How strong is your “Alt-CV”?

Paying attention to the things not on a CV can be just as important as the things that are on it

Like most people I like to keep my CV and LinkedIn profile up-to-date. I think my CV and profile do a pretty good job of representing the “work me” – the qualities and experience that you might want to hire me or my company for.

But there’s another side that’s not revealed in the standard CV: it’s what I call my “Alt-CV” – the alternative CV that contains things that rarely, if ever, make it onto a regular CV.

It’s all about me

As I’ve got older, I’ve noticed that some of my contemporaries’ LinkedIn profiles have started to including straplines such as “lady of leisure at retired” and “golf course tester at taking some time out”. With that in mind I decided my headline/summary on my Alt-CV should include things like:

  • Part-time barista – I make a pretty good cappuccino
  • Baker – I’ve started baking my own bread and have to say the results are pretty good
  • Regular contributor to BBC Radio 3 – I regularly email their Essential Classics show in the morning with “playlist suggestions” and occasionally get a shout-out (although for a classical music show that’s probably the wrong term)
  • Guitar collector – I own a total of six guitars and occasionally play them

These are deliberately light-hearted but, whilst they won’t get me hired – although I have deployed an acoustic guitar on a couple of occasions in a work context – they represent some of the things that are important to me.   

Monkey business

A few years ago, I had my first one to one with a member of my new team. I suggested that if we were to discuss development and career progression it should be in the context of what she wanted to do with her life. The result surprised me: “I’d really like to work with wild animals” she said. Barely suppressing a quip that some sales managers in the company were pretty untamed, I said that I couldn’t directly advise on that career path but if that was a personal objective, she ought to see how she could work towards it. Following a reorganisation shortly afterwards I moved to a new team, so my career development advice was apparently short-lived. However, I got an invitation about a year later to the team member’s leaving drinks as she was about to take a three-month sabbatical. At the event she thanked me publicly for giving her the nudge to pursue her ambition: she was about to spend her time volunteering in three different animal sanctuaries in the Far East…

I’d like to be able to say she went on to run a ground-breaking conservation charity but, in fact, she came back after her trip and decided that, whilst it had been immensely enjoyable, she had decided that she didn’t want to pursue that as a life goal after all and went back to her previous job. The last I heard she was still there and considering weekend volunteering at a wildlife centre near her home.


Whilst I don’t claim my career advice in the above example was especially innovative or unique, I was implicitly acknowledging that my colleague had a life outside of work and that that was just as important as her life at work. Allowing people to bring their “whole self” to work is key in helping them feel more fulfilled and engaged and results in better performance, with a knock-on beneficial effect on customers and the bottom line.

NextTen’s Richard Horner has turned this into an approach – the Framework of Champions – that provides a systematic method of helping employees align their own personal purpose with that of the organisation. Companies that have adopted this have reported dramatic improvements in growth rates, financial performance and engagement with some areas showing results inside a month.

Whilst you’ll always find high-performing people who want to keep their work and personal lives entirely separate, there’s much to be gained as a leader and a team-member from having a strong “Alt-CV” and making it visible.

2 thoughts on “How strong is your “Alt-CV”?

  1. Whilst I find your comments entertaining, I always advise people never to mention hobbies or interests on their CVs. Why? Because, particularly in high level recruitment, I find that some interests can be a complete turn off to the people doing the interviewing. I have seen some amazing hobbies and activities in 33 years of headhunting and recruitment, but they are of little value to the person doing the interviewing. They need to know your skills and abilities to do the job. Once you have the job, any hobbies and activities can be brought up, but rarely do unusual hobbies and activities win you the role – the majority of the time they put people off. Regards. Mel Haskins

    1. Yes Melvin, I agree and that’s why my more arcane interests (including using words like arcane) don’t make it to my CV. The point was whether understanding more about the “other stuff” that people maybe think doesn’t belong in the workplace helps you get more out of your team. There’s a backlash coming on this soon I think, so look forward to more thoughts on this subject.

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