Employers are demanding more from graduates than ever before. Here’s why you should focus now on the key element that will level-up your CV: Experience.
Writing a CV is a fairly straightforward task for most people. Load up a word
processor, agonise for an hour over which template to use, have a 10 minute undeserved
tea break before soullessly breaking down your life to a list of qualifications and a few
extra-curricular clubs you were in back in school. Fret not, because university is the
ideal time to get more experience to add to your CV! By entering yourself into the world
of volunteering, internships, work placements and part time work now rather than
later, you stand to gain real benefits that are necessary to impress employers.
According to the National Youth Institute (NYI), the top five benefits participants
said they gained from work experience were Self-Confidence, Communication Skills,
Teamwork Values, Interpersonal Skills and a Better Understanding of Society. These skills
were valued by 64% of employers as found in the AGR Graduate Survey in 2010 alongside
78% who looked for a 2:1 or above.
The least committal method to obtaining these skills is in volunteering, which,
according to a study by the NYI, ‘appears to offer young people a quick win…many young
people believed that their skills had improved after only a limited experience of
volunteering’. Voluntary work can also be the most varied, with roles from event stewarding
to fundraising for charities to organising sport and activities for children after school.
According to the Institute for Volunteer Research (IVR), 87% of employers believe that
volunteering has a ‘generally positive effect’ on 16-25 career progression.
My own story with volunteering peaked during the London 2012 Olympics where I
became a Ceremonies Volunteer. This five-month role was very hands-on and incredibly
intense but provided one of the strongest foundations for learning employable skills. I was
able to secure this opportunity due to my prior volunteering in a tiny community church back
home and by being a Student Course Rep. And it was because of my work at London
Olympic Ceremonies that I was able to volunteer for the Winter Olympics in Russia earlier
this year. In my experience, smaller opportunities can snowball into much larger ones.
However, whilst volunteering is recommended, 30% of employers are quoted by the IVR
as feeling that voluntary work is only worthwhile if it was linked to the particular field
of work that the applicant is applying to, and 34% of employers demand relevant experience.
Therefore, summer internships and placements can provide an outlook to a future career
that can woo employers. These are much more tailored towards finding an industry-specific
experience that boost the knowledge credentials on your CV.
If volunteering doesn’t appeal to you, you could look into working part time whilst
undertaking your university course. An obvious bonus of this is you are paid to gain much
needed transferable skills and understanding of working environments and also acquire work
references which are a huge boost to your CV. By testing the waters this way, you not only
get to feel how a job in your degree field would be like to work in on a daily basis, but you
also get an early opportunity to prove yourself in this environment. In certain industries, such
as finance, 80% of graduate positions were filled with those who had participated in a
company internship prior to graduating.
With the current numbers of graduates entering the job market going from 1,063,000
in 2001 by 430,000 new jobseekers to 1,501,000 in 2011, it will pay dividends to find future
job experience sooner rather than later!