The Spy who came in from the cold - and struggled to find a job

  | James Innes

Tom Marcus (not his real name) was heavily featured in the UK media this week following the publication of his memoir “Soldier, Spy” recounting the 8 years that he spent as an MI5 agent, tracking Islamic militants and Irish terrorists. However, despite a distinguished career, including foiling a plot, on one occasion, to blow up 2 coaches of schoolchildren returning from a trip to France, Tom found himself struggling to get a job when he left the service. He ended up working in a burger bar and a call centre because his CV was full of unexplained gaps.

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Tom, who enlisted in the army at the age of 16 and then joined MI5 has a large gap in his CV because of the anonymity required by the security services. “It’s been hugely difficult to get a job, he says. “Working as an MI5 surveillance officer is seen as a job for life – so when you come out its very difficult to figure out what job you can do”.

“You can’t answer the question properly about what you’ve been doing for the past 10 to 15 years in a job because you’d be breaking the Official Secrets Act”.

Tom’s case is perhaps the most extreme example where a functional CV could be more appropriate than the more commonly accepted chronological CV. For individuals with little practical experience, like students, people who have had a variety of short-term jobs, and also those with career gaps – like Tom, or women going back into the workplace after raising children.

A functional CV lists your experience under different functional areas, such as Customer Services or Marketing, and focuses on specific skills rather than a full career history. It will include a Key Skills section and Career Summary, rather than a full Career history.

Tom himself now has a career as a full-time writer. Not as glamorous as his former life, no doubt – but probably safer.


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