Once a pupil leaves full time education, they’ll be ready to start searching for a job – and this means creating their first CV. As a school leaver, there’s not going to be a lot of paid work experience to go on the curriculum vitae – so how can this be tackled?
Drawing up the first CV is a task that teachers need to help pupils with, before they step outside the education comfort zone. After all, one of the primary goals of education is to get our pupils for work-life. You can find a suitable school leaver’s CV template here, which is a good starting point. This includes lots of helpful examples for each section.
Preparing a CV in the classroom allows teachers to assist the pupil with identifying alternative types of experience that show prospective employers transferable skills. For this reason, the task should be discussed well before the pupil is due to leave, and revisited on a regular basis. The reason for this is that starting early on the CV (perhaps a year before the pupil’s exit date) allows you to discuss how they can build the type of experience that can be included in the absence of any real paid employment.
“Your potential employer won’t expect much formal experience for a school leaver job applicant. However, you are likely to have at least some non-traditional experience which can demonstrate skills that are transferable to the world of work.”
Below, we discuss a range of largely non-traditional work experience that can be used to build an effective CV. You may also want to review our post on key skills for yound people.
Employers will be interested in school projects that show skills which are valuable to the workplace. Such skills might include leadership, teamwork, communication, problem solving and creativity.
If a pupil has taken part in a pseudo-commercial project, this can also be included – for example, a young enterprise project. This can show valuable business skills that can be further developed in the work environment.
Pupils aged 14 to 24 in the UK can also do their Duke of Edinburgh award. This is a scheme your school may wish to consider participating in, if it has not already joined. DofE awards are valued by employers because they help pupils gain skills, push themselves physically and mentally, and get experience working with others.
Positions of responsibility
Taking up a position of responsibility within the school environment demonstrates so many skills to a prospective employer. Common positions that can be found in UK schools are Heads of School and House Captains, ports Captains, Head Boy and Head Girl.
It’s vital that these positions aren’t simply listed on the pupil’s CV. Instead, teachers need to work with pupils to identify which hard and soft skills the pupil has developed through their position and how. This should then be set out explicitly on the CV.
“As Head Girl I helped organised and host key events throughout the school calendar. Arranging the event helped me develop my coordination and delegation skills. I also had to negotiate funds for each event, and clearly communicate and coordinate to ensure that everyone understood and carried out their role effectively.”
Getting involved with community projects is a valuable way to show employers a wide range of skills. These might include a strong work ethic, positivity, time management, good communication and leadership, problem solving, flexibility and creativity. It’s important that pupils don’t simply list these skills but instead SHOW how they acquired them. For example:
“I recruited and led a small team of volunteers in cleaning up our local children’s park every weekend which helped develop my leadership skills. The project required that I coordinate 10 people to ensure there was cover each weekend, additionally plan solutions for handling and disposing of the rubbish that were safe and environmentally friendly.”
If the pupil has acquired skills which would be useful to local businesses, freelancing is a great way to build their real life work experience prior to obtaining a full time position. Encourage them to use the skills to help the businesses of their friends and family, and to keep notes about the projects they have been involved with. If they produce work (such as design work), this should be kept as a portfolio which may be of interest to employers in the future. Websites such as PeoplePerHour and Fiverr also allow them to work for others and gain experience of being paid for their efforts.
There is so much to be gained from taking part in extra-curricular activities such as music or sport – and these are another valuable way for pupils to demonstrate their skills to an employer.
Examples of activities that can be used on a CV are:
- Regular participation in sport – this shows teamwork, strategy, communication, motivation and commitment.
- Leading a sports team or band – this shows leadership, communication and self-confidence.
- Arranging an event for a team – this may show working well under pressure, teamwork, leadership, problem solving, communication and so on.
These are just a few examples to give teachers a flavour of how such activities can really help pupils build transferable skills and how they can be presented to employers.
Actual work experience
If a teacher first tackles the prospect of preparing a CV around a year before the pupil is due to leave school, this gives ample opportunity for a pupil to gain some real-life paid experience. There are lots of opportunities for young people which might include:
- Working in the family business
- Doing small jobs for neighbours and friends
- Part time / ad-hoc work for local businesses
These might be for minimal payment but crucially they allow the pupil to demonstrate real paid employment which is an asset to any CV.