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Supporting CV success with students

Entering the workforce can be tricky. When you’re early in your career, with little or no work experience, it can be hard to know how to demonstrate your skills. What are employers looking for? What do they really want to know? And what’s the best way to make yourself stand out?

That’s why we were proud to work with local colleges on recent careers advice sessions and CV workshops to do our bit to help students become more employable – as well as providing them with accessible careers information.

So, exactly what was involved in the CV workshops? Well, first and foremost, it was about helping the students to understand what an employer like us would look for in a CV, removing the mystery behind the process. After all, for some people, their only interaction with an employer is at the stage of sending their application, and by then, it’s too late to ask questions. With that in mind, we were there to provide vital first-hand insight: rather than having to guess what employers really want, they could hear it directly from us.

For instance, one key but simple tip from the sessions was the importance of correct spelling to employers in applications. So, we encourage anyone filling out an application to take the time to check it. Even better, get someone with fresh eyes to check it for you, so that you make the best first impression.

Another key topic was an emphasis on bringing out skills in your applications. As we told the participants, we’re generally looking to understand what an applicant’s experiences have taught them; not just the titles of courses they’ve taken or the dates and duration of the work experience they’ve done, but what they learned from it. Rather than being told, say, that a student has worked for six months in a shop, we want to know what skills it taught them. In essence, we want to see that they can be self-reflective and learn from their experiences, even if they don’t seem relevant to the position they’re applying for. For the students, that insight really opened their eyes to the details that could make their CV or application stand out.

For us, that was a real goal of the session: to help these students to bring to life the skills they already have. Too often, bright, qualified and experienced students don’t get enough training in how to showcase themselves on paper, so this was a prime opportunity to help the groups prepare. In the end, it means that, whether they apply to us or to another employer, they’re better equipped for success and to take advantage of the opportunities open to them.

To ensure that the students got the support they needed, some of our sessions also offered one-to-one guidance. The students prepared their CVs in advance and shared them during the virtual session – meaning that our colleagues could give them direct pointers on how to improve. Going beyond general tips, we could get into specifics of exactly how each individual student could better sell their skills and really shine through to any prospective employer.

The sessions were hugely rewarding for us as an organisation, with the chance to meet so many local students from across a wide range of backgrounds. It was brilliant too to see them improve, build confidence, and take on our guidance over the course of the session. But we’ll let the students tell you for themselves:

“Everything was pretty much amazing.”

“I was able to learn how to properly arrange the content of my CV.”

“There was good communication and feedback on our CVs, and we had some good advice on how to change and adapt them to make them better for an employer to see.”

We were proud too to hear glowing feedback from the students’ college teachers, looking forward to a bright future for the participants involved:

“I wanted to personally say thank you to your team for delivering the workshops and making a difference. The students will have picked up on your advice and I think it will be interesting to see them action this as they start to apply for job roles.”

Frankly, we couldn’t agree more. We can’t wait to see these students thrive, putting their new skills into practice as they reach out to employers and take their first steps onto the career ladder. Maybe one day soon, we might even see their applications to join us here at FCDO Services – where we’ll help take their skills and experiences from strength to strength.

If you’re a student looking to take the first steps in your own career – or you know someone who is – then why not take a look at our Apprenticeships page? There, you’ll find plenty of information on what we do, what we look for, and even application tips like those we shared in our sessions. Plus, if you’re a parent or teacher, there’s a page for you too, with information to help you understand our opportunities and support students in making their best application. 

We’ll be opening applications for our 2021 Apprenticeship programmes in March.