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Life on a Paper—A Workshop on How to Write a CV and SOP

On Thursday, 23rd January 2019, the Career Development Centre partnered with the ESIGELEC—a premier French Graduate School of Engineering, to host ‘The Written Word’, a workshop on writing a better curriculum vitae(CV) and statement of purpose(SoP). The event took place in the MV Seminar Hall and the primary focus of this session was writing a CV and SoP for applying to universities abroad—however, the fundamentals discussed were extremely relevant for job applications as well.

The speaker for this seminar was Ms Vidya Suresh. With over 25 years of teaching experience at the Alliance Française de Bangalore and more than 15 years of experience in student counselling, Ms Vidya Suresh currently handles the South Asia Office of ESIGELEC. She has also served for eight years as Education Adviser, Campus France, Bangalore.

Credits: Dr M. Vijaya Kini

The talk began with the speaker highlighting the importance of a CV as a marketing tool. The most crucial aspect was crafting the CV to make a distinct and positive impression in six seconds, which happens to be the average time that an assessment panel spends with every individual CV. There was a lot of emphasis placed upon ‘long-distance persuasion’—the material must be concise and organised, with a calculated use of ‘action words’.

The discussion then proceeded towards the actual format of a CV. Of the two popular CV writing formats— reverse chronological and skill-based—the former was discussed since a skill-based CV is more relevant for people choosing a different type of field for post-graduation. The various sections of the CV were discussed—personal information, education, professional experience, awards and ranks, machine skills, language skills, references, and personal interests. This was followed by a case study to analyse the accurate method of writing, and also to avoid frequently made errors.

The second half of the workshop was focused on writing the statement of purpose, or the SOP, which is usually a seven hundred and fifty-word long essay. The speaker discussed how the SOP was basically the story of a student’s journey and how this could be a redeeming ground in many aspects, such as by explaining the reasons for tainted grades or a weak beginning. She discussed a lot of ways to make the SOP interesting, for example, by writing about an incident which was a source of motivation. Like the CV, this segment was also followed by a case study of a well-crafted SOP and a poorly written one.

Credits: Dr M. Vijaya Kini

The session was extremely interactive. There were several questions raised by the students, which threw light upon various aspects of the subjects. The slides used in this demonstration were well organised and informative. A summary of those slides, provided by Ms Vidya Suresh, can be found here.

“It really helped me understand all the small doubts regarding how to present the CV,” said Khushi Bhatnagar, a participant at the workshop. The key takeaway from this seminar was the importance of maintaining honesty and authenticity while working on a document as essential as one’s curriculum vitae.

Featured Image Credits: Career Development Centre, MIT