“When selecting roles and deciding how much detail to include, your focus should be on how relevant the experience is to the position you’re targeting.”
As you step out of university and into the world of work, you’ll probably be wondering what should be included in your graduate CV. Here, we’ll help you to decide what to add, what to leave out, what to highlight and what to summarise.
When selecting roles and deciding how much detail to include, your focus should be on how relevant the experience is to the position you’re targeting.
It’s quite standard for a university student to supplement their income with a part-time role, but unfortunately, it’s not always related to their degree or career aspirations. Don’t let that worry you – an employer will be pleased to see you’ve got some work experience under your belt and that you’ve been able to balance your studies with a job. Rather than fretting over your lack of industry experience, focus instead on your transferable skills and try to give concrete examples of when you’ve used them. For example, instead of saying “teamwork”, you could say “contributed to the team that won an award for customer service”, or “organised team social events to improve morale”.
Seasonal or temporary work
Much like part-time work, seasonal and temporary jobs aren’t often related to your future career. Even if you’ve only worked for a few weeks here and there, you’ll still have acquired valuable work experience and skills. When you secure a full-time role, you’ll be able to remove these jobs from your CV, but until then use the experience to demonstrate to an employer the skills you’ve gained and your work ethic.
Many students take on a role within their university, ranging from Student Rep to leader of a team or society. These rarely merit more than a line or two on your CV, to highlight your involvement and responsibilities, but are still worth this brief mention to show that you had a life beyond the library. University jobs relating to your field of expertise, however, such as Research Assistant, can be expanded to highlight your knowledge and treated as a regular job.
Voluntary work is generally looked upon favourably on any CV, whether you’re a graduate or an executive. Unpaid experience is no less worthy of mention than a paid job, as you’ll still have acquired skills and experience along the way. If your volunteering is related to your chosen career, describe your responsibilities– don’t forget to include what you achieved for the company during this time. If the volunteering is less relevant, you’ll only need to summarise your work in 1-2 bullet points.
If you’ve been able to secure an internship during your time at university, you’re off to a head-start. It’s likely that the internship will be directly related to your target role, so you’ll be able to draw out industry knowledge as well as transferable skills. You should also be able to identify a few achievements from your internship that will boost your credibility. Anything you’ve done that has had a positive impact on the company should be included – and, wherever possible, quantified.
If you have experience of full time, permanent work, you’ll be able to use this to boost your CV; even it was before you began your degree. Again, it will need to be more detailed if its relevant to the type of roles you’re applying for now. Ensure you include any leadership experience or financial responsibilities, as well as an outline of your main remit. Achievements in these roles should also be added, whether relevant to your target career or not, as it shows you have a solid record of success already.
Great, you’re on your way to building a strong CV. Remember that you don’t need to list all of your experience in an exhaustive list – there’s no obligation to include every last detail of your life and it’s okay to leave out anything that’s not relevant. If you have diverse work experience, you may choose to group them under headers such as “Voluntary positions” and “Part-time Experience”, or you may find it more logical to list them chronologically. Whatever you decide should be influenced by the aim of having your most relevant experience early on in your CV and ending with the least relevant.
Little to no Experience
No work experience? What have you been doing all this time?! Never mind, use your academic knowledge as a basis for your CV, listing the modules you’ve completed, your final grade, any societies you were a member of, any scholarships you won and a list of awards and publications. To be honest, most graduates will include much of this information anyway, but with no work experience, you’ll need to provide more detail. You’ll probably find a skills-based CV most appropriate – you’ll be able to list your key skills as headers and give examples of when you’ve used each skill under each header. This way, there is less focus on professional experience as you can draw the examples from anywhere in your life. Now might be a good time to grab a voluntary job or register as a temp, just to get some experience and start building your CV.
Our six golden rules
When selecting which roles and responsibilities to include, bear in mind these golden rules:
Are you about to graduate and need some help creating your CV? Contact our team on 01744 832 589 to discuss the right options for you. Alternatively, you can submit for a free CV review to receive personalised, confidential advice by clicking here.