A first CV is an exciting step onto the career ladder but what do you put on it if you don’t have any work experience?
First, don’t panic. Everybody started a first job with no work experience. A CV, especially a first CV, is about potential as much as experience.
PICK AN ENTRY-LEVEL JOB THEN RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
Career advisors often tell people to use the language of the industry you want to work in and focus on how you fit within the goals and culture of the organisation. But how do you do that for a first job?
Decide on a job you want to apply for, and then do your research.
- Look up information about the company.
- Ask friends and family members who have worked there what the organisation’s culture is like.
- Expand your networks to find former and current employees.
- Ask for a mock interview with the company. This is not a job interview, but an opportunity to ask potential employers what they look for and what they expect from new hires.
MAKE A LIST OF JOB REQUIREMENTS
Make a list of the requirements for the job you want and pay attention to any knowledge gaps. For example, if you need a certification explore what it takes to get it and ask around to see if a potential employer participates in any on-the-job certification programmes.
EVALUATE YOUR SKILLS
Make a list of your skills that would fit the job. This is where you can draw on your non-work-related skills. Have you volunteered somewhere? Add it to the list.
WRITE A PROFILE
A profile is an important part of a CV, especially for jobseekers who don’t have work experience. It gives you the opportunity to put your skills and education into context for the job you want. Summarise your skills, paying special attention to the job requirements and company culture you have researched.
Present your school and university experience in a way that will be relevant to a recruiter. For example, if a job requires good communication skills or ability to work as part of a team, emphasise your strengths with examples of classes you have excelled at and projects or extracurricular activities you’ve participated in.
LIST YOUR SKILLS
Show your skills and achievements in a way that’s relevant to the job you are applying for. Read the job description carefully and list point by point the skills you have that fit the requirements.
Don’t forget hobbies. They can be a valuable source of skill building and something to talk about when you get a job interview, as long as you can relate your leisure activities to skills you can use on the job.
LIST YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS
Have you won any awards? A sporting medal can demonstrate teamwork while an academic award at school can demonstrate ability to work hard.
When faced with a blank sheet of paper, it’s tempting to elaborate beyond your personal experience. Potential employees respond much better to an honest accounting of your current skills and what you hope to achieve if they hire you.