Improve Your Job Prospects While You’re Still at School: 15 Ways to Increase Your Future Employability
The job market is more competitive than it’s ever been, so now’s the time to start thinking about how to make yourself more employable once you leave full-time education.
The good news is that there’s lots you can be doing while you’re still at school or university to boost your chances of securing a great job after you graduate – it’s just a case of getting ahead of the crowd. You may find some of the options a lot of fun, and they may even help you figure out exactly what you want to be doing in your future career. There’s no shortage of things you can do that other applicants won’t be doing, so don’t be disheartened by the statistics, however unpromising they may be. We’ve compiled this guide with lots of ideas for transforming yourself into the ideal job applicant and giving yourself the edge in your future job hunt.
1. Think about what you want to do
Start by having a serious think about what kind of career you might want to work towards. It may seem very early to be thinking about how you want to spend the rest of your life, but since different careers benefit from different foundations, it will help you in the long-run if you’re able to start gaining experience that’s relevant to the particular career you want to pursue. Our interesting careers post may prove a useful starting point if you’re in need of some inspiration.
2. Work hard and get good grades
It may sound obvious, but putting in lots of hard work while you’re at school will pay off when you can boast about your impressive achievements on your CV. What’s more, you’ll have the added benefit of impressing your teachers, who’ll go on to give you great references, and you might even win school prizes. So, study hard. Put in some extra hours in the library. Take on extra qualifications, such as an additional A-level. Ask for extra homework assignments that will stretch you even further and deepen your knowledge of each of your subjects. If you’re good at writing, start entering your short stories or poetry into competitions. All this hard work will almost certainly help your university application as well as improving your future employability, so you’ll benefit in more ways than one.
3. Write a CV early on
It’s worth spending a bit of time now to write a CV. This will allow you to take stock of what you’ve got to offer, so you can then spot gaps where you need to add to it with further experience or qualifications. Having your CV ready early on also means you’ll also have it ready to hand in to potential part-time employers. To give you a helping hand, there are plenty of templates available on the internet; here are some CV templates from Total Jobs. Anything you do that could demonstrate useful skills (such as teamwork or organisation skills) can be included on your CV; any team sports you take part in, for instance, or helping out at your local care home. Positions of responsibility, such as being a Prefect or the leader of your local orchestra, are particularly good for demonstrating your capabilities. Organise your CV so that your best achievements are immediately visible, and in total your CV shouldn’t be longer than a couple of pages. Don’t forget to include your contact details and to proofread it before giving it to anyone! Employers are pushed for time when it comes to sifting through all the CVs they receive, so make it as easy as possible for them.
4. Learn an extra language
You’re probably already learning a language at school alongside studying the English language, but adding a further language by taking part in an after-school class or studying on your own will make you even more impressive. Languages are useful in lots of jobs and sectors, particularly within the travel and tourism sector and within multinational companies that have offices in more than one country. Multi-lingual job applicants have an advantage over those who can only speak one language, as they’re more easily able to communicate with customers or business prospects, and they can help with translation. You’ll have more options open to you when it comes to your choice of jobs, too. Don’t work yourself into the ground by adding a further language to your already intensive programme of study; you could choose a language that’s similar to one you’re already learning, so that you can piggyback your existing efforts.
5. Secure work experience or a summer internship
Securing some work experience in your school holidays will help you figure out what you want to do for a career as well as providing experience that you can put on your CV. It’s a good way of using your summer holiday productively, as it means that rather than drifting aimlessly during those long weeks you have away from school, you’re working towards getting yourself on a rewarding career path. Whether you spend a couple of weeks shadowing your parents in their jobs or get an internship on your local newspaper, the work experience you do now will be a valuable addition to your CV at this early stage in your journey to the world of work.
6. Get a part-time job
Taking on a Saturday job is another way of gaining experience in the world of business, providing it doesn’t have an impact on your studies. If you can strike the right balance between part-time work and study, a Saturday job will give you some independence at the same time as teaching you some important skills, such as customer service or sales. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; even a job in a coffee shop will teach you a lot about business and give you some extra work experience to put on your CV. On top of that, you’ll also earn some extra pocket money that you can put towards your future university education or just treat yourself to something nice as a reward for all your hard work. Whether you earn money as a tour guide at a local tourist attraction, pick fruit on a farm, or even tutor a younger student, a part-time job of any kind will give you an introduction to working life that will not only provide the foundations for your first step on the career ladder after university, but will also make employment seem less scary when you get your first full-time job.
7. Take part in a debating society
Being able to communicate articulately and persuade others to your point of view is very useful in business, and it’s a skill you can develop by joining a debating society while you’re at school and university. There are even debating competitions between schools that you can take part in, such as the World Schools Debating Championships, which will help you gain confidence in public speaking. This skill will also come in useful for things like presentations at school, university or the workplace. It’s especially handy if you want to become a lawyer, as you’ll get good at arguing your case in front of lots of people.
8. Get involved in student societies
Actively participating in student clubs and societies isn’t just good fun; it’s a way of building and demonstrating valuable skills such as communication and teamwork. These skills aren’t evident from your academic qualifications, no matter how brilliant they are, but most job applications will require you to give evidence of occasions on which you’ve demonstrated such qualities. As we’ve covered in a previous post, joining an orchestra is one beneficial activity, but a sports team or any other kind of club that involves mixing with others will also benefit you.
9. Start your own student club or society
Even better than joining an existing group, a fun way to develop transferrable skills that will come in very useful in the workplace is to start your own student club or society. If you’ve spotted a gap in the extra-curricular market at your school or university, do something about it! Approach your teachers or the student union about your idea for a new sports team, book club or Film Society and make it happen. You may not realise it, but the skills you’ll pick up while you’re publicising your new club, recruiting new members and keeping them turning up to meetings will be directly applicable to a multitude of business situations. It’s definitely something you can put on your CV to demonstrate your innate proactivity, leadership and organisational skills.
10. Start a blog
Having a credible online presence will come in very handy in today’s digital age, so blogging about issues that are meaningful to you, or just things you’re interested in, will help build up a knowledgeable online persona for you that you can reference on your CV and use to wow employers with your enthusiasm for a particular subject. What’s more, you’ll learn how blogs work; useful knowledge to have in a surprising number of businesses in an age in which we expect businesses to have blogs. Back this up by signing up to Twitter and tweeting about the issues you blog about, and you’re sure to impress.
11. Make sure your digital footprint is squeaky clean
At the same time as making a valuable contribution to the internet and building a reputation for yourself through blogging, the other side of the coin is ensuring that your online presence is squeaky clean. With many employers now conducting Google searches of job applicants, you need to make sure that a Google search of your name doesn’t turn up anything that could harm your chances of landing that dream job. Ensure your privacy settings on Facebook are set to ‘Friends Only’ and use the ‘View profile as a member of the public’ function on your profile to ensure that outsiders can only see the bare minimum of what’s on your profile. Search your name on Google Images and make sure it doesn’t throw up any nasty surprises; if it does, get the photos taken down. If you’re on Twitter, go through your Twitter profile and ensure there aren’t any tweets you wouldn’t want an employer to see; unless you set your profile to private, everything you write could be seen by a potential employer.
12. Get networking
Start building a network of contacts now, and you’ll be aware of job opportunities as and when they arise. Get yourself on LinkedIn and start joining groups relevant to the career you want to pursue. This will prove a valuable source of advice, and you’ll start getting your name recognised in the industry by asking questions and contributing an intelligent opinion on industry-relevant debates. Connect with others in these groups and watch out for jobs being advertised in your LinkedIn news feed.
13. Learn how to code
IT skills are in short supply at the moment, so learning how to write website code – even the basics – could put you at an advantage over other candidates for a range of jobs – not just development roles. You’ll also have more possible jobs available to you, and well-paid ones at that. There are plenty of sites that will teach you these skills step by step, Codecademy being one of the most popular.
Volunteering for a charity is a great way of boosting your future employability at the same time as helping out a good cause. Any volunteer work you do – whether on a regular basis or a one-off fundraising project – is very much something to include on your CV, as it demonstrates lots of transferrable skills that can be applied in a business context. Experience of volunteering also opens up further possibilities for a career in the charity sector if you find that you enjoy this kind of work.
While it doesn’t directly make you more employable, what travel does do is broaden the mind. It also gets you used to communicating with people from other cultures and boosts your confidence. What’s more, it demonstrates that you’re someone who’s willing to take on new experiences and get out of your comfort zone. Have a read of our previous post on summer travel for some ideas on where you could go and what you could get from it.
It may seem a long way off, but the moment you take that first big step into the world of work will come around sooner than you think. Put the hard work in now, and you’ll find it’s much easier to get the right job for you, when the time comes.