How I got good graduate CV advice

Writing a CV can be complicated and a lot of times it’s the small details that get yours put into the ‘no’ pile. And with everyone and their mum giving their opinion on what you should be doing it’s really difficult to know who you should be listening to. Have a look at AfterThought’s story below to help you out.

True Stories

A young man is looking for CV advice. This is a wide-angle image.

The Mix: Before we give the floor to AfterThought, we just wanna let you know that if you’re struggling with your CV you can check out our advice for things to put on your CV here.

The scariest question post-uni: What next?

Forget about CV advice for a minute, I’m first gonna take you back to the final month of my student life, arguably the best time of my entire academic ‘career’. An early submission of my dissertation gave me an early start to that final precious student-summer. I had just finished studying Theology at the University of Nottingham, and had thoroughly enjoyed my three years there. But, like many around me, I hadn’t really given much thought to what I was going to do next. In fact, I remember my tutor asking me once whether I had a specific career in mind for after graduation, and when I responded with a shrug, he just nodded. Apparently that was ‘a standard response’.

Honestly, I wish he’d probed me a little harder; had I thought about my options? What were my interests? What was my skill set? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all blaming him for my own lack of forward planning . It’s just that now, gifted with hindsight, I wish I’d given it a little more thought from the comfort of my loan-supported student life. Having enjoyed a summer of barbeques and mourning the loss of the University ‘bubble’, I had to face reality.

Eventually I got round to digging out my CV, with the hope of updating it. Problem was, aside from a few volunteering roles, the main addition was my shiny new ‘Degree’ result; the culmination of 16 years of education in a BA Hons. Of course, I thought this was catnip to employers and set off on the job hunt firm in my belief that a graduate role was just around the corner.

Side note: If you’re not sure what to do after university, check out this article by The Mix..

Sending out applications without CV advice

With my new CV and a cover letter convincing the world I could sell snow to an Eskimo, I started sending off applications; first a few to some charity jobs, then some to web editing positions, and a bunch to television production groups. From that strange mix, you can probably figure out that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. 

This meant that my cover letters were fairly general, with my main attributes being that I was a fast learner and a keen worker. I mean I was bright, my education career showed that. Surely employers would look at my potential, see that I was keen to work, and start me out at the bottom. That’s how it works, isn’t it? I set myself up in front of my computer with ample coffee and a positive attitude. Countless hours were spent scrolling through online job sites, looking for roles that appealed to me, adding my CV to many of them and just hoping that someone would take a chance on me.

It’s only now, nearly a year on, that I realise most of these applications probably got discarded straight away – or, more accurately, laughed at, shown around the office, and then chucked in the bin. Job hunting is a skill; one that I certainly didn’t have in the summer after I graduated. Nothing really prepared me for it throughout my three years at university. And, trust me, this is something that needs to be learned. It takes far more than just common sense and hope to get you an interview. You need some CV advice.

Sound familiar? Have a read of The Mix’s article on how to find a job.

Getting no response to my CV

Sure, my parents and friends had looked over my CV for me and made some generally positive comments, but that wasn’t really what I needed. How do I know that? Well, despite sending off dozens of applications, my CV didn’t get any recognition; any replies I got were always rejections. No one was willing to offer feedback on my application because they were all too busy filing through other applications. After a few months of hoping that various rewordings and restructurings would get results, I started to lose hope. In all honesty, I just felt very rejected, thoroughly worthless and clueless as to what to do next. A feeling that many graduates and job seekers know all too well.

The golden CV advice

On a more positive note, the most valuable piece of advice I received about how to get out of this rut came from an advisor at the Careers Centre of the University of Nottingham – a service I had somehow managed to avoid for the entirety of my three years of study. Thankfully for me, many of these free university services exist for the alumni as well as for the current students. For me, they were the key difference between countless rejections, and finally being invited to an interview. Just like changing the oil in your car, reworking or even starting a CV can be such an easy task to put off. But when you finally do, it’s so important to get guidance as to how to set about it properly. And there are professionals out there who are keen to help with exactly that.

I’m not gonna sit here and pretend I’ve magically got my shit together. Just like the majority of young people in the UK, I’m still looking for a job. However, since I adjusted my CV and job seeking strategy after some sound advice, I’m now getting interviews and have gained experience from temp and intern roles. Yes, it’s a tough job market at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you should give up

The Mix popping in again: If you’re looking for more help with jobs after university, we’ve got an article on how to get a graduate job here.

Next Steps

  • Prospects is the UK's official graduate jobs website.
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By AfterThought

Updated on 07-Jun-2022