Typing on a keyboard

If, like me, you’re currently enjoying the delights of job-hunting, fear not. Updating your CV can seem daunting, but here are a few small things I’ve found can make all the difference.

Have a great intro

You want to start your CV with a short, snappy personal statement. Try to avoid clichéd words like driven, creative, hard-working and reliable. Think of it as your ‘elevator pitch’ – a brief overview of what you do and more importantly what makes you good at it.

Make it easy on the eye

A couple of easy ways of doing this are to use a sans serif font, keep your paragraphs short and justify the text. This keeps lines nice and clean, and makes the whole thing quick and easy to read through. Use the same font throughout and be consistent with the size you use for headers and the main bodies of text.

Mix it up

Don’t be overly concerned with having your experience in chronological order. For example, I have a section at the top for relevant experience, followed by the rest of my employment history. You can include any unpaid work as well. If you have a blog, regardless of whether it makes money, include it. Blogging shows a great deal of creativity as it requires so many transferable skills: design, photography, social media management, and of course, writing!

Keep it concise

We all know the rule of keeping your CV down to two pages, but it can be hard to know what to cut down. This is just a guide, but here is what I cut out of mine:

  • Hobbies and interests – there’s much argument over this, but I personally don’t like having mine on my CV
  • Jobs from over five years ago, unless they’re relevant to the job I’m applying for, in which case they go in my relevant experience section
  • I’m selective with my qualifications. I have both of my university qualifications, my A-Levels and then a summary of my GCSEs, rather than a list of all the subjects I took. I think at this point in my career no-one would really care, but of course if you’re applying for your first ever job it’s a different story. Keep extra courses you’ve taken limited to anything relevant or things like First Aid, which is always good to have
  • Unnecessary details about each job I’ve done. I keep it to key responsibilities and notable projects

Don’t get too personal

Personal details wise I only ever include my name, address and contact details. You don’t need to include your date of birth or any other information. Depending on the job you’re applying for you may want to include links (for example, to your blog) and Twitter handles.

References available on request

I had this on my CV for years, but it’s not necessary. Scrap it. It’s a given that you’ll be able to provide references.

 

 

I’ve been feeling really good recently.  No, make that great!  Like, smiling at strangers in the supermarket and feeling like I’m an unstoppable force kinda great.

At the weekend I had the immense joy of watching two of my favourite people in the world get married.  I was a bridesmaid for the very first time and I loved every minute.  I laughed, cried, caught up with old friends, drank too much champagne, and danced all night.  My thighs are still hurting, but it was totally worth it!  It was a perfect day.

No YOU'RE drunk.

No YOU’RE drunk!

You know it’s been a good day when you start off looking like a princess and end up looking like Boy George!

nice weddingboy george

The days are getting longer and warmer, I have some potentially exciting opportunities on the horizon, and I’ve finally started planning my Scandinavia trip (June 2017, fingers crossed!)

All in all, life is looking pretty fantastic.  On a personal note I’ve been working on being more positive and focusing on all the times I feel good.  CBT has taught me to take stock of all the ways my anxiety can manifest itself physically.  I’m supposed to focus on symptoms like tingling fingertips, shortness of breath, or feeling lightheaded, and remind myself that these sensations aren’t anything serious, but rather my nervous system misfiring.

I haven’t felt any of these things for a while now, which feels like a really big step, but it’s got me thinking, why am I not channeling that same focus on all the lovely ways my body responds to happiness?

Like the way laughter rises up through my stomach in little uncontrollable bubbles, or the tingle of goosebumps down my arms when I listen to a beautiful song.  The warmth that spreads through me when someone pays me a compliment, or the way I felt so overwhelmed with joy at my best friends’ wedding that my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest, but in the best way possible.

We all lead such busy lives and get so wrapped up with the stresses of adulthood that I think we sometimes forget to slow down and take stock of all the times we feel good.  So next time you feel butterflies of excitement, or the uncontrollable urge to smile, take a moment to really enjoy the sensation.  Focus on all the other things you’re feeling, and truly savour them.  These are the moments that we take for granted.  When we look back on this time in our lives we’ll remember the big things that made us happy, but we’ll forget all the tiny little snapshots that helped to make up the big picture.  I feel like I’m ready to stop dwelling on my anxiety and start cherishing my own happiness, however small and insignificant it might seem from the outside.

 

Jobs

The path I took to get to where I am now wasn’t a particularly straightforward one.  It’s hard to know what to do with your life when you finish school/university, and it’s easy to feel lost.  I’m pretty sure I made every mistake possible along the way, but I don’t regret anything.  Now I’m doing a job I love, am self-employed, and I’ve never looked back.  But it took me a long time to get here, and I feel like I had very little guidance when making those big decisions.

So here are a few things I wish someone had said to me:

Do you need to go to university?

Using my own experience here, I know a lot of people are drawn to events management degrees.  Now I’m not going to say that they’re not useful, but to get into managing events within hotels, I found that employers were impressed by my experience, not my qualifications.  I started working in Conference and Banqueting, which is basically the team that sets up the big events, and does all the on-the-day running of the functions.  Chances are you’ll only get a casual contract (I worked weekends while also working a 9-5 job at first – hard, but worth it), and the shifts are long, physical and unsociable, but I can honestly say it was the best grounding for my events career.  It gave me hands-on, practical experience and a realistic understanding of how events are run.  So all I can say is have a really good think about what you want to do, then find out exactly what employers are looking for.  With university fees on the rise, more and more people are looking at alternative routes into the careers they want.

Work experience.  Work experience.  Work experience.

I cannot stress this enough.  Experience is so valuable.  If you do decide to go to uni, find out whether work experience is organised as part of the course, and if the university has strong industry links – this would definitely be a plus.    If not, try to organise a week or two over the summer.  Yes, it’s probably the last thing you’ll want to do once you’ve finished all your exams, but trust me, it’ll be worth it.  Be proactive, and push yourself.    Try new things.  Put yourself out there, and talk to people who are doing the jobs you want to be doing.  Find out what they did and do the same.

The same applies if you’re still at school.  If your teachers are organising work experience for you, make the most of it!  Aim high, now is not the time to stay in your comfort zone.  When I did my work experience at 16 I commuted to London every day and worked for an online magazine.  It was scary, exciting, and I’m so glad I did it.

When you’re doing your work experience, ask questions.  Find out the real ins-and-outs of the job, the good and the bad.

Be realistic about your career expectations

When you’re choosing a career have a good long think about what you want out of life, what sacrifices you’re willing to make for work, and some definite no-nos.

For example, are you willing to relocate for work?  Your location will be a big factor in the jobs that are available to you.

What are your salary expectations?  Do you want a six figure salary with a sixty hour working week?  Or do you cherish your free time more than money?

Work out what’s important to you, what you’re good at, and where you want to be in ten years, and try to find a job that best fits that.  Easier said than done, I know, but www.prospects.ac.uk is a great place to start if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed.  They have useful profiles for a huge range of careers, along with average salaries and necessary qualifications.

Say yes to training

If you’re in a job at the moment, make sure you get the most out of it.  I have always aimed to get as far as possible in every job I’ve done, even if I knew I didn’t want to do it forever.  For example, when I worked in retail I undertook management training.  Even though I knew I didn’t want to work in retail management, I knew it would look good on my CV.

Again, look at where you want to be, work out what gaps you have in your skill-set, and fill them in.  It sounds silly, but there is a lot you can teach yourself, and lot of valuable resources can be found online.

Get connected

Build good, strong relationships with your colleagues.  If you don’t have LinkedIn, get it.  It’s basically an online CV, and a fantastic way to connect with others in your industry.  Have a good, professional looking profile picture, and as you would with your CV, keep your page up-to-date and showcasing your strengths.  People can write testimonials about you, and ‘endorse’ your skills, which makes you all the more impressive looking to potential employers.

Again, talk to people.  Go to networking events, meet new people, and get yourself out there.  Social media is making it so easy to interact with employers.  Follow influential people in your chosen field on Twitter, and start getting noticed.

Apply for jobs the right way

It took me a long time to learn that you have to set yourself apart in the application process.

My top tip: don’t just fire off an email with your CV to HR, or the address listed on the website.  Add a personalised cover letter that shows you know about the company you’re applying to.  For extra points, (if appropriate), find out who your direct line manager would be, and email them too.  It really shows you’ve gone the extra mile, and I know that doing this has helped secure most of my interviews.

Always have a question to ask in interviews

I used to think it was OK to not bother with this, but it really is a good idea to have an interesting and insightful question.  A favourite of mine: “what do you like about working here?”  This one takes balls to ask, but it’s a definite winner.  It shows you’re really trying to imagine yourself working there, and the interviewer will enjoy sharing their own experiences with you.

Another top interview tip: relax!  Always take them up on a glass of water; there’s nothing worse than dry-mouth, plus you can take a sip if you want a second or two to think about your answer.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat the question if you need it.  You won’t lose any points!

It took me a lot of interviews before I felt confident and relaxed, but you’ll get there.  Look up some interview questions to practice with a friend the night before, give yourself plenty of time to look your best in the morning, and remember that the worst that can possibly happen is you won’t get this job.  But it will have been good interview experience, and you’ll be even more confident for the next one.

Send a follow up email

After an interview I find it’s not a bad idea to send an email thanking the interviewer for their time, and reiterating that you think the position sounds great (without being too over the top!).  I once sent a follow up after an interview and got a call two minutes later offering me the job.  I often joke that my job application style is ‘passion with a hint of desperation’ (so I was always careful to reign it in, for fear of coming off insincere!), but this one really does work.

Don’t be knocked back by rejection

The tweet at the start of this post pretty much sums it up doesn’t it?  Applying for jobs can be soul destroying.  You will almost definitely feel overqualified for most of the jobs that don’t even invite you for an interview.  You’ll know that you would be ace at a job, and wonder why nobody else can see that.  All I can say is: don’t lose heart.  While I was job-hunting I would wake up feeling optimistic, then as the day went on, stressed, frustrated, tired, sad, angry and hopeless.  Then I’d go to sleep, wake up the next morning, and start the whole lovely process again.  Hang in there, I promise, you’ll get there.  Tailor your application as closely as possible to the criteria they’re looking for.  Read all the supporting documents – job description, person spec etc.- and cover each point in your personal statement/cover letter/CV.  It will take a lot of work, but it will be worth it, I promise.  It’s very important to not take rejection personally, as competition for any job nowadays is fierce.  Take feedback when offered, to find out if there are any areas you can improve in.  If you’ve got some spare time while you’re looking, it’s definitely not a bad idea to do some voluntary work.  You’ll meet interesting people, gain valuable experience for your CV, and be doing something rewarding and fulfilling.  Win-win!

Don’t worry!

Ultimately, wherever you are on your career ladder, don’t stress!  It really is true what they say, your twenties are all about figuring yourself out.  I didn’t take the most direct route to where I am now, but I don’t regret a thing.  I met fantastic people, got great experience under my belt, and had a blast along the way.  You’ve got to trust that everything happens for a reason, and that things will fall into place if you have the right attitude.

I’m sorry if this post was a bit all over the place, I was trying to make sure it covered as much as possible.  I’d also like to say that I’m not a professional careers advisor, this is just based on my personal experience.  As always, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.  Thanks for reading and good luck!