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How to write a CV – 5 tips for school leavers

After leaving education and on the hunt for your first job, you may find it hard to write a full two page CV. A lack of work experience could see you struggling to make it over to that second page, and with little to go on other you’re your education who will hire you?

School leavers naturally find it hard to write their first CV, but we can make the process a whole lot easier. Here are 5 fantastic tips to help you write your first CV.

Voluntary work experience

If you have nothing or very little to add to the work history section of your CV, then there is something you can do about it. Voluntary work is a quick and easy route to gaining lots of experience and new skills. Although the lack of pay may put some off, the end game is far more important. If you want to get a full time job then it’s important you put the ground work in that’s required.

Think about how great your CV will look if you have valuable work experience and extra skills to add to it. Not only that, but you will also have a reference that can vouch for your hard work. So make sure you take it seriously if you do apply and don’t just assume you can take it easy and simply tick a box. You should treat a voluntary position the same as any other job, even if you aren’t getting paid.

There is no real substitution for a working environment other than actually being in one. Interacting with co-workers and customers will help you to build up your confidence – and bolster your CV. Employers will also look very favourably on someone who volunteers as it shows they are happy to give up their free time to help a good cause.

Don’t forget your education

A big misconception about education is that it isn’t work experience. Although this is technically true you can still use this on your CV in a similar way. You’ve spent a lot of years in school, college or even university, and that shouldn’t be dismissed the second you begin to write your first CV.

If you have no work experience at all then you are going to have to focus heavily on your education. Don’t be afraid of listing projects, presentations, assignments, essays and even dissertations. Explain what you did and the results you achieved. There are lots of skills to demonstrate through your work, like communication, public speaking, research, and much more.

Don’t forget to add any work experience placements you had whilst at school. List the company name, your temporary job title, a brief summary of what the company does, and your tasks and responsibilities. You can use the skills you picked up to also include in your skills section.

Employers like soft skills

A soft skill relates to things like communication, problem solving, organisation, time management, and so on. These are more generic terms for particular traits and attributes that you will need to use in the workplace.

As a recent school leaver the employer would be concerned about your communication skills, your confidence, your organisation, and so on. So if you can show examples on your CV of the most important soft skills in action, then you will give the employer more confidence in your abilities to do well in your first job. This is why voluntary work can be so beneficial for your CV because you’ve already gained valuable soft skills and even hard skills already. But you need to recognise which of the soft skills an employer would want you to be good at.

A retail position would require you to be great at helping customers. You would need to be confident, friendly, approachable, and reliable. So if you can provide examples of this on your CV you are going to have more success. However, for a clerical position you may find that organisation, time management, problem solving and written communication is more important.

Tailor your CV to match what the employer would want to see rather than listing anything and everything you’ve achieved so far. Sure, it may be hard to fill out a two page CV at this stage for some, but that doesn’t mean to say you should completely ignore what the employer wants from a new recruit.

Valuable hobbies

A school leaver needs to take advantage of every single section of a CV. The hobbies and interests section is easy to overlook, but you can add a lot of value to your credentials if you know what to look for.

There are certain hobbies which would further demonstrate your soft skills. Here are a few examples of hobbies and the soft skills that go with them:

  • Sports or gym – hard working, passionate, dedicated, healthy (less sick days)
  • Captain of a sports team or president of a club – communication, leadership qualities, organisation
  • Arts and crafts – creative, attention to detail
  • Charity events – helpful, friendly, organisation

When it comes to the cliché hobbies, like reading, walking the dog, going to the cinema and socialising with friends – you are not going to add any value to your CV. There is nothing wrong with having one of these as a hobby, but try to remember that you need to focus on what you can offer the company which will benefit them. In this instance you may be better off leaving out your hobbies and using that extra space for something else.

Free CV templates

Writing a CV for the first time is of course a very difficult and daunting task, but it can be made much easier if you let someone else design your layout. How your CV looks is just as important as what’s contained within, but unless you are a graphic designer by trade it could seem impossible creating something which stands out – for the right reasons!

However, there is a very simple solution and that’s to let someone else create a CV template for you. For more information go to CVtemplatemaster where you can see literally hundreds of different designs – and they are all free to download and use.

There is no point spending hours in front of a computer screen when you can get a professional to do all the hard work for you. Just make sure you get approval from a couple of friends before you pick one for your final CV copy. Then all you need to do is download the CV template and insert your details – what could be easier!

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The top 5 soft skills for your CV

Education and training will help you require the ‘hard’ or ‘specific’ skills for your CV and career, but what is a soft skill and why are they so important? A soft skill relates to a more generic personal trait, and without them you would be unable to put your hard skills into good use. Take communication for instance – this is without doubt the most common and important soft skill to master for any business. Continue reading “The top 5 soft skills for your CV”

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2 things you must bring to a job interview

Most hopeful candidates show up to a job interview with smart clothes, a firm handshake and a smile. Whilst this will make a good impression it will fail to compete with other candidates who have thought outside the box.

If you want to make an even better impression in a job interview you must bring these 2 things.

Pen and notepad

“The notebook-pen combo is both a signalling item and an instrumental tool. This is where you can keep any questions you’ve developed, important facts and figures, or information you are given while at your interview.” – The Interview Guys

If you want the interviewer to take you seriously you should bring some pen and paper. It will demonstrate how serious you are about the role and allow you to take notes. This doesn’t mean to say you should be staring at your lap the entire time, but take a few notes now and again on anything really important – hours, wages, specific duties, and so on.

You should also prepare some questions in advance to ask the manager. Here are some great questions to ask in an interview to give you an idea:

  • What would be the biggest challenge I would face if hired?
  • Can you tell me more about the company’s working culture?
  • What would make a successful candidate?
  • Where is the company heading over the next 5 years?
  • What do you like best about working for the company?

Here are some more ideas for questions you could ask:

You may of course have more specific questions to ask, so jot them down and you won’t forget. In addition to looking professional and interested in the role, asking questions that you’ve brought in will make an even better impression.

“You will develop smart and useful  questions to ask the interviewer(s) by researching the company you’re going to interview with. Read their website and the LinkedIn profiles of their leaders — especially the leader who will be your boss if you take the job. Google search the company name to learn about what’s happening in their industry.” – Liz Ryan, Forbes

Copies of your CV

Print out 3-4 copies of your CV to take to the interview. You can use a copy to read on the journey there (if you’re not driving of course), and make sure you know every word, every skill, and every flaw in your credentials.

Even though you wrote your CV it still needs revising a few minutes before you enter – it’s easy to forget the small details. It will help you to prepare for questions about your career and you can also pick up on any weaknesses. Preparing answers in advance will help the interview to flow better. For example, if you don’t have much relevant work experience it’s likely the interviewer will question you about that. Lacking in a few skills? Again, you are likely to be grilled on how you are going to be efficient without those skills.

Make sure your CV looks highly professional – if it’s stayed the same for years, think about downloading a new fresh CV template and reformatting it before the big day. There are lots of free Word CV templates here.

Additional copies of your CV can also be handed out to whoever is taking part in the interview. There are a few different interview formats but the two most common are panel and one to one. A panel interview is typically 3 people, whilst the one to one interview format will always be your ‘soon to be’ manager. They may forget to bring a copy of your CV into the room which is where you can step in and save the day.

Having both a pen and notepad along with extra copies of your CV will look very prepared and very professional. It shows you are taking this whole process seriously and clearly want the job. You may be the only person throughout all the interviews that takes notes, asks questions and hands out a CV. Assuming you answer the questions well and have the relevant attributes; you have a great chance of being hired!

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10 things to avoid in a job interview

The success of your career hinges on a successful interview. With so many job seekers underestimating the importance of this stage, it’s not hard to see why so many still fail to impress.

Preparation is the key to success with anything, and a job interview is no exception to this rule. You cannot simply turn up to a job interview without any prior planning or research and hope to give it your best. Although you may have many years of work experience and have attended countless interviews, there really still is no substitution for planning and preparation. Continue reading “10 things to avoid in a job interview”

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28 ways to ask for referrals

Word-of-mouth referrals are one of the most potent forms of marketing available and making this connection work for you at events like the Curry Club can make it even more valuable. Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and colleagues are still the most influential for gaining business. Continue reading “28 ways to ask for referrals”

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5 Top Tips for Networking

Here at Networking In The City we stage networking events for a range of business sectors across the UK. We find that our clients keep coming back to our events because they quickly appreciate the new contacts and ideas that they pick up whilst attending. But how do they make sure that they get the most out of the event? Here are our top 5 networking tips to help you make the most of business networking. Continue reading “5 Top Tips for Networking”

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How To Dress To Impress At Networking Events

This is a guest blog for Networking In The City by “the UK’s leading etiquette and royal protocol expert” William Hanson.

We judge people within seven seconds of meeting them.  That’s a fact: it’s been proved by psychologists.  We look at how people are walking, standing, how they greet us, but – perhaps firstly – what they are wearing.  We are more likely to gravitate towards those who are dressed in similar clothes to us.  The slick suited accountant is less likely to want to talk to the un-ironed t-shirt wearing media hotshot. Continue reading “How To Dress To Impress At Networking Events”

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What is a soft skill?

When we think about adding skills to our CV we often assume there is only one type – a hard or specific skill. This would relate to something which is specific to the role and may even require a qualification to attain it.

Computer programming, operating machinery, speaking a foreign language, and search engine optimisation are all examples of hard or specific skills. However, a soft skill is not something that requires a qualification in order to be proficient, and are mainly developed throughout work and life experiences.

What is a soft skill?

Soft skills are what allow us to function efficiently in a working environment. Examples of popular soft skills are:

  • Communication
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Organisation
  • Time management

As you can see from the examples above, these soft skills do not require a qualification. They can be developed in and outside of work, and can mainly be described as personal traits and attributes.

How can a soft skill benefit my CV?

Soft skills are equally as important as specific ones from the employer’s perspective. It doesn’t matter how many qualifications and core skills an individual has if they are not able to interact and function efficiently for the company.

Certain roles require more of an emphasis on a soft skill. For example, a customer service role would require a high level of communication, problem solving, and team working skills. An employer hiring for this role would delve into the CV to try and see examples of this to help build up a picture of how the candidate may perform once hired.

Demonstrating the relevant soft skills in your CV is just as important as listing all the hard skills. Both of these skills are equally beneficial to your CV, and knowing this puts you one step ahead of the competition already.

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How to get headhunted

Finding a job typically comes down to sending off a CV and applying for a role. However, being headhunted is another avenue that should always be considered.

Rather than completely relying on your own efforts in the application process, you can also make yourself more open and approachable for a headhunting employer keen to hire an outstanding individual.

The old saying of, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, sums this up quite nicely!

Here are 3 ways you can increase your chances of being headhunted for a job:

Create a brand

One of the best ways to get noticed by an employer is to create your own brand. However, you need to be focused and choose a specific career path and build your brand around that. If the employer stumbles across your details and isn’t sure what you’re selling, you will likely miss out on any opportunities.

Consider what your main professional title should be and build upon that, for example – ‘Digital Marketing Manager’ or ‘Nurse Practitioner’.

No matter how the employer found you, they should instantly be able to see what you’re all about and that you have a clear and focused career objective.

Use social media

An employer is going to find you online, which means your online profiles need to ooze professionalism and demonstrate your career objectives, skills and qualifications. But it doesn’t just stop there!

Create a network and connect to other uses online. Twitter and Facebook are both fantastic platforms to exploit and generate interest in your career and allow potential head hunters to find you. Keep in constant contact with other likeminded professionals and share as much information as possible. Contribute to your field and offer advice, support and ideas on your chosen profession.

Without an online profile and network you will never have the chance to be head hunted. Make your presence known to the outside world and stay up to date with the latest trends in the market.

Create a LinkedIn profile

The most popular business platform to connect and share with other professionals is LinkedIn. In essence, having a LinkedIn profile is like having a second CV, albeit in the digital world. This is the most likely place an employer will find you, and creating a comprehensive profile is an absolute must.

A recent study was conducted which demonstrated the power of having a LinkedIn profile, and how that dramatically increased the job seekers chances of getting an interview. However, it’s important to recognise that the profile had to be comprehensive to help their chances, as a poorly written profile or one which was very bare actually decreased their success.