As this is likely to be your first job, at least in the environmental sciences, you want to write a CV that will get you noticed – and get you an interview – in the absence of relevant work experience. If you’re a graduate looking to secure a job in any field, it can be tricky; it’s always a challenge to get a job without experience.
Here, we’ll share some tips with you on how to create a winning graduate CV – one that secures you an interview.
Let's get the standard things out of the way. Your name and contact details should be at the top (the layout is your choice, across the top or to the right; it’s your call). Your age, date of birth, marital status, and so on should not be included – just your name, email address and a contact telephone number (preferably a mobile or, if not, a number with an answering machine).
The personal profile, also known as the personal statement or personal summary, is a succinct section that introduces you to the reader right at the top of your CV. It ought to catch their interest and entice them to read the rest of your details. Your personal profile should not exceed four to five lines of text or a maximum of 180 to 200 words. Remember that this is a summary and not a cover letter, so keep it brief and to the point.
Structure is your friend
Without any work experience, your degree is going to be your biggest selling point. No two degrees are the same, so if your degree is particularly good, then put that first. Even if it’s not a top degree, it’s still your number one selling point. Skills gained while on your degree course are also critical to your CV’s success.
Put your degree right after your personal profile. If you have post-graduate credentials, use reverse chronological order, with your most recent degree coming first.
- Include the full name of your university, the name of your degree, and the dates you completed it.
- Only if you received a first or a 2:1 should you list your honours.
- Describe specific modules if you have only just graduated and have little work experience.
Experience to include
Add as many of the following types of experiences as you can. Remember that while these experiences may not have been relevant to your degree (working in a coffee shop, for example), they may well have given you new skills to add elsewhere on your CV, such as good customer service and problem solving.
Internships: Have you completed any internships in relevant businesses, organisations or charities? An internship can be ideal in showing that you have relevant work experience.
Volunteering: Volunteering is another great way to get relevant experience to add to your CV. If you have any experience of volunteering, then add it to your CV, regardless of what it is. Ideally, it will be related to an environmental cause, but any volunteering is a good thing. It shows that you are prepared to invest your time in a good cause, for no financial reward. Again, if you’ve picked up a new skill as a result, add it.
Part-time roles: If you have had any part-time roles, for example in-between studying, then add these to your CV.
Work experience: If you have any work experience, and any that is directly related to your degree is the best kind of experience, you should add it to your CV. Make sure you show why it is relevant to your application.
Soft (or core) skills
These are the skills that we all pick up as we make our way through life. Every experience shapes us in some way. Hard skills are the technical, job-related competencies we learn for our jobs. For example, for a land condition professional, the ability to create conceptual site models is a hard skill, but the ability to communicate to a client the work that has been carried out is a soft skill.
Soft skills you might have gained include:
Communication: The ability to communicate effectively, to actively listen and to share information.
Teamwork: Working with and for each other to achieve common goals.
Leadership: Leading a team, identifying skills in the team and deploying them appropriately.
Negotiating skills: The ability to negotiate and compromise are important life skills and are likely to come in very handy in the workplace too.
Problem-solving: When have you solved an issue? It can be anywhere in your life, but it needs to be relatable.
IT skills are essential for almost all roles nowadays, and you will undoubtedly have lots of experience in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Microsoft packages from your degree course – add these to your CV.
It may be worth adding your social media channel(s), but only if:
They show relevant content, e.g.:
- You and others doing environmental science-related jobs or tasks.
- Volunteering work.
They are business-friendly:
- You have suitable profile picture(s).
- They avoid topics such as politics, religion, and money.
It’s okay to have some fun stuff in there, but remember that you’re including experiences that add to your suitability for a full-time position, not detract from it. If you don’t already have one, it is worth setting up a LinkedIn account, as this will allow you to showcase your education, experiences, and any work you have done, and show it in a professional way.
Top tips for writing your CV
- Make sure it’s clear and easy to read – use a clear font like Arial, Calibri or similar.
- Use bullet points to highlight key skills and experience – use active verbs to start the bullets, for example ‘managed a team of volunteers’ or ‘organised a field trip’.
- Don’t include humour – save it for the interview, if judged to be appropriate at the time.
- Save as a Word document or, for best readability, as a pdf (best for being read by Applicant Tracking Systems).
- Proofread it, then do it again. (Ideally, get someone else to do it, too.)
- Tailor it for the job by identifying keywords in the job description and adding them to your CV.
If creating a CV seems like too much work or too daunting, we have a CV template that you can download and tailor to your needs.
All that’s left is to wish you the very best of luck in your job search and to remind you that sending a cover letter with each application is highly recommended.
Ian Taylor, Career Advice Expert, CV-Library.co.uk