How I got good graduate CV advice

Good CV advice was the difference between starting work and staying on the rejection pile, says AfterThought.

True Stories

crumpled pieces of paper with a pencil

In a tough job market it pays to have a good CV

What next?

The final month of my student life was probably the most enjoyable of my education ‘career’ – an early hand in on my dissertation gifted me with an early start to that final precious student-summer. I studied Theology at the University of Nottingham, and had thoroughly enjoyed my three years there. Like many around me, I hadn’t yet given much thought to what I was going to do next. My tutor had asked me once whether I’d got any thoughts on my preferred career, and when I responded with a shrug, he simply nodded and commented that it was ‘a standard response’.

I wish he’d probed me a little harder; had I thought about my options? What were my interests? Where did I think my skills lay? I don’t for a moment blame my tutor that I didn’t set some time aside in my final year to plan my job hunt, but now, gifted with hindsight, I wish I had given it a little more thought from the comfort of my loan-fuelled student life. Having enjoyed a summer of barbeques and mourned the loss of the University ‘bubble’, I eventually dug out my CV, with the hope of updating it. 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. I merely set about the job hunt firm in my belief that a graduate role was just around the corner.

Seeing potential

With my new CV and a cover letter convincing the world I could sell snow to an Eskimo, I started sending off applications; a few to some charity jobs, some to web editing positions, and a bunch to television production groups. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so my cover letters were fairly general, selling myself as a fast learner and a keen worker. I was bright, my education career showed that, so 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 good will, trawling though countless online job sites, looking for fun sounding roles, adding my CV to many of them in the hope that someone might recognise my potential.

It’s only now, nearly a year on, that I realise most of these applications would probably have been discarded straight away – or laughed at, shown around the office, and then chucked in the bin. Job hunting is a skill, and one that I certainly didn’t have in the summer after I graduated. Nothing had prepared me for it whilst at university, and it takes far more than just common sense and hope to get you an interview.

No recognition

Whilst my parents and friends had looked over my CV for me and made some generally positive noises, I now know that they weren’t the right people to go to for such a specialised service. My CV didn’t get any recognition; any replies I got were always rejections. No one was willing to offer feedback on my application, such were the volume of applicants. After a few months of hoping that various rewordings and restructurings would get results, I ran out of steam. I felt very rejected, thoroughly worthless and clueless as to what to do next – a feeling far too familiar with many graduates and job seekers.

The most valuable piece of advice I received as to how I might turn myself around was given to me by an advisor at the Careers Centre of the University of Nottingham – a service I had somehow avoided during 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 a countless rejections, and finally being invited to an interview. Just like the washing up or changing the oil in your car, reworking or even starting a CV can be such an easy task to put off. I now realise the importance of getting guidance as to how to set about it properly, and that there are professionals out there who are keen to help.

I’m still looking for a job, but since I adjusted my CV and job seeking strategy after some sound advice, I’m now getting interviews and have gained experience from a number of temp and intern roles. It’s a tough job market at the moment, and I certainly wasn’t expecting this after university. I can only keep going knowing that it won’t last forever.

Next Steps

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By AfterThought

Updated on 29-Sep-2015