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Your Actual CV

The translation of the Latin, Curriculum Vitae is "course of life". As you know a CV is the document that lists and explains who you are, what you do and roles and responsibilities throughout your working career.

I have always been prone to comparing myself with others, often feeling like I have come up short, (maybe because I am 1,6 metres “tall”) constantly measuring my life alongside others and the result is very seldom good. Throughout our lives our perspectives are distorted and we become honed in on a certain set of criteria in which we find ourselves competing in an arena of self-doubt and inadequacy as we do battle to be the last gladiator standing in the Coliseum of life.

We all have a Curriculum Vita, or CV by now in which we have recorded the positions held, the list of responsibilities as well as portfolio of the projects we have been a part of and the things we have done.

I would like to propose a new type of CV, I think of it as Your Actual CV and it’s not just the documented history of your working life. What about all the memorable achievements that do not have names as yet? Consider the roles and responsibilities from the rest of your life outside of who you are from 8-5pm. I’m talking about an opportunity to record, acknowledge and celebrate the events and circumstances that have got you to where you actually are today.

Ditch the nametag. So often when I present to corporate groups, I usually pick someone from the audience and hit them with a cocky “Who are you?!” They more often than not reply with a nervous “um, I’m the Assistant to the Managing Director” or “I’m just a clerk”. Never once has anyone responded with their name and I actually look forward to the day when I am put in my place when someone stands up and says “I am Melissa. Proud, single mom of two beautiful, talented children.”


So often we live the label we are given in the work environment, but often resign to it as a destiny and not merely as just one of many important roles.

I presented to a company who were one of my equipment sponsors when I climbed Everest. The presentation was intended to motivate the staff in a difficult time as the company structure was changing due to an acquisition. There was an underlying concern that the company would grow into a giant faceless corporation and the employees would become insignificant numbers.

I tried to take them on the journey I had walked up the mountain, showing them their equipment at work, explaining the extreme conditions that we had both endured and emerged victorious. I then turned to ask the audience who were the seamstresses who assemble the clothing and all-weather equipment. A few skeptical women raised their hands not knowing what my next question would be. Next I asked who is the person responsible for the assembly of my down suit.

The lady that had her arm in the air, smiling sheepishly. She shyly stood up, not knowing where I was going with this. An awkward silence washed over the group as they probably began to speculate if I had a complaint or criticism. I took a deep breath and broke the silence with a sincere “Thank you.” Her forehead creased, as she was as confused as everyone else there.

“Thank you. Without you I could have died or been horribly disfigured. If you were having a bad day at work, had stopped caring and let one faulty seam go through, I could have lost my life, my fingers, my toes.” By now she was smiling with tears in her eyes. She held a position as important as CEO and all we needed to do was to view from a better perspective.

She was more than what her name badge said. She was not her job description; she was an integral piece in the success of that company, and a hero.

That day she (and everyone there) realised she was not just a machinist; she was a lifesaver and part of a journey to push the human race forward. She was a parent, a friend, role model and a team player. But on paper her CV just says “Machinist”.

The effect on the crowd was impressive and electrifying. When we were done, the room was alive with smiling chatter and the doubt of being lost in the system was furthest from their minds.

So take a moment to think about, and I dare you to attempt listing a few of those things that you are, but wouldn’t find on a boring Word document. Take some time to think about the little things that make a big impact. The cup of coffee you took a friend when she was stressed. The things you do as a parent. That time you stopped at a car accident.

It’s the little roles we play in everyday life that define us and make us who we are, not the list of abbreviations behind our name or the parking bay we occupy. My challenge to you is to steal a moment and take note of the various roles you fulfill in your life.

Also work on your answer for the day when some short guy with a microphone asks “Who are you?” in front of the whole company.

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