In this blog I am going to offer some useful tips and practical advice which will help you to start your journey into the world of work. Over the years I have worked with hundreds of young school leavers who have been trying to get nto their first job or work opportunity. Unfortunately, this is not always an easy thing to do if you have spent years stuck in a classroom with no real experience of the world outside. You may be unsure of how to navigate your way around opportunities in the real world, or of all the possibilities that you have to start your career.
Who will give the first opportunity?
The common cycle which a lot of young people get stuck in is the one I like to call ‘have no experience, can’t get any experience’. This cycle leads to endless frustration and it starts because you may not have been encouraged to take up meaningful work experience or paid work while at school. Some schools do not give enough focus and attention to this area which means that you may leave school with zero experience of any kind of work whatsoever. In this day and age you simply cannot afford to be in such a position for too long.
You have to start somewhere
I know first-hand how difficult this can be as I did not get my first taste of the working world until I had finished school, after the age of 18. I was already at university and had very little confidence in myself. I attempted to get paid work during my holidays for experience and to raise some money. I had created a CV and photocopied it twenty time in the local library. Armed with my CV I was now ready to start looking for work. I walked around and went into shops trying to give them a copy of my CV, mostly finding that it was not accepted or just discarded. It was nerve racking walking into places, cold calling and actually having to talk to people. I can still feel the butterflies that used to appear in my stomach. Remember this was in a world before online applications!
Do not underestimate the power of body language and enthusiasm
I always like to share this story with my students because it has a happy ending. As I was reaching the point of giving up and feeling like nobody wanted to take me on for a job, I finally had a breakthrough. I walked into a large shoe shop in the West end of London and, upon speaking to someone who worked there requesting a part time job, I was told that I could come back the next day for an interview. I was so happy to get this opportunity after being rejected so many times. Upon being given this first job and coming across a pile of CVs behind the counter I asked the manager who interviewed me how I managed to get the job so quickly. She informed me that the pile of CVs behind the cash register would not even be looked at, and the only reason I had be taken on for an interview was that I came in with a huge smile and a bundle of enthusiasm. Who knew a simple smile could be so valuable!! Yet this is vital in a customer facing role such as the one I had and we always reinforce this in our customer service training courses. This job was the start of a life in work which ended up taking me through a decade in law, practising as a solicitor, and eight years in the world of education and training. Spending a couple of years in the role of customer service gave me a huge amount of confidence and the belief that I could be in the working world.
What can you do?
So here are some tips on how you can also quickly create an opportunity to get yourself into employment;
- Get some work experience while you are still at school, and if you leave school without any work experience then the first thing you should do is to take up any opportunity you can to gain some experience. This could be a voluntary position or a paid position but the main thing is to have something to write on your CV and some real life experience in the working world. This gives you something to talk about if you are interviewed for a future job role. If nothing else you can speak to family members and see if you are able to attend their place of work for a couple of days or a few weeks, even if you don’t get paid for working there! It is better than being in the position of many of my learners who have never been in a working environment before.
- You must work on your CV. We spend hours and hours working together to improve our learner’s CVs. We make sure that the CV follows a particular format and includes the following information;
- all academic achievements
- all relevant work experience
- any paid work
We make sure that;
- the CV is easy to read
- clearly laid out in logical order
- that there is not too much crammed into it, two pages is sufficient
- any gaps in employment history are accounted for
- the entire schooling history including dates and grades are included, and this includes the date of qualification
- any extra training courses taken
TIP– Catch their attention
You usually have between three and six seconds to grab the employer’s attention, and hope for them to continue reading and entice them with your skills, knowledge and personality. So make sure you have a really interesting start, with your personal statement, and an easy to read CV.
Some things to avoid in your CV
- do not include the word CV or resume on your document as it takes up valuable space that could be used for showing your talent
- do not make your CV more than two pages long because an employer will be too busy to read a lengthy history
- do not include work experience that is not relevant to the position you are applying for, unless you have no other relevant work experience
- do not exaggerate your educational or work experience as it may be found out at some point
- do not include personal information such as religion, marital status, ethnicity or age
- never have you CV printed on both sides of the page because each page is important and it should be on its own sheet of paper
- never fold your CV and always have it in a folder to hand to a potential employer. If you are posting your CV then make sure the envelope is large enough so that you do not need to fold it
The format of your CV is crucial, an employer can tell a great deal about person based on the look and the feel of a CV. This is why you should make sure you convey yourself professionally, intellectually and stylistically. Your CV needs to be pleasing on the eye. Before the employee even knows who you are they will scan over your CV and former quick opinion about you. That opinion needs to be positive. The way you present yourself on paper would determine whether or not the employer wants to invite you to an interview.
TIP- Tailor make your CV
Remember your CV needs to be tailored to your key strengths, qualities and skills
Below is the format for creating your CV, with the order in which you should include
Information about you as a person and what your key strengths and weaknesses are
G.C.S.E’s and A-Levels (with dates and grades)
Degree and postgraduate
Anywhere relevant that you have worked with descriptions of the role and what you learnt there
Sports and leisure activities e.g reading fiction novels and travelling to places of cultural interest
Driving licence and I.T skills such as Microsoft Excel and Word
From a previous teacher or employer
Why do people fail to get an interview?
Remember your CV should not be generic, it needs to be specific. Employers are very busy people and as such you need to make your CV appealing and as effective as possible. If you do this, they will notice your CV and you will get shortlisted and invited to an interview.
What else can you do?
There are a few things that you can do in order to make sure that your CV is effective. Most important is to match the person specification and requirements of the job in which you applied for.
Remember your CV should be used as a tool to assist you during the selection process, and therefore it should be centred on the following areas;
- creating the right impression of yourself
- indicating that you possess the right qualities and attributes to perform the role of the job you are applying for
- grabbing the employee’s attention
- being concise, succinct and clear
- providing evidence with possible relevant skills, qualities, experience and qualifications
An effective CV
The most effective CV’s are the ones that make the assessors job easy. They are simple to read, straight to the point, relevant, and focus on the job for which has been advertised.
The CV should be formatted in a clear, concise and grammatically correct manner, in order to convey yourself as professional and articulate. Your CV is crucial for securing a job and alongside a completed application it gives the employer an opportunity to see what the applicant has to offer and what his or her qualifications and experience are.
Do not worry if it is not perfect yet
Remember effective CV writing is an acquired skill that can be obtained relatively quickly with a little bit of time, effort and focus. Similar to your performance in interviews, you can always improve to make it better. So always adopt a growth mindset when it comes to this area.
You now have a lot of the information that you need to start working on creating an effective CV. In the next blog we will be sharing how to write an effective cover letter, something which can accompany your CV and support your application for the job of your choice.