CVs for first year students - your FAQs answered!

Posted in: Applications, Tips & Hints

So you’re thinking ahead to the summer and would like to get some part time work to earn some money or an internship/insight experience to build your work experience?

We’ve compiled a list of FAQs which we are often asked by first year students at this time of year….and have added some specific thoughts on how to make the most of the impact of Covid and lockdown in your CV. (Let’s face it, it would be the proverbial elephant in your bedroom if you didn’t!).

1. How long should my CV be? I read that most employers want two pages but I don’t have enough to say.

• One page is fine as long as it is content-rich with some strong bullet points that showcase the transferable skills that are in the job description/person specification. See these blogs for more help to write great bullet points....... and here

• Any work experience is fair game for a CV! All employers will, in their younger days, have had a paper round, waited tables, done gardening for elderly neighbours or helped relatives sort out their email or website problems; these entry level work experiences introduce you to the world of work, they show you have a work ethic and that you have drive and self-motivation

• Employers of first years know that it’s unlikely you will have had much work experience. And of course 2020/21 has impacted badly on the traditional sixth form/first year student jobs market. How did you cope with the first lockdown and last year in general? You can showcase your resilience, flexibility, virtual study and working skills…see here for how to do it

Who knows where we will be Covid-wise by Summer 2021, so if you can demonstrate that you can be effectively onboarded remotely that will enable potential employers to feel comfortable about offering you that job/internship. And it’s perfectly fine to say that you had some work experience lined up but it was cancelled; this shows that you had followed through on an opportunity and made it happen…until the lockdown struck

2. Should I talk about my experiences at school – isn’t that a bit basic? And what about my Duke of Edinburgh award, doesn’t everyone include that?

• You can bring out some great examples of employability if you look back over your sixth form days – were you a Head Boy/Girl/Prefect/Sports Captain? These demonstrate all sorts of transferable skills: responsibility, trustworthiness, leadership, communication, empathy, relationship building….Perhaps you organised events outside of school for a club or charity: entrepreneurship, project management, creative problem solving, budgeting. Did you love to play football and even though you were in the C Team you pitched up to every training session for five years: resilience, loyalty, commitment and teamworking. Or maybe you have your own YouTube channel: presentation skills, digital media, self confidence and innovation spring to mind.

And sure, lots of people have DoE (although by no means everyone) but hey, you yomped across the Brecon Beacons in a monsoon and motivated your team not to give up when the tent pole snapped: resilience, sense of humour, perseverance and DIY skills anyone?

3. How should I talk about my degree? I’ve only done one semester and even that’s been locked down in my room..

• It doesn’t matter that you haven’t completed a year/don’t have any results when you make these applications; what’s important is what you are studying and how your academic skills are developing. You should choose a few relevant sounding modules to list on your CV under your education section; these might change depending on what you are applying for.  If you're working on some virtual group projects that's going to sound impressive and relevant (sadly). And if it’s a part time job in retail you're applying for (when the shops open) or a bar (ditto) what’s perhaps more important is highlighting the “so what?” from your studies e.g. multi-tasking, delivering to deadlines, group project work, mental maths, building relationships and working under pressure.

As for what you’ve demonstrated during the pandemic, I feel that pretty much any decent employer is going to be both empathetic to the rubbish year you have had but also respectful of your resilience and adaptability.

So there you have it…hopefully you can see how you can definitely build a great first year CV!

Don’t forget you can get help and feedback by booking a CV/cover letter appointment with an Applications Adviser here at the Careers Service

And our super amazing Applications, CV and Cover Letter Guide on MyFuture is our most popular resource with hundreds of students using it every month!

It has answers to pretty much any other question you might have along with lots of examples of CVs to spark your imagination.

Posted in: Applications, Tips & Hints


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