A frustrating cycle exists when young people apply for internships and work experience: you have to submit a CV and demonstrate experience but the young people haven’t had any work experience yet – that is why they are applying for it now! Natalie Lancer from NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication explains how to overcome this situation.

Most people know how to write a CV and, indeed, there are many pro formas on the internet one can use. The issue isn’t what format to use, however, but what to put on it, as for most young people, it will look fairly sparse. In fact, there are different types of CV. The chronological CV is where jobs are listed most recent first and is the CV most people are familiar with. This is the CV to avoid for students as they haven’t had enough (or any) jobs to list. The skills (or ‘functional’) CV is the one that is the best for students as it draws attention to skills that have been developed rather than jobs.

Skills can be developed in many ways including during school projects, by participating in extra-curricular activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, attending youth groups, by way of independent study, volunteering experience, hobbies and travelling abroad. I advise students to think about what skills they have, such as IT, interpersonal, analytical, numerical skills, team work, leadership, organisational, creativity etc. Then list the ways they have evidenced this. For example, maybe they were part of a sports team, or were team captain which demonstrates teamwork and leadership skills. Maybe they have written for the school newspaper, created or updated websites or made some “How to…” YouTube videos which potentially demonstrates communication, writing, IT and presentational skills. The “Key Skills” list should form the bulk of the first page of the CV, the second being occupied by Employment History (which can include any work experience or jobs such as babysitting), and Education and Qualifications.

Potential employers take about 2 seconds to decide if a CV goes on the ‘yes’ or the ‘no’ pile. There is therefore evidently an advantage of putting key skills at the beginning – the employer is wowed straight away by your skills, and the thought that went into your CV. It is important to note that you will need to tweak your CV for each job/internship you apply for, making sure your skills marry up to those they are looking for. For each CV, focus on five or six relevant key skills. If you find that your skills do not match those that are required, find ways of boosting your skillset, such as undertaking voluntary work or getting involved in more activities, either in or out of school. Demonstrating that you are an interesting person who participates in what life has to offer, makes you an interesting candidate to employers. A focus on your skills will also give the employer a sense of your personality and what makes you an individual.

Other tips are not to include your date of birth – employers may well be looking for expertise rather than experience. Make sure your email address is sensible – create a new one if necessary. Limit your CV to two pages and make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors.

Natalie is the founder of NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication. She can help you create a winning CV and cover letter and give you expert guidance on your A-level choice, university applications, Personal Statement, interviews and dissertations. She also offers personal development sessions. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or at natalie@natalielancer.com. www.natalielancer.com

Natalie’s top tips on writing a CV for young people:

  • Spend some time thinking about your key skills and your evidence for them
  • If you haven’t got many skills, develop some by participating in activities, volunteering etc
  • Update your CV every time you do more work experience/get a job
  • Check your CV thoroughly for spelling and grammatical mistakes
  • Speak to a specialist for advice about which skills to emphasise and how to showcase them, as well as overall guidance for your CV.