- Build evidence of your employability while studying. School students don’t undertake much part-time work, but you may have been babysitting or volunteering and you will have evidence to explain your responsibility and commitment. Be clear about what you did, how it helped and provide any details of things a bit out of the ordinary that stand out. Examples of times you thought on your feet and took action are great, but these examples don’t have to be major – you are at the start of a working career that will last for 50+ years.
- Good evidence doesn’t just come from work experience. Consider your extracurricular activity. Team working (through sport or an interest group) will demonstrate valued skills. As you write your first CV be sure to explain what your role was in the chess society, or tennis team etc. Imagine that someone has no idea what you did – make it clear, because the detail will be helpful.
- Now is a good time to take on some voluntary work. This could be visiting a care home and talking to the residents, or helping with a campaign that interests you. This doesn’t need to be a big commitment, and just 2-3 hours a week over several months will provide a useful addition to your CV.
- Think about where your interests lie. Your first job is unlikely to be a job for life; you will have multiple jobs over your working life and some of the jobs you will do may not exist yet. Choose a first job that interests you and will help you to develop useful life and employability skills.
- Consider what you have to offer. You may well have well developed technical skills, ability to code and understand about social media. These could be valuable to a small business and could be a useful part of a junior administration role. On the other hand ‘soft’ skills such as the ability to persuade, negotiate, or handle difficult customers will put you into roles which are less likely to be automated in the future.
- Communication skills are important. Seek opportunities to get involved in discussions with others so you feel confident in speaking up and speaking clearly. This may mean spending a bit less time on your phone and more time talking to other people face-to-face – the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
- Think about how you are going to choose your career. Find out what provision is available from your school, but don’t rely on reading a computer-generated report. You may not know what jobs involve so look at websites such as www.careers4u.tv where you can find out more. It also helps to talk to people who are doing the job, but beware, they may feel jaded, and realise they chose the wrong job!
- Think about your experience and how you will make it relevant. When you see a job advert for a school leaver, or want to apply for an apprenticeship scheme, carefully read all the information provided and how you measure up. For a first job an employer won’t expect much experience, what they are looking for is ‘potential’ and whether you have a ‘can do’ attitude, so any examples of using your initiative should be included on your CV.
- Describe your strengths but be realistic about how far you ‘sell’ what you can do. Avoid empty claims, but also avoid undue modesty. Name your skills and say what happened when you used them, with concrete examples. If you find it hard to identify your skills, ask people you know to describe where they see your strengths.
- Catalogue your accomplishments from different contexts: study, any work experience, hobbies and leisure time, voluntary activities. Try to present your achievements in interesting terms, explaining them as mini narratives if necessary. Shopping is not an accomplishment in the eyes of an employer but is often included on young people CVs.
- Explain your qualifications. Employers are clear on A levels but may not understand other qualifications so explain what they included and involved.
- Can you be clear about what motivates you? Think about when you are happiest? Is it when working on a problem, helping other people, being given a task to do? You may find it important to think about the likely values of organisations you will be talking to.
- Get your message right. Work hard on your CV before you try to enter the job market. Look hard at the first 30 words of your CV to ensure it captures what you can offer an employer. Avoid flowery adjectives or claims you can’t support. Few younger people create LinkedIn profiles, but using LinkedIn can be a great way to make connections and find a job.
- Don’t believe that interviews are a matter of luck. Prepare. Work out what the employer is really looking for and work hard to communicate your matching abilities. Show employers that you really want to work in their field, not that they happen to be the first to have a vacancy.
And if your younger relative needs some expert guidance to help them with their Teenager Job Search or career and life direction, please contact me.
A version of this article first appeared here