Maximise your early career CV
Starting or re-writing your CV can be daunting at the best of times, but when you’re new to the job world, this pressure can sometimes get to us. It’s all about knowing where to start and you don’t necessarily have to start writing your CV in chronological order. Some find it easier to start with their personal statement, others like to keep that until last. It’s all about having a plan, being able to self critique and understand what you should and shouldn’t include. So easy, right?
It can be a tricky thing to perfect and professionals that have been working and writing their CV for many years, still probably haven’t managed to get it 100% right. There is a learning process and you’re at the beginning. This article will talk about how you can write and maximise your first or one of your first CVs to ensure it will land you the role you want.
Where do you start?
Make sure you start with a list. Don’t go straight into working on your CV, have a think first.
- What have you achieved?
- What are your qualifications?
- Do you have any work experience?
- What experience is relevant to the role you are applying for?
- Do I include hobbies?
When you’re starting out in your career, it can be worrying that you won’t have enough to include on your CV. You may feel like you don’t have much professional work experience, but there will definitely be other skills and learning opportunities that will be very relevant to the role. Soft skills are just as important as technical skills.
Make sure you are tailoring
Once you have your CV written, you shouldn't just send the same CV out to every single employer. You should be utilising the information they give you on their websites and job spec to make sure you are tailoring it to them, the best you can. How do you do that with little experience?
You make sure you understand the skill set they are looking for. If they’re looking for recent graduates, young engineers, and people fresh out of school, they’re going to know and understand that you don’t have the skills to take a senior level role. So don’t feel nervous that you’re not skilled enough. You just need to know how to address employers and be eager and ready to learn on the job. You can read more about how to tailor your CV on our careers and advice pages.
Focus on skills from their job spec
Pick out key points from their job descriptions that will help you. If you have these skills, make sure you are including them throughout your CV. Not just in the skills section but be sure to explain where and when you used these skills in your experience section. Whether that be through your apprenticeship, university or even part time jobs, make sure you are scattering them in all relevant places you can. Just like you would in an interview, you want the employer to know you have the skills and explain where you’ve used it. This doesn’t have to be in great detail, just give them a little bit of information and leave them wanting to learn more. You’ll have plenty of space in your cover letter and time in interviews to discuss these further.
Their job spec is giving you a lot more information than you may initially think and if you don’t have skills, you can still include elements and specific things you want to learn from this role. Your personal statement at this point in your career is about who you are now and what you are looking to achieve and learn from the role you’re applying for. Persuade them!
Highlight your achievements
You do have skills and achievements and now is not the right time to be modest and it’s definitely not the right time to start doubting yourself. When you’re at the beginning of your career, you may feel like you don’t have many desirable skills. But, like I mentioned above, early entry jobs are there to teach you. Everyone needs to start somewhere and the roles you’re applying for now are going to kick-start your career and guide you. Learning new skills is all part of the process.
CVs are there to allow you to persuade the employer that you’re the right candidate for the role. Talk about what you have achieved. Whether that be something you learnt through a hobby you have, your degree, skills from work experience, at this stage, it’s all relevant. How have you gone out of your way to learn a new skill lately? Are you taking an online course or catching up on industry knowledge? Just because you don’t have a medal, doesn’t mean it’s any less of an achievement. So have a think and see what you can come up with.
Just as mentioned above, your achievements don’t have to stick to just one section. They can be scattered throughout your personal statement, experience and even skills. Don’t limit yourself, show the employer what you’ve achieved and how you have achieved it. This can help you prepare for interview questions as well!
Do you have any certifications?
Much like achievements, certifications, if you have any can be a really important thing to add to your CV. This doesn’t have to be limited to college graduations and degrees, it can be courses you have done online, skills you’ve taken the time to go and learn, classes you’ve taken. Anything that you think may aid you in your job search.
There are so many certifications and online courses out there, so if you haven’t thought to do this or just never had the time, why not try and start one now? Being able to say that you’ve done something to aid your career and gone out of your way to learn something new or just to keep up with a progressing industry, can really set you apart from the rest. A key thing that can really elevate the impact of your CV.
Don’t overdo it
Although you may initially feel like there isn’t much to add into your first CV, things can pile up quickly and before you know it, you have a 2–3-page CV! This isn’t ideal, considering you won’t have much experience under your belt. The key thing about making the most of your CV and grabbing an employer's attention is to be selective. It can be really hard to self-criticise and amend your own work, but being able to understand what is necessary and what can clutter-up your CV can help make a big difference.
You want to be giving them relevant information. Ask yourself:
- Is your personal statement too long? - What can I do to cut it down a bit?
- Have I included too many irrelevant work experiences? - Stick to the most recent and if you can, relevant.
- Have you included a section that can be removed? - If you have limited space, you could remove hobbies if included.
You don’t have to get it perfect on the first try. Cut things out slowly and narrow it down until you feel you have the right length. You can also include more information elsewhere.
Your cover letter
Many people may feel like cover letters just aren’t useful. However, when you’re working on your first CV, it can be hard to get your point across. You want them to know you have specific skills, work experience that may not be 100% relevant but taught you valuable life lessons and skills and many other points. You don’t want to be squeezing too much information onto one document and your cover letter gives you the ability to go into more detail in a different way. You can talk about what you want to learn, why you want that role in particular and how you could be a fit for the role. It’s your opportunity to really go into detail and share a bit more. It gives you a chance to expand on how your skills from various experiences can be transferred to the job. Your CV is the gateway, and your cover letter is there to help them dig a little deeper. You can read more about how to write a cover letter on our site.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not likely that you’re going to achieve the perfect CV on your first try, so give yourself time to learn from your mistakes and grow your CV as you and your career do. It’s important to be clear and concise, draw them in for more. This is where your cover letter will come in. Believe in your abilities. You have a lot to give and breaking into a new field at any age and career stage can be a tricky task to do.
Understand that it’s a learning process and you’ll find your feet. Be sure to give it time and use the people around you. They’re there to help, so don’t feel like job searching has to be something you do alone.