda Jewels job…

But before we start writing, let me tell you about the background. That’s the thing about context — you’ve got to talk about it, before you know what context to describe…

At Moda Jewels, my main business was selling “evil eye” bracelets. Basically, cheap jewelry from Turkey.

It was a very commodified business.

The prices were pretty low — something like $10, or $20 each.

Plus, there were at least 10 different online stores selling them, and everyone was selling the same bracelets, and all my competitors were even buying them from the same supplier.

So the bigger picture is, it was a very commodified business…

But if you don’t already know that, you won’t learn it from my CV, because my CV says nothing about that…

So let’s say something about that.

Before we’re ready to write, we have to tell the readers how we dealt with the situation.

It’s not enough to say, “it was a commodified business”…

We need to tell them what we did. How did we respond…

One thing I did was, I sponsored some groups in the US — cultural groups, like singing groups, and dancing groups, that had a lot of contact with my target customers.

These groups used my products to help them spread the word and make their guests happy.

So, I wasn’t just a commodity anymore.

A woman would go to one of these concerts, for example, and have a great time, and meet some interesting people, and have a rich cultural experience, and then the singers would give her a little gift to take home, like a bracelet or some earrings or something, and the Moda Jewels name was on it.

So now, if she wanted some more evil eye stuff, or she told her friends about it, Moda Jewels wasn’t just another “seller just like everyone else”.

Moda Jewels was “this really cool sponsor who’s helping these great singers”.

That’s a valuable marketing and positioning tactic. It differentiates you from the competition, so you’re not just a commodity competing on low prices alone.

So let’s put something about that into the CV…

Let’s try writing, “Avoided commodification pressure by sponsoring cultural groups near to the target market, building a brand reputation for community support.”

Okay, so let’s do one more. Actually, I’m not going to correct something, I’m going to show you an example of context, an example I like…

Look below, at Eddie Bauer…

“Collaborated with other Retail Ops Finance members to develop ways to make more efficient use of the existing budget money, to maintain as much staffing in the stores as possible given the shrinking budgets brought on by steep drops in sales.”

That’s context. Sure, we were trying to use the money better. That’s a good thing. But you can use money better anytime, in good times, or in bad times.

So note the last part of that sentence, because it gives the reader some context…

“…given the shrinking budgets brought on by steep drops in sales”…

It tells the reader, “1), we were saving money, 2) we were trying to save money because sales were dropping, and 3), we were trying to save money, but we were still trying to keep as many employees in the stores as possible”.

It tells the reader, “in difficult times, we got creative, so we could still keep getting better, even though times were tough”.

If all you did was say the first part, “Collaborated with other Retail Ops Finance members to develop ways to make more efficient use of the existing budget money,” that doesn’t tell you anything interesting, and in fact, it’s just a job description.

But when you add context, it’s not just a job description, it’s a story.

Okay, that’s it for now.

Remember, the goal of this lesson was: Use context, to tell a better story. A better story gives your CV life. Sure, you only have 10 seconds to really impress the reader.

But if you impress the reader, he might read your CV further. And if he reads further, you don’t want to disappoint him!

Also, remember that your CV can ALWAYS be improved. You can ALWAYS apply these lessons. They will never get old. Improve your CV, and then improve it again, and then improve it again, and then improve it again.

Thank you for watching, good luck to you, and remember, I am always here to help. Take care.