“I can work on my own or in a team” – The Perils of Beige Work Applications

I have a shiny £5 note here for anyone who can tell me who the first person was who used this phrase in a CV or application. It seems strange, as clearly at some point there was a trend for taking basic human functions and displaying them as core employment competencies.

As usual, clarification is required before I sound (even more) like a grumpy old woman.

Everyone has to start somewhere, with a blank piece of paper, writing a CV or covering statement, trying to demonstrate what you are good at when you have not had much experience. There is lots of (sometimes conflicting) advice on CV writing out there, so you would think that we would all have this nailed by now.

However the use of throwaway comments and clichéd statements is still really common in applications.  At best, these sound empty and make you blend straight into the background with all the other applicants, but could also jeopardise your application by taking up space that could be used by something more interesting.

I tend to refer to this enigma as:

THE BEIGE EFFECT”; (noun) – the result of using non-supported statements or descriptions in a job application, thus rendering it less impactful, potentially hindering success.

So here is an alternative translation of some commonly used phrases that will hopefully encourage you to do some careful re-wording:

  1. “I can work on my own or as part of a team”

(trans): “ I have mastered the concept that I do not live alone in my own reality, and am able to function both physically and verbally when encountering other members of the human race. Equally, if you leave me unattended for longer than 30 seconds, I will not burst into tears, undress myself in public while screaming, or power down like a laptop going into sleep mode.”

  1. “ I have good communication skills”

(trans): see my previous all-singing all-dancing blog on this one:

http://www.step.org.uk/not-another-lecture-importance-communication-skills/

  1. “In my spare time I enjoy spending time with friends and family”

(trans): “While I cannot change my genetic connections with certain individuals, I do not find this upsetting. Equally, there are other human beings that I am not genetically bound to, that I also choose to interact with consistently. Please consider this somehow relevant to my application.”

  1. I have good use of IT.”(with no further information included to support this)

(trans): “I have touched computers before and they didn’t explode

  1. “I believe I have lots of different skills that would be useful” (with no further information included)

(trans): “I have managed to keep myself alive for (x) amount of years thus far. This must mean that I have something to contribute to a business”

I say all of the above with the confession that I myself have been guilty of using these phrases during my life, and I acknowledge that of course it gets easier as you get older as you feel you have more to talk about, more to draw on.

However I do firmly believe that anyone who is either applying for a graduate level job, or has done at least one year of university and is looking for a placement, WILL have something more to offer in their applications and personal statements. After all, you will have been alive for at least 18 years, and I know you will have something more to show for it. The skill lies in being aware of the needs to identify these elements, and to talk about them in a way that is qualified with examples, rather than empty statements.

Give it a go today – believe in yourself, and don’t go beige.

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