Leaving university can be an exciting but also daunting time. After studying hard and taking your exams, entering the job market can feel like a large leap into a new world. Many graduates secure a graduate scheme or internship, however that’s not for everyone.
Most people leaving university will start to approach job boards, recruitment agencies, and contact employers directly to secure that first all important full-time position. Without a doubt, there is one key document that you will need to make that first big impression, and that is a professional looking graduate CV. Writing your CV is the first step along the road to a successful career. So where do you start?
1. Designing Your Graduate CV
The first step is to work out how you want your graduate CV to look, what to include, and in what order. Sounds simple. However, many people get this important start wrong. When thinking about this you need to think of the person or company you are sending your CV to, and what they want to take from the CV. You are asking them to take their time to look at your skills and experience so it leads to the next stage of recruitment, an interview. You may want to use a graduate CV template to help you get started.
Most CVs start with a Personal Profile or Statement, then jump straight into Career History. This is fine for an applicant with significant career experience. However, most people leaving university don’t have this. Therefore, your university course and skills gained need to be near the top of the graduate CV.
A good tip is to start with your Personal Profile, then note your university and college experience next. Highlight key components of courses that seem relevant to the role you’re applying for. This helps the person reading the document to assess how you may benefit the position and you are showing how you can add value to the company. If you do this correctly your university and college experience can be just as useful as employment history. Start thinking about what you have done and achieved at university and the skills you have gained as a result. Jot these down and draw upon them at the next stage below. These personal statement examples should help to get you started.
2. How To Write Your Graduate CV
A CV is essentially a sales pitch to a future employer. Therefore use words that sell yourself. Try using powerful opening action verbs to describe each achievement you have completed in relation to your roles, and more importantly university experience. Then follow up with impressive results or outcomes so your achievements can be measured, An example could be ‘Successfully transformed’ or ‘Inspired fellow classmates’. These openings can then form the start of a bullet point where you can go on to state what was achieved. Think about writing your university experience like you would a job role. This style can really help when entering the job market and it also shows the reader you have thought through what is needed from your graduate CV.
Once you have your university and college experience on page one of your CV, then add any employment experience you have. This can include placements you may have undertaken and also part-time or summer jobs. Again, highlight what skills and achievements you have made and pick ones that would help in the role applied for. Remember to add any voluntary or charity work as well as this adds even more depth to the document. As your career develops your work history will eventually move to page one above your education; so remember to keep your CV up to date and change its style as you become more experienced.
3. Concluding Your Graduate CV
Many people overlook the importance of concluding a graduate CV and some just slowly peter out making the CV look less impressive as it goes on. To stop this happening add a Key Skills section after your employment history. Draw together from your bullets points the key skills you have gained and which ones can be applied to the role. Keep this to around 6 bullet points.
Conclude your graduate CV with a Professional Objectives section. Write a few sentences about what you have specialised in and where you wish this to take you. This helps to frame the CV in the correct context and leads to yourself taking the initiative rather than the reader having to surmise where you want to progress. Remember to keep this brief though as you are still ‘pitching’ for the role and need to be concise.
Once you have completed the above three steps review your finished graduate CV. Then review it again! It’s really important there are no spelling or grammatical errors as that can lessen the impact of the document.
You should now have a well-designed, thought-provoking, and professional looking graduate CV that showcases your skills and shows how you can benefit the company and role applied for. If this is done correctly it can really help you stand out from the crowd and your university peers. Your CV can give you the edge so you can get those important interviews and all your university experience will have added depth to your history. It may also have given you an advantage over more experienced applicants making YOU the ideal candidate for the role!
About the Author: Chris Pennington is a Director at Your CV Consultant who has had a successful 15-year career in Financial Solutions Management and as a Personal Insolvency Specialist. Within this time he has built up a wealth of experience in CV Writing and Assessment, Recruitment, Interviewing Candidates, and Career Coaching.