It Started With a CV… Why The Payoff Is Worth Taking The Risk

(As featured on Entrepreneur Middle East)

It’s the same every year. A range of emotions play out; the anticipation, the build-up and then… the decision. You know, the one that essentially defines your career path for the next 40+ years. Bleak, isn’t it?!

You have to feel for students on results day. Among the excitement and heartbreak (you remember what it was like to be 18) there’s a flurry of activity on what comes next. Sure, they could pigeonhole themselves early on studying delights, such as Beyoncé, Maple Syrup and Jedi Training 101 (real courses, honestly) when in reality, they should be thinking much further ahead than traditional years of study dictate.

The working world has never been more fluid, and we should all be taking advantage of that. I’m just highlighting one end of the spectrum here, but arguably anyone can change things up, whatever stage in their career they may be at. In the past, we were encouraged to find a job for life, to climb the corporate ladder, or that a title and a big salary equaled success, but now… times are changing.

Millennials are quitting their jobs more frequently without a back-up plan, preferring to travel the globe, work flexibly and broaden both their skill sets and horizons. Gen Z is becoming pickier about the professions they go in to, electing to try as many different career fields as possible. Today, knowledge, rather than power, is their main driver.

Given that I don’t exactly fall into this bucket (I’m a proud member of the Gen X club) my experience of this actually happened when I hit 34. I had moved from Milan to Dubai, ready to take up the corporate mantle once again, having spent the past few years studying for my Masters, but things didn’t quite work out the way I’d planned.

As any budding entrepreneur will tell you, there’s only so many bad interviews you can sit through before you realize that you’re on the wrong side of the desk. Sure, I was an ambitious architect and loved what I did, but my side hustle in visual design was itching to become a full-time reality, even if I didn’t know it myself yet. My lightbulb moment actually came courtesy of my sister one evening, as she gave me the push to stray from the ‘life plan’ and instead dedicate everything to my burgeoning new business.

I can’t say I relished the thought of no job security and becoming a social recluse for the next 12 months, but the thought of being able to translate my creativity in a new way, fired me up to make a real go of it.

So, my CV gathering virtual dust from the early 00s, formatted in what is probably the most shameful of generic fonts, (Calibri) now needed to perform a new purpose; a visual representation of who I am today. It’s proven that we retain information much more with visual aids, and yet, our CVs, arguably the most important document we will ever create, seem destined for the word graveyard.

Choosing the right words to highlight your skills is all very well, but what really needs to come across today is your personality and what better way to do this than through visual design? Once I made this connection and with encouraging words from friends and colleagues, I could see how this would translate to other fields, helping businesses visualize important, but often dull, information to communicate more effectively.

My CV became my best-selling point, and ultimately, the validation I needed to take a leap of faith and transition my architectural mind into the new creative world of information design. When you think about it, the process behind the two is remarkably similar, and once you break down those silos, it’s this fluid way of working that will define the skill sets, not careers of the future.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. While my creative passion was there from the beginning, a different approach to showcasing who I was gave me a clear direction of what to do next. The moral of the story? Take the risk and dare to be different – 2018’s working world demands it of us. We all need to be able to wear multiple hats, transition our skills across multiple departments and have a wide variety of interests to succeed today.

Being an expert in your field is fine, but don’t be blinkered to what the rest of the world has to offer you. Trust me, a leap of faith (and a good friend) are all it takes.