Your CV is the first thing employers will look at when they’re getting to know you and your relevant experience. It’s important to make a good impression.
Even if university isn’t for you, there are still lots of ways to make sure your CV is diverse, interesting, and satisfying to potential employers.
Here are five great ways to make your CV stand out without a university degree.
Academic and vocational courses are very different. Vocational courses teach practical skills and prepare you for work in a specific industry, while an academic university degree is more of an extension of school and college.
Employers like to see vocational courses on your CV because they teach exactly the kind of transferable skills they’re looking for.
Not sure what industry you want to go into just yet? Choose a course or apprenticeship that interests you, will teach you useful things or can help you improve performance at your current part-time job.
What employers will think: You care about your career growth and you’re ready for work.
Helping other people will always be a CV standout. It’s a great way to gain experience for the workplace, develop your social skills and learn new things.
Your volunteer role doesn’t need to have anything to do with your chosen career or current job. It could be local enterprise, have an environmental impact, help children and vulnerable adults, or solve a problem that’s overlooked or ignored.
Choose a charity or organisation you care about, dedicate some regular time, and keep it up!
What employers will think: You’re happy to get stuck in and help.
Get some work experience
The beginning of your career is all about learning as much as possible. Work experience gives you insight into a workplace, helps you learn on the job and is often more specific and transferable than learning from written course material.
Employers want someone enthusiastic and engaged. Committing to a work experience placement tells them you’re just that.
What employers will think: You’re reliable and can hit the ground running.
Undertake a personal project
Personal development projects can include blogging and podcasting, attending or hosting events, working with a mentor, public speaking and more.
Many people neglect this part of their junior CV, but it’s particularly impressive for a school or college leaver to engage with personal development. It also makes excellent job interview conversation!
What employers will think: You think outside the box and are willing to challenge yourself.
Working for yourself - even for a short period - has all kinds of benefits.
As well as gaining lots of relevant experience, freelancing is flexible enough to fit around part-time jobs and volunteering and shows you don’t need lots of ‘hand-holding’ to get down to work. That’s music to an employer’s ears.
What employers will think: You’re independent and take initiative.
When employers read your CV, they’re looking for someone committed, enthusiastic, and engaged. You might not feel that university is the right path for you, but you can still demonstrate that you’re the perfect person for the job.
Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.