If you’ve got no real experience to put on your CV, you’ve got no way of showing prospective employers that you are right for the role they’re advertising. So what do you do? Firstly, have a think whether you’ve ever done any of the kind of work on this page. It may be that you have more experience to include than you think! If not, volunteering, either in the charity sector or at a local business, can help give you the experience you need to get your foot in the door. Here are some other ideas for building your experience on your CV:
Part time work
Gaining a little experience in a part time role gives you the chance to demonstrate a whole range of skills. For example, you might not think bar work could be valuable for your future marketing career but it could give you the chance to show teamwork, communication, how you handle difficult situations – as well as reliability and punctuality. The job itself can be less important than the skills it allows you to demonstrate. While you’re job hunting, get a part time role and work hard – not only will you gain experience for your CV but you’ll also have someone to give you a good reference.
The Internet has made getting freelance jobs much easier. You can write, design, build websites, edit, proofread and do a whole host of other things without any previous experience. You build your kudos up by doing a few good jobs cheaply and getting decent ratings for them – then you’ll have something to add to your CV and you’ll be able to command higher fees. Try these sites:
- Bizreef – offering freelance jobs in writing, programming, graphics, SEO, marketing, video, social media and the like. Easy to use.
- Freelancer – another site for freelance jobs which also allows you to earn a bit of extra cash through their affiliate/referral program.
- Odesk – freelance jobs of just about any description that can be completed via the web. From programming and web design to SEO and translation, there’s no limit to what people post jobs for on here. The downside is that you’re competing against a lot of cheap labour so you’ll probably use it mostly just to clock up some experience rather than to make some serious money.
- Peopleperhour – another freelance jobs marketplace offering the usual online jobs – marketing, graphic design, writing and so on.
- Scriptlance – originally just for programmers, but now for programmers, writers, designers and marketers.
- Tutor hub – make money offer tutoring to students.
Volunteering is a great way to gain work experience. There are websites that make it easy to find volunteering opportunities such as Do It, Worldwide Volunteering, and V Inspired (14-25 yr olds). The Direct Gov site also has more ideas for volunteering, such as in local hospitals and the community.
Volunteering doesn’t always mean working for charity. You can also approach local businesses with a concise, well written letter explaining your skills and offering to work for them for free for a set period of time. You can also gain relevant experience by doing other jobs for free – for example, writing for a local newspaper, or designing for a small business or charity.
Working with others
Look out for opportunities to work on local projects and enterprise schemes. For young people, the Young Enterprise charity offers great opportunities and experience – they also welcome volunteers.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award allows 14-24 year olds to get involved with local community projects to build their skills and attain a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award at the end of it. You can choose what project you get involved with or start one up for yourself.
There’s nothing at all to stop you starting your own small business, building your own website, or writing a blog – each giving you the opportunity to demonstrate various skills to prospective employers. Ebay and Amazon marketplace make starting a business online incredibly easy, and WordPress allows you to start a blog with no programming or technical knowledge at all.
If your CV is totally blank, situations you have been in and problems you have effectively dealt with can provide further examples of valuable skills.
Demonstrating your skills
Depending on the type of job you’re going for, it might be possible to demonstrate your skills to your prospective employer through analysis of their company. A great place to do this would be in your covering letter. For example, if you’re going for a marketing, social media, search engine optimisation or design job, you can perform an analysis of your prospective employer’s existing marketing promotions / communications, social media interactions, SEO efforts or design efforts, offering mock ups, one or two killer ideas and practical suggestions for improvements. Your analysis should be positive and constructive – imagine the person reviewing your application is responsible for whatever you’re giving feedback on and that should keep your comments in check! For most roles, you can suggest ideas for how your prospective employer could make efficiencies, expand their business, use technology and so on. Showing an awareness of current market conditions and competition is impressive, whatever role you’re applying for. Don’t give too much though – you don’t want them to cut you out of the picture – just offer a couple of strong ideas and a really good understanding of how the business operates.