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Getting started before your degree

Start building your CV before university

It’s not too soon to prepare for life after university — you can make a difference to your future job even if you're still at school.

Employers look at your interests and experiences as well as your qualifications, so you'll need more than a top degree to get a job when you graduate. You CV is the first place employers look, and a great way for you to summarise your experiences whether they’re paid work or not. 

By enhancing your CV before you get here, you’ll start your degree knowing what employable skills you have and what skills you want to learn during your time at university.

How to create a CV

It’s okay if you don’t have a written CV already. Start writing your CV now, even if you don't need it yet — preparing early means you’ll start your time at university aware of any knowledge or skills gaps you want to fill during your studies. 

  • List what you’ve done — Make a written list of your achievements to remind you of what you've already achieved.
  • Identify employable skills — Also known as transferable skills because you’ll use these skills in many areas of your life, employable skills include things like communication and teamwork. 
  • Include evidence — Back up your skills and experience wherever you can. For example, show that you’re a team player by talking about a team you’ve been part of such as a sports or competition team. 
  • Add your qualifications — List your qualification subject and the grade you’ve achieved. If you haven’t received your final grades yet, make sure you include your predicted grades, but make it clear they’re predicted. 

How to improve your CV

1. Do your research

Spend some time researching the careers you're interested in and explore how to get there. 

You still have plenty of time to make big career choices, but looking at how other people have succeeded in careers that interest you can start you on the right path. For example, many journalists volunteered for school or uni newspapers during their studies. 

You don’t need to know exactly what role you want in the future, but looking into the area or industry you want to work in is a great start. 

2. Learn new skills

New skills will strengthen your CV, help you build relationships, and give you experience in learning new things whether you know your career goals or not. 

Use your current CV to spot any gaps in your experience or skills that you want to build. 

Do you have good communication, but no evidence to show it? Try volunteering or taking part in a team project. Consider taking up a musical instrument, teaching yourself to code, learning a language, or something else. All these skills show employers that you're motivated and willing to learn.

Most hobbies have transferable skills that can help you in the workplace too. For example, starting a blog can improve your written communication and time management, and even encourage you to learn related skills like graphic design. 

3. Apply for an internship or work experience

Employers love to see that potential employees are proactive, interested and have put time into their development before applying for a job. Completing relevant work experience will help prepare you for the workplace and let you see how the industry operates before you land your first job. 

Work placements are essential in some industries, like healthcare or law, and optional in others. Completing an internship at a respectable organisation shows employers that you know what you're doing and understand the work environment, as well as introducing you to connections in the company.

Explore the work experience opportunities available if you choose to join us at Portsmouth.

4. Get a part-time job

There’s no greater preparation for a lifetime of work than getting a job.

Some part-time jobs won't link directly to your future career, but that's okay. Getting a job increases your workplace experience (and boosts your income), which will help you when your post-graduation job hunt begins.

5. Volunteer

Volunteering can take many forms. You could work in a charity shop for a cause that you care about, run bucket collections, organise or undertake fundraising challenges, or raise awareness of your cause. Community groups like Scouts or Girl Guides are also keen to take volunteers.

In return for your time, you'll gain teamwork or leadership experience and improve your essential skills like organisation, communication and time management.

Think about what's important to you and what you want to gain from your volunteering, and try to find a role which supports both of these.

Once you're at uni our volunteering team can help you build skills to enhance your CV.

6. Go travelling

Exploring places and cultures can be a real learning curve and help you grow as a person. You can join a travel group (plenty of volunteering schemes and charities will take you abroad), or travel alone. Independent travel involves a lot more time management and planning, whereas group travel showcases your communication and reliability. 

7. Pursue your hobbies

You need more than a good degree to get a job, and hobbies can really help boost your CV. As well as showing your passions and interests, hobbies can demonstrate your skills and talents. Consider joining a club or group for something you enjoy to expand your social circle and develop your skills. 

PGT/Postgraduate Taught use only

Developing your CV at university

As you study, you'll gain knowledge and experiences that boost your employability — so make sure to keep your CV up to date throughout your degree. 

And if you study with us, our Careers and Employability Service can help with: 

  • CV writing
  • Preparing your CV for graduate roles
  • How to add your degree to your CV
  • Example CVs from students 
  • Interview and application questions

Explore the Careers and Employability Service

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Our graduate employment rates are among the UK's best, with 94% of our students in work and/or further study. 

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