Searching for a new job can be an exciting time and full of possibilities, whether you are focusing your search on your long-term career goals or keeping your options open in order to gain more experience.
However, excitement can quickly turn into frustration when you are repeatedly seeing the phrase ‘previous experience required’ on each job description you look at; especially if you are just starting out and don’t have any previous work experience to show on your CV.
Whilst there will always be positions where previous experience is essential (Air Traffic Controller for example!) there will be various opportunities where what you gain in other areas outside of work may give you the transferable skills and experience needed. It all comes down to your CV and how you can demonstrate to a potential employer what you can offer.
To help you get started, here are a few tips to fill in the blank spaces on your CV, remember to keep information relevant to the job you are applying for so you will need to tweak it for each application.
Establish the link between you and the job
CV’s should always be tailored to the job you’re applying for and should start with a brief personal profile. If you have a clear idea of where you would like your career to go, you can include a brief summary of your career objective as well. This is your opportunity to sell yourself!
Highlight education and any courses you have completed
Even if you don’t have a degree, employers like to see what education you have completed and any other courses that could highlight your skills. For example, a sports coaching course may not seem like it will be relevant to an office based role but having done the course, you will have shown that you are motivated, can encourage others and work well within a team. These are all key skills in a work environment so make sure you highlight them.
Elaborate on any volunteer work/start volunteering
Volunteer work is a great way to get involved with your community and looks great on your CV! You will gain valuable experience and skills while broadening your network which is always helpful when job searching. List your volunteer experience as you would any other job with the overall title and a summary of the duties you carried out; highlight skills that you applied to carry out the role, any that you have acquired and any relevant accomplishments. Volunteering whilst you’re looking for a job also demonstrates your interest in the environment around you and your enthusiasm to learn and develop, which leads nicely onto the next point.
Online learning is now an easy and accessible way for you to learn a new skill from typing or bookkeeping to digital marketing. Continuing to learn new skills while you are searching for a job demonstrates that you are motivated and have the drive to improve and develop your knowledge base, especially if it is relevant to the industry you want to progress in. Have a look at what is available – some courses are free!
Make a list of extracurricular activities or projects
What activities or projects were you involved in at school/university? What hobbies have you taken-up? For every activity, state them and write what tangible abilities you picked up and how you demonstrated them, even if it was just about improving your communication skills.
Emphasise your soft skills
As we have established, when job descriptions ask for previous experience, the interviewer/employer will usually be looking for what skills you have. They want to know if you possess the necessary abilities to perform the job and how you can prove it. This is where soft skills can help if you don’t have direct work experience. Soft skills are a combination of character traits, attitude, social and emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills that illustrate how you effectively perform in any environment and communicate with others. Employers are increasingly looking for this in candidates because hiring managers want to see how you’ll fit into their company culture and if you’ll be able to handle yourself in the workplace. For more information on soft skills, read our blog: Why soft skills matter
Other useful tips for your CV
Make sure there are no errors in your CV and have someone proof read it
Never lie or make up qualifications, skills or interests – these may be verified by an employer
Make it easy to read, no smaller than size 10 font