Stop Polishing Your CV – Do This Instead.

In the face of a major change in career or the prospect of one – whether that’s applying for a big new role, leaving an organisation, finishing a professional sport or exiting from a company you started – a typical question is: What now?

And a common answer seems to be: Polish your resume.

But this seems to lead to further confusion in what can be challenging circumstances. Where to start? What to write? Who should I talk to? Conversations can feel “needy”, and often it can be hard for people to help.

But there’s a step that needs to come before that.

That’s writing your own Ideal Job Description.

Not for job you think you might like, but for the one that would light you up, tap all your strengths and experience, surround you with the support you need and put you in your sweet spot for exceptional results and impact.

This clarity is critical and that’s what the below exercise is all about.

If you can be clear with yourself, suddenly everything becomes simpler. It becomes easier for people to help and refer you to others. Rather than you needing something it becomes about you looking for the right fit. It helps you filter opportunities and develop your selection process to give you the best chance of nailing whatever comes next.

So once you have that written down, take it with you to your interviews. All good interviews are a two-way street. They will have their criteria and now you have yours. Then question the company, organisation or board that you’re applying for and see how they measure up.

Alternatively if you’re extracting out of the day to day of running your own company or heading out to start a new one, I’ve found this exercise useful to consider where help and support is needed to make the change from other people whether that’s agencies, coaches, contractors or employees.

When I started out on my own 2 years ago, that meant I immediately appointed three people: my bookkeeper, accountant and scrum master. I also knew that I would need help with my diary, so a year later, I advertised for my assistant.

Each of these was to tap the expertise of others in order to help me work to my strengths, focus on the most important work and help me stay in my sweet spot.

Ideal Job Description Exercise

The questions are below or you can download a word template as a part of my toolkit here >>

If you don’t have an immediate answer, that’s fine. Put down the first thing that springs to mind or leave it and come back at a later time.

I strongly recommend setting a timer for 30 minutes (max 45 mins).

This will force you to take your intuition and get to a working draft as quickly as possible. You can iterate from there, as many times as you like, as you get feedback.

Your Name


  • What is your purpose?


  • What are your values?


  • Who is important to you? (individuals, groups of people) please include your own name!
  • What is important to you? (goals, ideas, concepts)


  • Where do you see yourself in 12 months, 5 years, 10 years?


  • What are your strengths?
  • What energises you?
  • What are you best at? What have others told you in the past?
  • What would you willingly do for free?
  • When are you in your sweet spot?


  • What are you not good at?
  • What do you not like doing?
  • What drains your energy?
  • What do you know about your blind spots? What have others told you in the past?


  • Who do you need around you to help you stay in your sweet spot?
  • Do you like to lead?
  • Do you like to manage people?
  • What are the characteristics of the team you’d most like to work in?


  • What kind of working conditions get the best from you? Remote, in person, mix – what kind of mix?
  • What would your ideal working environment look like? Location, style, ambience?


  • What remuneration do you need?
  • What remuneration do you want?

Topics of interest

  • What topics interest you the most?


  • What causes interest you?
  • What causes do you contribute money to currently or in the past?


  • What did you want to be when you were growing up?
  • Who would you most want to meet? Why?
  • What’s on your bucket list? Personally? Professionally?

Just a note that the answers that fall out of this exercise might be specifically useful or they may help to highlight themes address.


Depending on where you are in your journey of the change, this might be what you’re taking to interviews or it may be what you need to understand in order to make a “stay or go” decision.

Recently, on the back of this exercise, a client noticed that rather than leaving where she was, there were a few small tweaks to her current situation that would make an enormous difference and that would allow her to stay. That sparked conversations internally to see if or how her existing organisation might be able to meet her ideals. She’s proven herself as a top performer already and in my experience organisations like to keep their best talent.

This also happened when I was working with a business owner who had made the decision to leave his own business and then ultimately reversed that decision.

For other clients, they’re writing these up as they consider applying for board roles, starting their own businesses or contemplate how they can maximise their strengths and skills to give back to causes they care most deeply about.

So as I say to my clients, I’m agnostic to the outcome but I’m all in on you being who you want to be before, during and after the decision process.

Improve your decision making in 5 minutes
Download the evidence-backed Choice Point worksheet