How to write a CV, according to a law grad turned digital nomad touring the world

How to write a CV, according to a law grad turned digital nomad touring the world
As a CV reviewer, Sharifah has helps people write better CVs. Source: Sharifah Hani Yasmin.

If you’ve ever Googled “how to write a CV,” you’re not alone. A CV is your ticket into your dream company or career — but most of us don’t know how to make our achievements stand out. 

Helping you get over that obstacle is Sharifah Hani Yasmin, a Malaysian law graduate-turned-CV reviewer who has been giving career advice and helping people with their CVs for years. 

“My passion has always been adding value to others,” says Yasmin. “I’m a born convener, and I love introducing people to opportunities and others who can help them in their journey.”

In May 2020, during the height of COVID-19, Malaysia’s unemployment rate hit 5.3%, the highest it has been in over three decades.

Yasmin answered the call to help those struggling in the job market. 

In July 2021, One Step Closer, an initiative to end unemployment in Malaysia, was established.

Yasmin spearheaded the cause. Alongside her contacts in the human resource sector, they impacted over 1,000 Malaysians through online workshops and pro-bono CV reviews.

They even secured a small grant to sponsor work transition tools and aid underprivileged job seekers. 

Fast forward to October 2022, Malaysia’s unemployment rate fell to the lowest level since the pandemic, and One Step Closer came to a close. 

Yasmin is still offering CV review services, even as she’s exploring the world as a digital nomad with her husband. 

We caught up with Yasmin to learn more about her journey to helping people, which started during her time pursuing a bachelor’s degree in law at the University of Essex.

how to write a CV

Yasmin is pictured with her parents, who she says are a source of inspiration and motivation for her to study abroad. Source: Sharifah Hani Yasmin.

Why did you want to study abroad?

My father studied at the UK’s University of Liverpool, UK, and my mother studied at Australia’s  University of New South Wales, both under state scholarships.

Their experiences were overwhelmingly positive as they enjoyed their time abroad and made lifelong friends. 

Growing up, they instilled a love of learning and encouraged my siblings and me to excel in our studies so that we could take up an overseas education and learn more about the world. 

Do you remember what first inspired you to pursue law?

I chose to study law primarily because of my love for writing and my passion for justice but also partly because I didn’t know at the time what I wanted to pursue as a career and believed that a law degree would be valuable regardless of my future path. 

I was right. Although I did not pursue a legal career after graduation, I am grateful for the skills gained during my degree, like confidence, public speaking skills, and the ability to navigate challenging situations with a clear mind and compelling arguments.

how to write a cv

Yasmin posing on the University of Essex campus with her posters for the annual Student Union elections. Source: Sharifah Hani Yasmin

At the University of Essex, you campaigned to be elected Vice President (International) of its student union. What made you want to run for this position and what was it like?

I was an active member of several societies on campus and a Resident Assistant. I supported many of the Students Union’s programmes and initiatives as they were very beneficial for students. 

As the years passed, many encouraged me to run for the position since they saw my interest in serving students and campaigning for change on campus.

I am truly grateful for their encouragement because it gave me the confidence to run for elections and advocate for change within the Union. 

The campaigning period was tough as there were stellar candidates with equally strong manifestos.

I also faced some issues, balancing campaigning with tight deadlines, and some of my posters were ripped down for reasons still unknown to me.

But I persevered, thanks to the support of close friends, and won with a significant majority. 

The year that followed was one that I remember dearly – I advocated for change in the local community with the local lobbying group, Citizens UK, introduced impactful initiatives on campus like financial and employability workshops, and introduced with my colleagues more inclusive events such as non-alcoholic Music & Mocktails nights as alternatives to the local nightlife for those who were abstaining for personal or religious reasons. 

It was an experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

how to write a cv

Yasmin represented international students from over 140 countries as the university’s VP International. Source: Sharifah Hani Yasmin

What were your favourite moments during your time at the University of Essex? 

One of them has to be celebrating One World Essex, a week-long celebration of the university’s diversity. I was responsible for organising it in 2018 for our 14,000 students, celebrating diverse cultures through the International Food Fair and International Gala. 

I’m also proud to have introduced financial workshops that equipped international students with, among others, employability tips, banking and budgeting information, as well as mental health and support resources available on campus and in the local community. 

To my delight, upon the completion of my term, the Student Union decided to continue these workshops to benefit future students.

how to write a cv

As VP International, Yasmin chaired the university’s International Students Association, which organised various events and trips throughout the year. Source: Sharifah Hani Yasmin

What was the most useful skill you picked up at university and what did you have to learn later on?

The best skill I honed during my university years was the art of networking.

I was the International Students Association Chair in my final year and had the opportunity to speak with students from over 150 countries.

I learnt how to hold an interesting conversation, find similarities that connected us beyond our circumstances, and create potential collaboration opportunities. 

Engaging with individuals from varied backgrounds made me aware of the need for greater support for international students within the university community.

It highlighted the importance of addressing challenges and championing initiatives to promote a more inclusive and supportive environment. 

One skill I wish I had honed in university is balancing my studies, passions, and social life.

Sometimes, one of these areas suffered as I pursued projects with a singular focus. I didn’t learn how to achieve this balance until much later. 

In my first job, adapting to corporate life while working on personal projects was difficult.

It took me close to a year to become familiar enough with the scope of work to regain my free time and pursue the work I truly wanted to do.

how to write a cv

Confidence, public speaking skills, and the ability to navigate challenging situations with a clear mind and compelling arguments are skills that Yasmin picked up during her undergraduate education. Source: Sharifah Hani Yasmin.

How have your experiences as an international student helped you become an expert in how to write a CV?

Through my experiences, I have gained a deep understanding that the challenges faced by young individuals are universal, surpassing cultural and geographical boundaries.

It’s a tough job market globally, and there’s an ever-evolving skills gap – specifically, the gap between skills acquired through university education and the practical needs demanded by employers. There’s a great need to bridge the existing gaps and create opportunities for skill development and professional growth. 

As a CV reviewer, I help job seekers by providing information on the skills sought after by recruiters and on par with industry standards so that they can upskill accordingly and improve their employability.

@sharifahhaniyasmin Negotiate. Your. SALARY! Woke up at 4AM for this – let me know if you, too, want negotiation tips & learn how to navigate tough conversations surrounding pay & allowances! #ArtofNegotiation #CareerTips #InterviewTips ♬ Beautiful Things – Benson Boone

You’re a digital nomad now. How has the experience helped you in CV reviewing?

It has been a fantastic roller coaster journey!

My husband is also a remote worker, and we’ve lived in nine cities across four countries across the US and Europe, working across time zones and experiencing diverse cultures everywhere we go. 

It’s made me certain that remote work is the way of the future. I’ve been sharing remote vacancies and work tips via TikTok to expose more Malaysians to remote work opportunities. 

However, not all has been positive – we’ve also faced difficult situations with Airbnb landlords, travel delays and communication barriers in certain cities.

My husband is writing a book on the best way for Malaysians to become digital nomads based on our experiences, so be on the lookout for it!

Does an international education really help put you out there? 

I think that international exposure would benefit everyone, as it allows them to consider alternative opinions and learn so much about the state of the world.

Building connections with people from diverse backgrounds greatly enriches our lives and minds.

However, not everyone will be privileged to have an international education in the traditional sense.

For those who may not be able to study abroad on their own financial means, I highly encourage them to apply for international scholarships like Chevening or short-term opportunities like fellowships, internships, or programmes like the Malaysian Ministry of Youth and Sports’ international exchange programmes

I’m happy to provide further information – just DM me!

What advice can you give people about how to write a CV? 

My biggest piece of advice is to tailor your CV to the role. Most people have a misconception that a CV should present a list of their experiences, but instead, a CV should reflect their skills and accomplishments related to the role for which they’re applying. 

I share regular tips on my LinkedIn, which I hope helps job seekers on their journey.