You should have a strategy for applying for your first job. Everything must be ready for your job hunt. Remember you don’t have experience in hand so all other factors should be perfect so you can stand out from the crowd.
Work out your goal
The first step towards employment is working out what job you are hoping to get now. It may be that you undertook your studies with a particular career in mind, but more likely you have completed your degree and it is now that you need to sit down and really think about your options.
Make a list of all your skills, not just employment related, but things that you are really good at (e.g. cooking, time-keeping, organising, English language). Then make a list of the things that you really don’t enjoy doing or that you can’t imagine ever being good at, even if you spent a long time practising (e.g. being artistic, working with technology). Now think about all the experiences you have had, and what scenarios you enjoy working in (e.g. working outside, working with animals). Now think of careers which match the criteria you are ideally suited to. In these examples the candidate may look for a career in writing books about animals and countryside, journalism or marketing.
Write out your CV
Once you have set your sights on a job role, you need to create your CV to show all of the relevant experience that you have which may be useful in that position. Start by writing out all of your education and professional experience. Now spend some time researching that job role and see what experience candidates should have – do you have this experience? If so make sure this is clear on your CV.
If you don’t have the relevant experience, but you are keen to learn then you should make sure this is clear on any cover letter that you submit as an application. If you think that the experience is necessary for the job then volunteering to do some work, even just part time or for a short period, could help you stand out from the competition when it comes to getting your first job.
There are many CV templates which you can use as a basis to setting out your CV, but remember that the common templates (provided by Windows Word or other large programmes etc) will be commonly used by many applicants. You want your CV to stand out and look different, whilst providing all of the necessary information in a clear and concise format. So I recommend that you start with one of these templates and adjust it to suit you, using different fonts or relocating the subjects to be in a different order.
Your CV should not go over 2 pages, ever, but especially if you have only just qualified and don’t have a considerable amount of work experience. The restriction of keeping it to just 2 pages will also mean you only put in the relevant information and don’t drone on about stuff which isn’t important for this role, and the employer doesn’t want to know.
Demonstrate your Skills
It’s not enough just to say that you have the skills and should automatically be given the job. When it comes to writing your cover letter and then sitting in an interview situation you have got to be able to pull out examples of how you have demonstrated your knowledge and skills. When you were doing research for your CV you wrote out a list of the skills you would need to include. Now dig out that list and put an example of when you demonstrated these skills either during your career or outside of work.
Your demonstrated list should include details of the scenario, what happened, how you personally responded (ideally you as an individual, but it could be as part of a team) and what the outcome was. Now you can either include one of these that you are particularly proud of in your covering letter, or just memorise these to discuss during your interview.
From the moment your CV lands on someone’s desk, the recruiter will be making snap decisions as to whether you are a suitable for a vacancy based on limited information. How well your CV and covering letter are presented will impact on how your CV is viewed so make it look professional, clean and smart.
That applies to you if you are selected for interview. Make sure that you arrive at the interview looking professional, clean and smart. Even if the dress code for the company is generally casual, an interview is an important meeting and recruiters will expect to see you making an effort. It is always better to be dressed too smartly than to make too little effort and be rejected just because you didn’t replace your trainers with smart shoes.
Ready for the interview
If you’ve been asked to attend an interview then you’re probably down to the last 10 applicants and you have a high chance of being offered the role. Try to maintain a calm and confident attitude – after all if they didn’t think you were capable of doing the job based on your skills and experience, they wouldn’t be wasting your and their time with interviewing you.
Be prepared by making sure you know where the place is, reviewing your list of times you have demonstrated your skills (above) and practising answering the questions your are most likely to get asked during your interview. Make sure you have a positive attitude and smile, and you’re probably onto a winner.