A CV workshop led through the Trade School framework is distinct from any other employment skills-based workshop. Founded by artists on a bartering system, Trade School is immediately opened up to all, sharing knowledge and experience (and maybe a lighthearted physical item like sweets) in exchange for a variety of new subjects. But there was one thing that set this session apart even more, a quality I certainly haven’t experienced at similar meetings: Lauren Valler.

A Different Kind of Teacher

‘Infectious’ is often used to emphasise positive attributes, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this in the flesh like I did with Lauren, and after talking to other attendees the following day, I wasn’t alone. More to the point, I’ve never found myself still thinking and talking about a CV workshop days later.

The founder of Habakuk, a marketing recruitment agency, provided us all with notebooks and pens, leading her on to the inspiration and values of her business. As a modern agency with a foundation of Christian beliefs, both the contemporary and ancient relevance of positive affirmation and thinking soon becomes clear – Valler explains how prophet Habakkuk relayed the Lord’s words: ‘write down the revelation/vision’, breathing truth into what is put down in words. Throughout the session, both Valler and Caterina Efé (Communications and Partnerships Executive) asked us all to write down and communicate things we like about ourselves, as well as things we liked about the session and how it could be improved, which they listened to with earnest and enthusiasm. The result was a supportive, positive and relaxed atmosphere, free from judgment or criticism (and, if the prophecy rings true, manifestation of our affirmations).

While some may be unsure about a business with a religious background, there is no doubting the professionalism and knowledge of the company and staff. Furthermore, the principles of Habakuk align with that of trade school itself, channeling 10% of its profits into monthly courses in the community through its initiative HKVision.

The Passing of Knowledge

Valler, supported by vocal attendees of many backgrounds and professions, went on to impart practical and relevant tips and tricks for CV excellence and application fluency after describing ‘the best’ CV she ever saw (a one-page digital file with links to other pages and videos). Happy to support those both digital fluent and phobic, the advice she gave demonstrated her genuine hope for our success – including:

  • Open your CV with a ‘powerful’ introduction – how do you immediately want to sell yourself to an employer?
  • Use bullet points for quick navigation and fluency, including a list of past employers
  • Stick to a 1-2 page CV with a dual column layout, i.e. keep skills and contact information on one side, and employer history on the other
  • Replace lengthy paragraphs with buzzwords – this will help recruiters match you quickly with a job description, as well as showing up through search engine optimization
  • Nurture your niche and stick to it. If you find it hard to find jobs in your niche, seek out specialist employment agencies and directly contact the hiring manager of potential businesses. Researching the company and relevant staff also shows competency and professionalism
  • You could request to see a place of work before agreeing to an interview to make sure that you like it. This also demonstrates initiative, professionalism, and thoroughness
  • If you’re unsure how to label yourself or are between jobs, you can describe yourself as ‘building a career in…’
  • Be authentic while referring an application or interview back to the job description. You could take this further by doing a personality test such as Myers Briggs to emphasise certain skills and traits you have included in a job description
  • Greet your interviewer/hiring manager with a firm handshake, eye contact and prepare questions. If you can’t think of any, try ‘is there anything that would deter you from hiring me?’ It may sound daunting, but this is a great way to find out what an employer thinks of you, gives you an idea of your chances and provides you the opportunity to clarify anything regarding your relevant experience, skills etc.
  • Be clear on examples of any skills you list – never claim something you can’t back up
  • Perfect your LinkedIn profile. Use your buzzwords, list past employers, qualifications, and skills, and ask for references. Building it up makes you look credible and engaging, and is a great way to research and network with businesses and employers/hiring managers

On a Positive Note

Concluding the session, some were happy with the knowledge they gained and left, while a handful of us stayed behind to further pick Valler’s brain. After hearing our doubts about ourselves, careers and paths, she assured us all to take our time, and to ‘just be’. After sharing some of her own past doubts and benefits of faith, she offered a prayer for us. Whilst not being particularly religious myself, I know that for someone who is, the act of prayer is the most meaningful thing they can offer; which even to a non-believer is incredibly touching.

I would recommend anyone attend a trade school and/or HKVision session. Lauren’s kindness and optimism, as well as her wealth of knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit, will, if nothing else, put a dent in any negativity you may be feeling towards yourself or your path – and leave the potential of written affirmation ringing in your ears.

Amy McCranor

Amy McCranor

Hi! I'm Amy, a Fashion Design and Communication graduate from Birmingham City University. Talk to me about fashion, art, writing and veganism :)