How to write your first CV

Though it was a (very!) long time ago, I still remember the pressure involved in putting together my very first ‘recent college leaver’ CV.  I hadn’t done very much at all work-wise aside from a few Saturday retail jobs…one of which I was politely asked to leave because my newly-dyed red hair and black nail varnish didn’t fit with the shop’s image.  

So you can probably tell that my own ‘first CV’ didn’t exactly set the world on fire!  After all, CV advice tends to focus on highlighting your achievements, which can be very difficult if you can’t really think of any.  This means the bulk of school, college and even university graduates’ CVs are a bland list of education dates and qualifications…maybe with a few shop or bar jobs thrown in.

If yours can best be described this way and you’re at a complete loss as to how to improve it, keep in mind that your first CV is probably the best opportunity you’ll ever get to show potential employers the real person behind the qualifications!

Your successes are all in front of you, so right now your interests and personality can take the spotlight – and at this stage of your career you should be able to fit all you need on just one handy, snappy page.

So here are a few tips to get you started:

Start your CV with an attention-grabbing opening statement that describes your skills and personality in one short paragraph.   Although this will be the first thing people see at the top of your CV, it may be the last bit you actually write as you focus on getting the rest just right.

Make a list of skills. Can’t think of any?  Don’t worry, it’s far easier than you think!  If you’ve worked in a shop or behind a bar, you’ve been developing your customer service skills.  If you play a sport, you’re showing you can work well in a team.  If you’ve got a particular hobby, that demonstrates how you can dedicate yourself to learning something new.   

When you’ve come up with a list of four or five skills, write a short paragraph detailing how you use them.  Teamworking, for example, could be highlighting your involvement in a sports team and also what role you play in your group of friends – are you the organiser, or maybe the one everyone comes to for a listening ear? 

List your qualifications. If you’ve only just left education, your qualifications will take priority over your work experience, so list these next.  Include the name of your school, college or university and the qualification dates.

Finally, list any work experience along with a short summary of your duties (you won’t need to go into too much detail here, as you will have already covered a lot of it in the ‘Skills’ section).   

There’s no need to add anything like ‘references available on request’ – though to stand out a bit more there’s nothing wrong with including a copy of a written reference or any recommendations with your CV and application letter.

Deep breath…and good luck!

If you need help with your CV – whether it’s your first or your twenty-first – I’m on hand to help.  Simply get in touch!