So you’ve taken time to get to know yourself and met with a careers advisor, so you are starting to get an idea what career to pursue. You will have been advised to create a CV and this is something you have got a good draft of. There is lots of great advise around about CVS so I won’t add to it here. But often I find students don’t realise how much experience they have which they could add to their CV. So much of your time at university and in the holidays is valuable to potential employers so I want to point this out here. The rather mechanical reason for this is that when you fill in applications and at assessment centres, you will be asked behavioural questions which require you to provide examples of things you have done. I have designed many of these and they have become a standard way of assessing graduate entry positions. For example, most organisations need to check how you will work with other people so they could ask something like “Tell me about a time when you had to work closely with others in a difficult situation?”

Of course, it would be great if you had work experience in a similar job to the one you are being interviewed for and had an example from this. But that is far from being the only experience you can draw on.

  • Most students take part time work so perhaps when you were working in a coffee shop and one of the machines broke. Or there wasn’t enough staff and the queue was huge.
  • You could have been in a sports team that wasn’t performing well and morale was getting low.
  • You volunteered to help in a school and some of the young people you were working with were difficult.
  • You had a group assessment and one member of the group wasn’t pulling their weight (this is almost certainly something you will have experienced!).

The important thing to do is assemble examples of things that have happened to you that you found challenging or interesting and see how you can use these in your CV or have in mind for the interview. It is also part of the process of understanding yourself. Key to this is working out what you learned from the experience. You don’t need to show that everything was terrible then you did something brilliant and saved the day. But to show how you were able to withstand pressure and learn from your experience.

You can find standard lists of the sort of things employers are looking for and see what examples from your experience you can use. Assessment centres I have designed tended to look for things like:

  • team working
  • resilience
  • leadership
  • planning
  • time management
  • dealing with complexity
  • understanding other people

But you can find other lists – and your careers team will I am sure help with this.

Keep these experiences in note form – I use Evernote but it could just be a text document on your laptop, notes on your phone or in a folder. All experience is useful – don’t if you lack the high profile internships. Some of the best performers I have seen at assessment centres had very little work experience. It’s how you can demonstrate that you have learned from your experience than counts.

So that’s today’s finalist tips!