Contradictory advice isn't exclusive to writers, of course. The Gadget Man's career has stalled, through no fault of his own, and his current contract is about to expire. The job is done, so his contract won't be renewed, and so he's about to go on the hunt for a new job again. It's such a demoralising thing, I think -- sending out your CV and not even getting to the interview stage. (Rather like sending out that beloved short story or poem and having it richochet right back.)
Anyway, he seems to find it hard to get to the interview stage. I've looked over his resume, and it looks fine to me. So the other day our students had a careers session, and a friend grabbed a spare booklet on how to write up your CV, which she passed on to me. The Gadget Man has read books on the subject, and the other day did a course on it. Only, you guessed it -- all the advice conflicts. Do set out your information in dot points. Whatever you do, don't set it out in dot points. Don't make too much of your technical expertise; employers are more interested in whether you're a team player. Make sure you expand on your technical expertise...
One friend who was going through a similar thing said he couldn't get interviews either; then he sent his CV off to a professional resume formatter, and he said the only thing she changed -- the only thing -- was to add a horizontal line at the top of the page. She didn't touch the wording. And he said within a week, he'd had three requests for interviews. He swears it was because of that line. Bizarre.
The Gadget Man's problem is that he's too humble, too honest. He lacks the bullshit-factor. I must say I'm not really good with that either. But I've seen people who are -- especially in my science career. Someone would be toured through the lab, and we'd be told they were starting on Monday, and they would seem so knowledgable and impressive, and would turn out to be absolutely useless. Why is it that dickheads are so good at selling themselves? Where does all that self-belief come from? I think employers need some kind of magic mirror that can see through the bullshit-factor. Perhaps that's why a lot of them insist on pyschological tests. Trouble is that everyone tries to second-guess the answers that an employee wants to hear. No magic mirror there then. I don't know what the answer is. I just hope The Gadget Man comes across would-be employers who can sort out the bullshit-factor from the real deal!