How to sell yourself when your work experience is limited
AS IF preparing for exams was not hard enough, students face the added pressure of scoring internships before they even leave school. But writing up that all-important CV and demonstrating experience can be tricky when you have no previous job posts to your name.
Most people know how to write a CV and there are many templates on the internet. The issue is not what format to use, but what to put on it, as for most young people, the list will be sparse.
There are different types of CVs. The chronological CV lists jobs with the most recent at the top, and is the format most people are familiar with. But students should avoid it, as they have not had enough (or any) jobs to list. The skills, or “functional”, CV is far better, as it draws attention to students’ potential.
Skills can be developed in many ways, through school projects, by participating in extra-curricular activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award and attending youth groups, as well as independent study, volunteering, hobbies and travelling abroad. I advise students to think about what skills they have, such as computing, numeracy, team work or leadership, then list the ways they have demonstrated them. For example, maybe you were part of a sports team, or were team captain, which shows teamwork and leadership. Maybe you have written for the school newspaper, created websites or made YouTube videos, which provide evidence of communication, writing, IT and presentational skills. The “key skills” list should form the bulk of the first page of the CV, the second being occupied by employment history, which can include work experience or jobs such as babysitting, and education and qualifications.
Potential employers take about two seconds to decide whether a CV goes in the yes or no pile. There is therefore an advantage to putting key skills at the beginning — the employer is wowed straight away by what you can do. It is important to tweak your CV for each job or internship you apply for, making sure your skills marry up to those they are looking for.
If your skills do not match those that are required, find ways of boosting your skill set, such as by undertaking voluntary work or getting involved in more activities. Demonstrating that you are an interesting person who participates in what life has to offer makes you an outstanding candidate to employers. A focus on your skills will also give the employer a sense of your personality and what makes you an individual.
Other tips: do not include your date of birth, as employers may be looking for expertise rather than experience, but be distracted by your age. Make sure your email address is sensible. Limit your CV to two pages and, most importantly, ensure that there are no typos. Natalie Lancer is the founder of MyUniApplication, offering guidance on A-Level choices, university applications, CVs and interviews. For more information, contact email@example.com or visit www.myuniapplication.com
A focus on your skills will give the employer a sense of your personality