As I trawl through yet another list of graduate opportunities, my eyes snag time and time again on the phrase “must have at least two years’ experience”.
The muscles in my stomach tighten, for that is the crux of the problem; as a recent university-leaver, I have little professional experience.
This is problem number one. Problem number two is that if any entry level jobs do crop up, the employer in question might well receive hundreds, if not thousands, of CVs, many as well-crafted, as grammatically pristine, as packed with qualifications as my own.
A (fortunately employed) friend recently told me that his boss received so many CVs for one particular job that he split the pile in two and desposited one half in the bin. That may be a kick in the teeth for some graduates, yet the majority of us have already come to terms with the fact that this is the level of competition we face with every application. Writing a CV has become less about extolling your own virtues, and more about stopping your CV from ending up as dustbin fodder.
Many graduates are now questioning why they went to university in the first place. The previous government’s attempts to get 50% of young people into university has led to a devaluation of degrees, making it difficult for employers to tell the great from the good.
In a lot of the job descriptions I have perused recently, words such as “enthusiasm” and “extra curricular” have resurfaced many times, which suggest that a degree does not carry enough weight on its own. If you have a degree, and have worked hard for it, it may be difficult to shake off a certain amount of anger when you discover that it is worth less than you thought it would be.
When writing a CV, I find myself emphasising not my academic qualifications, but my short story and poetry writing successes, in the hope that these details will make my CV stand out.
The most difficult thing for me to come to terms with is the thought of getting left behind. I imagine a future in which graduate employment is on the rise, but in this future I’m no longer a “young person”. I imagine myself stuck in a job that I dislike, having missed out on those key post-university years. It is the thought of getting left behind that keeps me trawling through those tiresome job websites, that stops me giving up.
So, what can you do to make your CV stand out? If you’ve ever done anything outside of your studies that shows your passion and commitment to succeed, draw attention to it.
Grab all work experience opportunities with both hands. Never hide your qualifications, just be aware that having a degree alone may not be enough to grab an employer’s attention.
• Editor’s note: Hesta is practising what she preaches, currently gaining work experience with The Clitheroe Advertiser.