We have all been there. You are sitting, staring at your laptop, trying desperately to think of something extra to put in the “other interests” section of your CV. You don’t think that a love of Jäger or your avid binge-watching of Netflix will be seen as legitimate interests by most employers. You need something that will make you stand out from the crowd.
The news these days is filled with reports about the job market becoming more competitive, and unfortunately they are all true. No longer is it enough to have a great degree, outstanding A-levels and a Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award. To stand a chance of getting your dream job when you graduate, you need to maximise your time at university to boost your CV.
So what can you do whilst at university that will impress potential employers? The good news is that you will never have so many opportunities at your fingertips. So let’s jump straight in and take a look at 5 of the best ways to build you CV whilst studying.
1. Join a sports team or club and go for a committee position
Odds are that you will know someone that is ‘treasurer’, ‘vice-president’ or ‘social sec’ for a university club. These all look fantastic on CVs and demonstrate leadership quality to employers. Sports teams are great. It is a cliché but they really do show that you can work as part of a team. They demonstrate a willingness to commit to a schedule of training, matches and socials. In interviews you can talk about how you negotiated a deal with sponsors or how you implemented an extra weekly training session when the team’s post-Christmas fitness levels were found wanting.
Quite often these roles do not require that much extra effort and are well worth it for their CV boosting potential. It does not need to be a sports team. Join the debating society, drama, music or write for the university student newspaper. Focus on those leadership positions – put up your hand and go for it.
2. Take the lead in group projects
Group projects – love them or loathe them, they are a compulsory part of most degree courses. So if you have to do them, why not get the most out of them that you can. Offer to take the lead on the project. It gives you a great example to talk about when an interviewer asks you to give an example of leadership or organisation. The bigger the project, the greater the boost to the CV. If you have a final year group project, try and take a lead role in it. Quite often an employer will ask you to give an example of when you organised a group/negotiated with others/came up with a plan of action. All of these can come from leading a project.
3. Start a business, blog or website
This is a slightly less common one. Something that will really make you stand out to employers is starting a business while at university. It will show that you have tremendous drive and the ability to juggle university commitments alongside your business needs.
It does not need to be the next Google. Start an Ebay business – there are lots of wholesale websites where you can buy goods in bulk and then sell them individually on Ebay. Start running a night at a local club, do a bit of freelance web-design or start something with a group of friends.
You could start a blog or website about something that interests you. You can demonstrate to employers that you know how to use social media to grow your following, you can show that you know how to create engaging content and attract advertisers.
4. Go for university awards
How often at the start of lectures will the lecturer mention some competition or national award that you can enter? Quite often and for most of us it tends to be blanked out while you fish around in your bag for your pen. However, these awards look brilliant on CVs. They come in all shapes and sizes – there will be industry competitions from well-respected companies that are trying to engage with the student demographic, there will be university competitions where you compete within your faculty and there will be awards from charities or volunteering groups that you can complete.
They often have very fancy award titles which will make an employer sit up and take notice. Since the vast majority of students do not bother with these awards or competitions, you often stand a great chance of winning.
5. Work part-time
This is probably the most obvious way of building your CV but also the most important. With the cost of higher education at an all-time high, over two thirds of students now have to work whilst at university in order to fund their studies. Having a part-time job demonstrates to employers that you can juggle commitments and hold down a job while successfully completing your studies and any other extra-curricular activities such as sports teams or societies.
There are a huge variety of jobs to choose from. Depending on your course, you may have a few days a week free, in which case you can apply for a part-time hospitality or retail position. If you have less time there are still great one-off jobs that you can do, such as tutoring, gardening or freelance web-design.
Try and pick something that might be complimentary to the industry that you want to go into. If you are interested in going into marketing, choose a job working remotely on a company’s social media. If you are interested in the hospitality world there is everything from bar manager to sous chef to music venue promoter. If you want to go into fashion, get a job as a trainee clothing designer. These are all current jobs on wurkrs.com and show that there are more options out there than simply working at the student union!
Do not be afraid to take a seemingly menial job. They will often lead to more impressive positions once they see that you are a hard worker.
So there you have 5 simple ways to improve your CV so that it is ready for employers as soon as you graduate. Get one step ahead of the crowd and make the most of your time at university so that you are ready to land your dream job as soon as you graduate.
Sam Hyams is the founder of wurkrs.com, a completely free, nationwide service that helps students find part-time and one-off jobs whilst at university.