In fact, this could be one of the most important documents you ever write, and we pretty much all need to write one – a CV. Next week I’m making my annual trip to my son’s old school to teach the Year 11 kids how to make the best of the limited experience that they have as they write up their CVs. Hopefully this will help them to get ahead in the race to get work experience. It’s such a competitive market these days that they need all the help they can find. A well-written CV can make all the difference between getting the interview and staying in the pile by the bin.
It’s not just my experience as a writer which qualifies me to do this – for the last (cough) twenty or so years my day job has been working in recruitment. In my current job I find senior executives, but I spent years and years recruiting graduates, and I’ve reviewed more CVs than I care to think about.
It may be a little bit early for you Girls who Heart Books to be writing your CVs, but it won’t be long, and if you start thinking about the sort of things you might want to write on it now, you can make sure you do what you need to do!
Your CV – Curriculum Vitae – or Resumé (as the Americans call it) is just a sales document. It does one job – it gets you the interview. So right now you need to start thinking about what it’s going to contain – structure and presentation you can work on (I’m pretty sure all of you here can use a spellchecker!), but you have to have some content.
You might think that someone in Year 11 won’t have a huge amount of experience to describe on a CV, but you’d be wrong! It all depends on how you present it. Use lots of lists – lists take up loads of space so are brilliant in bulking up a CV – and put down expected grades if you don’t have any yet. Think about all the school societies, team and groups you have been part of, and think about the role you played in each.
Employers / work placement supervisors are going to be looking for different things depending on their vacancy, but most often the following:
- People who can lead (were you the netball captain for your team?)
- People who are committed (have you stuck at any one hobby for a long time? Have you managed a blog?)
- People with a sense of responsibility (have you looked after groups of younger children, or helped out in the school library?)
- People who can take direction (have you been a member of an organised group like a youth club, the Guides or D of E?)
- People who can communicate appropriately (have you been nominated as class representative, been in the debating club or built a solid following on your blog?)
Think about the likely attributes needed in the job or course you are applying for – if it is working in a shop on the tills, communication will be much higher up the list than if it is moving stock in the warehouse.
You must never lie on your CV, but there is nothing wrong with presenting the experience that you have in the best light possible. Other people will, and you deserve that work experience just as much as they do!