Selling Yourself... with LaTeX

27 February 2016

So, i've recently been looking to switch careers and the experience of writing a CV after 4 years of (relatively) happy employment was a strange and daunting task. However it's 2016, so what do you do with a daunting task? Well obviously Google it.

The top three hits for "CV writing advice" were: Career advice from , CV's and Covering letters from National career service and finally the university of Kent's carreer service. So I got myself a coffee and prepared to sell myself like a hot cake.

If you call failures experiments, you can put them in your resume and claim them as achievements.

Mason Cooley

Unfortunately overthinking got in the way. My first problem was with the National Career's service CV builder tool. First I had to get over the slightly psychotically happy people citation needed on the Careers service website. Then I had to set up an account which i decided was a hurdle to far. This was supposed to be a simple exercise - I don't really want to be roped in for a million spam emails which will probably increase the likelihood of me missing replys from potential employers. Similarly I didn't really want to give all my data to the government in this unfinished way. One day I may want to apply for a job in government and if they don't have access to this CV data I will eat my proverbial hat.

Monster, who are they again?

Whilst I'd heard of Monster before I'd never really known what they did. It turns out they're effectively a jobsearch database with a pretty neat looking front end. Navigating their pages was quick, easy and actually quite fun. The problem came when I actually tried to use their advice. Their advice sounded pretty good but occasionally unclear. For example, take the following:

When writing their CV, many people follow the tradition of using stock phrases and 'key words' to help them get selected. This isn't always the best approach but it seems that there is little choice given the fact that 80% of CVs today are placed directly into keyword-searchable databases.

So what are the circumstances where not using stock phrases is acceptable or better? Is it best to avoid these phrases for paper CV's but stick to them for online applications? Maybe I'll start emailing potential employers ahead of time to see if they use a keyword database.

In fairness, other than that they provide some really useful workflow tips - checklists and the like. So with the basic research done and feeling pretty confident I tabbed over to University of Kent to see what they had to say.

Welcome to University of Kent - prepare for information overload

Now I like information. I would even go so far as to say that I actively persue it for fun but the sheer amount of blue and whiteLook here on their CV section of their website was daunting. So I sat down to it and spent a good few hours reading and distilling such gnomic nuggets as : "Treat the selector like a child eating a meal" and "There is no 'one best way' to construct a CV"

Treat the selector like a child eating a meal

So fully prepared strap a bib on my selectors, chop up and force feed them a variety of differently constructed CVs I sat down to write. And instantly hit my final problem - format.

Now for formatting text as far as I'm concerned there's only one answer - LaTeX. I quickly got going building a document and then remembered that there is an excellent template library over on shareLaTeX and a couple of mintues trawling found me some outstanding CV designs. Even better, they were filled in! Here I had a selection of at least 20 or so excellently designed, well written and proven successful (by comments) CV templates. After a little fiddling in Texworks I even had an individual take on a classic CV design which demonstrated my ability to use technology effectively in its construction. Sold.


This is one of the few times I've experienced the research letting me down. I'm not going to say that any of the websites I used were unhelpful, they all informed, but the extras and bells and whistles took a lot of time that I'd have rather spent proof reading. Next time I'm going to the tech community first, then the "professionals" second.


JavaScript: Here we go...

06 February 2016

So after painstakingly avoiding having to use JavaScript for many years I've finally had to use it for something.

JS Isn't a real language

Many Online Commentators

I'd heard various horror stories about how JS "Isn't a real language" and thankfully I'd never had to use it in anger, instead limiting myself to
messing around making boxes pop up on peoples browsers. But this time was different. Someone I know had asked if I could make an "web-based Animated Harry-Potter House style scoreboard". Once I'd fully understood what this person meant (some hourglasses with gems in on a webpage) I sat down to do some serious thinking.

I couldn't see an easy (read sub 50 lines) solution in Python or C++, my standard languages, so decided it was time to give JS a shot. How hard can it be right?


After settling down with W3schools and the official JavaScript docs for a while i decided to start trying to hack something together. After a couple of hours I had a reasonably working solution up on condepen and was feeling pretty happy with myself.

As a result I was just about to pronounce that JS was the greatest language ever and wonder why I ever learned anything else when I tried to improve on it. It seems there's a "pro" way to write JS and a "hacky" way. I had been using the Hacky way and to cut this article short rearranging my code to include some cooler features (such as animaitons) would have resulted in a complete restructure.

So what?

As a first foray into JS I think it was a success, but I learned a pretty valuable lesson with it. As with most languages it always takes a little more work than you think to have something that isn't just single use only. I'm going to work on re-coding the Harry Potter scores and put the full code up on codepen when I've got it re-useable enough.

The current Code is here: Code if you fancy a laugh or if you want to redo it for me!


First Post: Welcome!

27 July 2015

This blag is a place for me to order my thoughts. It's not for profit. It contains no deliberate advertising.

After watching the BBC documentary "All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace" some time ago I was particularly moved by the following words from Carmen Hermonsillo:

in the nineteenth century, commodities were made in workers who were mostly exploited....i created my interior thoughts as a means of production for the corporation that owned the board i was posting to...and that commodity was being sold to other commodity/consumer entities as entertainment.

Carmen Hermosillo

Being quite succeptible to this sort of thing, I instantly abandoned all social media and ideas of creating a blog. This may have been a bit of an overreaction and I've been struggling ever since to find a way to interact with social media. This blag is an experiment in contribution without commodification. It's hosted on free space in a web server I already use. It has no adds and nobody gets paid more if more people access it. You cannot comment, like, share or anything else that involves signing in anywhere.

As much as possible the code is open source, feel free to copy without attrbution any of the writing and or formatting. If you really like something or want to be involved in a particular project, please contact me.

Thanks! I hope some of this will be interesting.