Finding your first job

Finding that first job can be tough. In a vicious circle of no experience, no job, no experience, where should you start?

Something to talk about

So, what have you done with your life so far? Perhaps you’re a busy achiever with activities each and every day. Or maybe you’re a quiet homebody who likes helping out friends and family. Whoever you are, you will have something to talk about that makes you unique, but sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what your unique selling point is.

Consider the following:

  • What you like to do in your spare time
  • Something you have done in the last year or two that you feel proud of
  • An experience you have had which changed you
  • What your friends and family say you are good at
  • Something you do that makes you happy.

Could you make these experiences, skills and qualities work to your advantage on a CV or at an interview?

If you feel that these answers don’t create the right impression of you, or if you think there are gaps in what you have done so far, then in might be worth building up a bit more experience. How about volunteering; work experience; responsibilities at school, college or university; or helping out at a club or society you attend?

Starting the search

Start your job search close to home.  Try the area where you live (or somewhere easily accessible) and use your network of contacts. Make sure your friends and family know you’re serious about finding work, then make sure they tell the people they know too.  Find out about the main employers of young people in your area. Ask your friends or siblings how they found work.

Don’t forget that jobs can be seasonal, with some businesses really busy around Christmas and others having their peak time in summer. It helps to start early when looking to find a seasonal role and some Christmas jobs fairs take place as early as September.

Top tip: If you’re staying local, look out for signs in shops windows or ads in newsagents.

If your online presence is positive, and you’ve checked your privacy settings, you could use your online network. You can use LinkedIn as an online CV, but Twitter and Instagram might also pay off.

Top tip: If you’re searching online, job sites like www.indeed.co.uk and www.totaljobs.com are some of the most popular, but it can sometimes be hard to filter out the jobs that are suitable for first-time workers.

Getting creative

If you can’t find the right opportunity, then there are plenty of alternative ways to earn some cash. Consider your strengths and then work out how these might bring in some money.

  • Got an eye for fashion? How about selling clothes at car boot sales, vintage sales or online sites like Depop?  Perhaps you can think of other things you might sell. Make sure you check the age restrictions for any websites you use.
  • Want to stay local? How about offering your services for babysitting, dog-walking, gardening or odd jobs?
  • If you’re aged 16 to 19, you can get paid for age-related testing to ensure that companies like pubs or betting shops always ask for ID. Make sure you choose a reputable company and check reviews from other users beforehand.  Some police forces ask for volunteers for roles like these, but might throw in a meal and a reference for your trouble.
  • Other money-spinners include monetising your YouTube account; competitive gaming; completing online surveys; and music reviews. Check the T&Cs closely to avoid problems later on.
Do I need a CV?

A CV (short for curriculum vitae) should highlight your key achievements and selling points. Some things are essential: contact details, education, and experiences (work-related or otherwise) that demonstrate your skills and qualities. Believe it or not, date-of-birth and marital status used to be standard on a CV; you don’t need to include those today.

Is a CV really needed when some employers expect an online application or, for a first job, maybe just an informal chat? In short, yes. A CV is a handy way to store all your key information, dates and highlights. You can use some of this information when you complete a job application or use it to have a read through before that all-important meeting with an employer.

Acing that interview

It’s all about the preparation. Find out about the company; research the role; and read through your application or CV beforehand.

For a first job, they might ask what experience you’ve had, as well as more practical matters like which hours you’re available to work. In most cases, employers are trying to find out whether you can do the job, whether you will do the job, and whether you will fit in.

Don’t forget your rights

You have rights as a young employee, so make sure you’re not being asked to work too much or being paid too little. Citizens Advice has some essential information on your rights as a young worker.

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