Awards are overrated, leadership is underrated

“I won xyz award in school/college. Can I put that in my CV?”

In my personal opinion, no, you shouldn’t. Awards show that you won, and that you defeated others. Which, don’t get me wrong, is great. But what I would want to look for in a fresher’s CV is evidence of three things:

  1. Have you shown the drive and initiative to start something (anything!), and have you shown the gumption required to see it through?
  2. Have you shown an interest in helping others, whether on your team or otherwise? Leadership is about winning by helping others win. Awards are about about winning by making sure others lose.
  3. Have you shown an ability to pick up a skill in order to be able to finish a project? Certified by xyz in abc isn’t what I’m looking for. “I realized I had to acquire xyz skill in order to do abc on project pqr. I did the course, and was therefore able to contribute to the project” is a better conversation to have.
    That is, learning how to code isn’t as useful as being able to finish a project because you learnt to code.

So can you put that award in your CV? I’d rather you didn’t. But if you must, speak about how what you did helped your team win. Speak about how you learnt, and how you helped others learn.

Market yourself as a leader, not as a winner, in other words. And the best way to market yourself as a leader is by being one.

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