When you are first starting in the world of employment, it can be scary. Employers seem to want the impossible – you need experience to get a job, but you have just finished school, college or university. So, you haven’t yet had the chance to get experience. The first thing to remember is that there are entry-level jobs out there and, if you prepare for them properly, you can increase your chances of getting them.
Creating a resume and cover letter
The first step in getting your first job and any new job is creating the perfect resume and learning how to write a cover letter.
If you don’t have previous work experience, a resume may seem pointless, but this isn’t the case. There are things you will have done during your time in education that can be focused on to show prospective employers your benefits. Or maybe you have been a full-time parent after education and haven’t yet had a job – then there are also skills and experiences you have that can be highlighted.
Creating the perfect resume should start with a general document and then be made specific for every job you apply for – never send an identical resume. When you are considering what to write, look at the terms used in the job advert, known as keywords. These tell you the key skills, abilities and traits that the employer is looking for and if you have these, then use the same language to show them.
If you don’t have previous work experience, then put your education history at the top of the resume, where previous jobs would normally go. Highlight achievements, experience and things you did while in education that can have relevance to your job. Volunteer positions, internships and even working on projects can all help boost your application.
You don’t have to document everything you have done on a resume. The aim is to supply the most relevant information for the employer or experiences that show the skills or abilities they are looking for. And don’t be afraid to get inspiration from online samples – just don’t copy them!
The cover letter
Okay, you might be asking the question ‘what’s a cover letter?’ and that’s okay. It is something you can quickly learn and master. And like the resume, you will have a rough template that will be adapted for every job you apply for.
Look first at how to start a cover letter. Go for a simple template that doesn’t have anything too fussy or ornate on it and start with your name, address and contact information. Use the name of the hiring person if you know or a standard professional greeting.
The first paragraph references the job that you are applying for but phrase it in a way such as highlighting a little about why you are a good fit for the role. Talk a little about skills or accomplishments that make you a stand out candidate but don’t list your entire education history.
Features such as bullet points to highlight skills using keywords from the advert can grab attention and make the letter easy to scan through. Make sure you use the phrases from the advert.
Finally, restate why you are a great candidate and thank them for their time and attention. Again, there are lots of template ideas online to help inspire your writing.
Building an online presence
For the modern job hunter, the importance of the internet cannot be overstated. Many employers will take a look at you online – Facebook profile, LinkedIn, a website and even mentions of you online. That means you need to build an online presence before starting your job hunt so that they find positive stuff. This doesn’t mean make it up though!
Facebook, for example, is very much a place to hang out with friends and family but there is also a lot of business done on the site. You can create a professional business page for yourself and share industry news and stories around the industry you want to go into. Watch your privacy settings on your profile too so that you don’t share too much with the world.
Twitter can be used in a similar way, although it doesn’t have the page facility. You can also use LinkedIn (more on that in a minute) and even create a personal website. There are lots of cost-effective website builders where you need no coding experience to create a website. You can then start building your online presence by linking to it from your social media profiles.
Building a personal network
Perhaps the most important place to be online is LinkedIn – known as the professional social media network. LinkedIn is different to Facebook and Twitter as it is all about your job, your professional life and building up a network.
Recruiters use LinkedIn a lot to find people for jobs they have. So creating an effective and quality LinkedIn profile could even land you a job. It also helps you build up a network – but there is etiquette to using the site so learn this before you start. Don’t just randomly ask people to connect as you would on Facebook, study a solid approach and find something in common to use as an opening to make that connection.
Should you consider internships or holiday jobs?
There are a couple of ways to help get around the chicken-and-egg problem of needing experience to get a job.
Apprenticeships have been reinvented in recent times with a lot more rules involved, and this makes them a better option than in past times. There are many industries where you can get an apprenticeship and while you don’t get the same wage as a full employee, you are getting paid. And more importantly, you are building experience and skills that are relevant to the job you want to do. You can often access career mentors and many apprenticeships lead to full-time jobs, either with the company you have been with or another. You may also be able to get a letter of introduction to another company if the one you have been with doesn’t have any vacancies.
For some industries, extra staff needed at the busiest times of the year can be an opportunity to get that much-needed experience. Christmas is a peak time for many types of businesses and they will take on extra staff. Come the New Year, the job might end but it might also lead to a part or full-time offer. And even if it doesn’t you have concrete experience to add to your resume and someone to give as a reference.
Researching recruitment agencies
There is no shortage of recruitment agencies out there looking to fill vacancies and many of them also offer to help people find the right job. Some are generalists who handle a wide range of industries while others are specialists who just work with one sector.
Always look for a recruitment agency with lots of good, positive customer feedback. Also, make sure they are upfront about practices and how they do business. You want to be certain they are as interested in your needs as in any corporate clients.
Understand corporate structures
There’s no standard terminology for jobs, corporate structures and the management pyramid within companies so it helps to understand a little about the topic before you start applying for jobs. Even for entry level jobs, you want to understand who you will be working for and what the structure is within the company.
Understanding these structures also helps you know who you are applying to and who is likely to be interviewing you. Usually, a job advert will contain the contact information, so you know who to address your cover letter to. If the company has an HR department, then there’s a chance that either the interviewer will be from this department or someone might be present. Smaller companies could even see the owner doing the interviewing, so it helps to be mentally prepared for these things.
Ultimate things to avoid
There are lots of little tips about what to do when applying for your first job to help you stand out from the crowd but there are also some things not to do as they can kill your chances before you start.
Don’t leave things to the last minute – apply for the job as soon as you see it. Not only does this improve your chances of being seen by the right people in time to be considered for the interview, but it also shows enthusiasm.
Never add anything to a resume that isn’t accurate and don’t embellish a story or situation. It is easy for things to be checked and you will instantly lose the opportunity if you have made up or embellished any details.
Never just copy and paste your resume and cover letter. It is easy to end up adding information for the wrong job and this will also ruin your chances of getting the role. Always thoroughly proofread all applications and even get someone else to read it for you as well as a second pair of eyes can help.
Getting your first job can be tough but everyone goes through the process. With good preparation and the right mindset, you can increase your chances of getting that first step on the career ladder.