September 20, 2018, by Carla

How to Turn Your Student Experiences into a Killer CV

By Beth Leslie, content writer for Inspiring Interns; a recruitment agency matching graduates with internship opportunities

After the blood, sweat and tears you’ve poured into your degree, hunting for your first graduate job should be exciting. However, if you’ve just graduated this year, you might be thinking “I’m not sure it is.” Fear not, lots of graduates feel daunted, overwhelmed, or just a bit confused about what to do first. 

Assessing your skill set is a great place to begin.

However you start your search, you might find yourself confronted with companies demanding skills and experience that your stint as a Sainsbury’s check-out assistant doesn’t seem to qualify you for.

The good news is that most employers don’t actually expect you to have industry-specific experience. Instead, they’re looking for transferable skills and abilities. With a little bit of know-how, you can create a killer CV that makes even that seemingly irrelevant part-time job appear relevant:

1. Your degree counts for a lot

Just because your degree isn’t paid employment, it’s still really important to employers. Your degree has provided you with all sorts of desirable abilities. If you have limited work experience, play these skills up.

Be it through essays, reports, or exams, you will have honed great writing skills during your time at Nottingham. That same writing ability is an important requirement for many graduate jobs: even accountants can’t send poorly-spelt emails to clients! Similarly, those class presentations you aced are uncannily like the pitches many businesses want their employees to be proficient at.

Once you start looking for relevant degree skills, you’ll find them everywhere. That big experiment or dissertation that rounded off your degree? Presumably you had to utilise some serious research skills for it. Took charge of a multi-week group project from conception to completion? Sounds like the sort of thing that would qualify as ‘project management’ experience.

2. Show off your society commitments

It doesn’t matter which societies you were part of; your membership alone shows that you can reliably commit to a cause. If you had to train hard for competitions, that’s a perfect example of determination and a desire to hit goals.

Better yet, did you take a position of responsibility on? Student-led societies often give you unique experience in leadership and other high-position skills. Think about how to frame your contribution in a professional-sounding way. So if you organised team nights out, talk about your event management skills, and if you handled money, present it as experience in finance and budgeting.

3. Any experience can be relevant experience

No matter how unrelated being a waiter and a data analyst may feel, having held down any job demonstrates that you have a good work ethic. Even simple things such as turning up on time and acting appropriately show you have the professionalism companies are looking for in an employee.

Moreover, seeing how a real business works gives you a level of commercial awareness. You probably worked in a team – hello, good team player! – and you may also have dealt with customers, which requires the same interpersonal skills as dealing with business clients.

4. Make your gap year work for you

More students than ever are taking time out to travel, and the good news is that when sold correctly, it can be a beneficial addition to your CV.

Focus on organisational aspects of your trip; planning, managing your time and budget, and taking responsibility for your own itinerary. If you travelled solo, highlight this as an example of your independence and ability to take the initiative.

Many more businesses now have a global outlook, so showing that you used your trip to learn about new cultures, practices and viewpoints will play heavily in your favour. Talk up any language skills you used or picked up, and any volunteering work you took part in.

As for those super-cool activities like mountain climbing or skydiving, you can use those too. Don’t go into detail, but refer to them briefly at the bottom of your CV in order to inject some personality. These facts might catch a hiring manager’s eye and create a great conversation starter at interviews.

Would you like more help turning your experiences into a killer CV? You can find lots of resources online. As Nottingham alumni, you also have access to one-to-one support. To book a CV review, log into My Career as ‘Alumni‘. 

Posted in Applying For JobsEmployer InsightsWork experience