1.2 Where? Where have we come from?

To determine your future first understand your past

When was the last time you had to write or update your CV or résumé?

The reason I ask is that one of the best ways to understand where we are going is to examine where we have come from.

“To determine your future first understand your past”

Tschäppeler and Krogerus

Story: From blowing things up to building things up

When I left full-time service in the military I had to find a job in the civilian world and therefore I had to write a CV (curriculum vitae) for the first time. I had to reflect on my experience and how it would translate to a career in a whole new sphere.

For example, my first role in the military was as a Bomb Disposal Officer. Of course, this sounded impressive but I was applying to become a Project Manager at the time and most construction businesses had few explosive devices sitting around their offices. So I had to translate my experience for this new world. Employers wanted someone who could raise profits, not the roof, and who could defuse arguments, rather than bombs.

I was fortunate to know someone who had previously served in the military but who now worked in the executive recruitment industry and they gave me some invaluable advice that I will share with you below.

Point to note here before we go on: always consider who you know in your network who can give you advice. This is something we will come back to when considering the ‘who’ questions.

The advice I received was to analyse my achievements, rather than just listing all the things I had done (the usual default when writing a CV or résumé).

By understanding our achievements (and failures) in the past we can identify our strengths and weaknesses, and see how we can use our skills and passions in the future. 

When we translate this into our résumé or CV it gives an employer a picture of how we can contribute to a new team or organisation.

Model: The Making-Of Model

When looking at the question ‘where have we come from’, the best model I have come across for doing the actual analysis of one’s past is the ‘Making-Of Model’ developed by the Grove consulting agency.

In this model, you think back and choose a timeframe that you want to examine, for example, a project you were part of or a role you performed.

Then create a timeline, you can draw one on some blank paper, and then add the following details to the timeline:

  • The people involved
  • Your goals (for that period of time)
  • The successes (and failures)
  • The obstacles you overcame
  • What you learned

Try and do this for four or five significant events in your past and then ask yourself:

  • What personal strengths and weaknesses are revealed?
  • Are there any themes that emerge from the different stories?
  • How can you apply the lessons you learned?
  • How do your successes or failures of the past inspire you for the future?

“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” 

Søren Kierkegaard

Exercise: Write or update your CV or résumé

Now you are in a great position to write your CV, using the stories you examined to bring your résumé to life. Set yourself some time today, I recommend at least 20-30 minutes, to do this exercise.

If you want more help with writing your CV then I recommend you follow the link to read ‘How to write a CV – the things you need to know.’

Action: Review, update, adapt

Put a date in your diary to go back to your CV in order to review, update and adapt it. This is a good exercise to do on an annual or bi-annual basis so set a reminder for 6 or 12 months in your calendar.

Reflection Question

So, where have you come from? What have you learned about yourself in this exercise? How will it change how you act today?

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” 

Rick Warren

Further resources

Read this post:

How to write a CV – the things you need to know

Watch this video:

Read this book:

The Decision Book by R Tschäppeler and M Krogerus