Argh, the dreaded CV. Whoever decided we had to put our lives on to one side of A4 and send it off hopelessly to employers who receive so many they don't even manage to read the second line was clearly living on a different planet.
Yes, they are important. They should contain a record of your academic achievement, any relevant professional experience, some information on anything you have achieved through personal projects and some information on what you are interested in or want to do in the near future.
But, they are not your ticket to employment and shouldn't be treated as such.
When to create one
As soon as possible. You should have a CV coming out of school and it should be something you can update easily as you gain more experience and qualifications and for when you tailor it to specific jobs.
What to put in it
Academic achievements, personal project information, your interests. There's no need for a life story or a full breakdown of every mark you got in each module of every exam taken (though you may want to mention any relevant units that you have studied). Pictures aren't necessary.
Spending a crazy amount of time making your CV the most beautiful thing in the world isn't necessarily going to help you. In most cases, it's the information on there that counts.
When to use it
To support an email or letter sent to an employer, it is there to back up what you have said. Some employers will ignore a cover letter as they prefer to quickly look at your academic achievements. This is likely in jobs that require very speficic skills (like the use of certain computer software or knowledge of types of coding) but the majority of the creative industries are more likely to focus on your cover letter first.
What not to do
- Don't make your information hard to find.
- Don't send it in a format people can't open, stick to PDF where possible.
- Be consise. You have about 6 seconds to convey enough to an employer to make them want to read on. Bullet points may help here.
- Also don't send an email with your CV attached without explaining who you are, why you are contacting them and what you want to do.