For many young people today, finding your first job is a frustrating, confusing and often shaming experience. Without the experience of an older candidate, it can feel like your limited job history can amount to very little in an application process. But very few well-paying jobs are available today, I understand just how important it is for young people to find jobs from an early age these days.
From enquiring about vacancies to writing your first CV, finding your first job requires a lot of dedication. In my own experience of finding a first job, I made so many mistakes and missed out on so many opportunities that I wanted to share my advice with other young people, to help them do better.
Be honest and transparent – Without putting yourself down.
One of the first things to remember about building your CV is that you must be honest about the experience you have. If you’re providing references with your CV, your past will be checked up on and if it doesn’t match up to your resume, you could be on the receiving end of a harsh rejection.
So openly admit if you haven’t had a job before. Don’t pretend that a work experience opportunity was a job, or that your volunteering was actually paid for as it can damage your credibility. But this doesn’t mean stating explicitly that you have no experience. This could just mean that instead of writing out your ‘Employment History’, you use the title ‘Relevant Experience’ instead, and list your hobbies, clubs and opportunities instead. I firmly believe that everything is a learning experience if framed in the right light. For example, a two-year stint at an Art Club could actually be a vital education in a creative environment, learning and collaborating with other like-minded students. The end result might have been a pretty sketchbook, but if it helped you to work in a team, use a variety of resources and hit tight deadlines, it can sound great on a CV.
Use the right language
Language is key for writing a great CV. Although about 70% of the content on the page will be job titles and dates, how you describe your personality and experience can really help to boost your profile.
Make sure that your sentences are spell-checked and grammar-proofed before you send your CV off. Use professional language throughout. This means no slang, no casual language and no irrelevant information. Your potential employer wants to know what you learned and experienced at each role, not about the friends you made or the customer that yelled at you over a sausage roll.
It might also help to try switching out some of the words you typically use for some professional-sounding alternatives. For example, ‘friends’ become ‘team members’ or ‘colleagues’. ‘Pot washer’ becomes ‘Kitchen Assistant’. ‘Cleaning tables’ becomes ‘hygiene maintenance’ or ‘maintaining high levels of customer-facing organisation and cleanliness’.
Design clear formatting and neat page layouts
Your CV should be no more than two pages long (single-sided) with neat, chronological titles going down the page. A great example CV should be split into the following sections:
Top of the Page
Name, DOB and Contact Information
Professional Description i.e. your current role, your interests and description of your abilities.
Previous Experience (no more than five listed)
Bottom of the page
Use smart and relevant references
For most young people, many of whom won’t have had a part-time or paid job before, their teachers can provide solid references for potential employers. So make sure you pick a tutor that knows you well and can give you a good recommendation in the field you want to work in. For example, if you’re applying for a job at a kitchen or cafe, use your food tech or cookery teacher as a reference.
If you have had work before then select your two most recent managers (if you’re on good terms with them) as your references. Your references are also a great place to mention any other, external work you have done that can be viewed by potential employees. This can be blogs, websites, publications, portfolios or published pieces that can provide a detailed insight into your approach to work and your field of interest.
Have your CV ready before you enquire about a job
One of the most frustrating candidates a recruiter can employ is one who asks about a job but doesn’t have any resumes or cover letters ready. Even if you’re popping into the local cafe to ask about unadvertised part-time positions, bring a handful of CVs with you just in case to hand out.
Many employers won’t even respond to the initial request of ‘do you have any jobs going’ unless there is an attached CV for them to take a look at, so it’s worth getting yours made up first. This preparation also helps to demonstrate some core skills of organisation, responsibility and professionalism that can impress a potential employer.
Find jobs for yourself, don’t get others to do it for you
As a young person, it can be one of the scariest things in the world to call someone up and ask about a job. It seems unnatural and frightening and you half expect them to laugh in your face. But having the professionalism and bravery to enquire on your own behalf really demonstrates that independence and motivation that so many employers look for.
A candidate who asks their friends, their parent or their partners to find out about jobs for them can come across as too young or too inexperienced to work in the modern workplace. Once you have the job, you’ll be working alone without having anyone else to hold your hand or help you out – so it’s worth getting some practice in before you even start.
Learn as much as you can about your rights and value before you apply
Before you even apply for a job, it’s important to understand just what you’re worth and what you can be offered legally for your age. From teaching yourself the minimum wage to the number of hours you are legally allowed to work, having this information ready in advance could help you from being exploited in your new role.
Sadly, there are definitely some employers out there who would take advantage of young, willing and inexperienced workers and overwork them without proper pay. Educate yourself fully before accepting a role, and understand your worth as an employee.
Understand what the role requires and tailor your application to it
One of the most useful ways to boost your application is to make sure you understand just what the role requires. For example, if you’re looking to work with children, make sure you emphasise any babysitting, responsibility of vulnerable people or animals, compassionate or caring personality traits or skills regarding teamwork. But if you’re looking to work in an office environment, make sure to highlight your skills of professionalism, organisation and adaptability.
The way you frame your past experience and your current skills can really make a difference when applying to different roles in different environments.
Know your availability and abilities
Nothing is more frustrating to an employer than an unreliable candidate. They want to know your actual availability before you start, rather than the hours you think you have the time to work. Make sure you factor in any clubs, activities, schoolwork or other responsibilities as well as social time before choosing your available hours of work. This also includes travel to and from work as well, so make sure you can get a lift or form of public transport that can get you to work on time.
This also applies to your abilities. Whilst in every job, you are bound to learn so many new skills, don’t be overly confident about what you can do when you start. For example, being able to make a good cup of tea at home doesn’t necessarily enable you to use a high end coffee machine and make a matcha soya decaf latte.
Ask Around Your Social Community
One of the most interesting ways I’ve seen young people find their first jobs in 2019 is through both their friends and social media. From finding out how your friends got their first jobs to reaching out on Facebook in local community groups for vacancies, your social circle can be a great way to get more information.
There are so many benefits to starting work at a young age, and for some of you, it’s a necessary step to support yourself. If these tips have helped anyone, or you want me to look over any CV’s or cover letters, please just let me know and I’ll always be happy to help!