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15 Skills and Achievements That Will Look Good on Any CV|
When you’re applying for your very first job, your CV can feel a little bare.
On the one hand, no one expects a teenager to have achieved a huge amount or have years of experience in the field. Your CV is mostly going to consist of things you’ve done at school and some general points of character, such as claiming your time management is good, rather than anything concrete like “increased sales by 14% in first six months in post”. On the other hand, you still have two pages to fill with something compelling, and it can be tricky to know what’s worth including and what isn’t.
You might be applying for an internship over your summer holidays, a Saturday job to earn you some cash or even just a few hours of work experience to pin down the career, but even for these early-stage applications, competition can be fierce – and jhow can you stand out if you’re applying to stack shelves or wait tables? Here are our tips for 15 skills and achievements that will look good on any CV.
Becoming a qualified first aider takes only a few hours and can cost less than £50. At the same time, it’s one of the most valuable skills you can learn that doesn’t relate directly to the job you might be doing. It makes a lot of sense that if there is really no difference between two candidates (and for Saturday jobs if neither candidate has experience, there might be very little to distinguish them), then you’ll want to pick the one who might be able to save someone’s life. Some companies are even required to have a certain number of staff first-aid trained.
You can make all the claims you want about being a speedy and efficient worker, but if you’ve no real work experience previously, you’ll struggle to prove it – your employer might not be impressed with you being able to complete your homework quicker than the allotted time, even if you think they should be.
One thing you can do to show your speed and efficiency is test and work to improve your typing speed. If you’re a regular computer user, this might be quite quick already. An average typing speed is 40 words per minute, and anything over 70 words per minute is definitely worth including on your CV. There are scores of typing test online, such as this one, and lots of games and exercises available too if you want to practise.
Regardless of the product they’re selling or service they’re providing, most companies will use a database of some description. It might be of clients, goods, orders, loyalty card holders or, in really large organisations, staff. And unless it’s a new, bespoke design, it is probably quite hard to navigate. It’s not unusual for a company to be just about managing with a database designed for Windows 95 and patched up since, full of obscure codes from the illogical system of someone who stopped working there seven years ago.
Database skills, then, are a godsend to almost any company. Your experience with one clunky old database might not map precisely onto their own clunky old database, but some understanding of how queries work, or even just having the common sense to tell which records are live and which should have been deleted, will be very valuable indeed.
If you’re under the age of 30, you probably don’t think much of the ability to use word processors, image editing software or a couple of different internet browsers. At the next level up, you might know your way around PowerPoint or Excel, or be a dab hand at persuading a recalcitrant printer to work. Your might even have some coding experience. And for someone of your age, that’s so entirely normal that it might not even occur to you to put it on your CV.
However, if you’re competing for jobs not just with other teenagers but with people of all ages, it’s definitely worthwhile. Not solely because there will probably be other applicants who “don’t really get computers”, but because some of the things you take for granted your prospective employer won’t. To you, missing off “knowledge of Microsoft Office” is a little bit like not saying “literate in English” – it’s too obvious. But to some employers, it’s more like missing off “fluent in Spanish” – sure, it’s not a rare skill, but it’s certainly one they’d want to know about so they can take it into account when hiring you.
Plenty of people can do sums; plenty of people can manage money – but they aren’t always the same group of people. Concrete experience of handling a budget is worth having and mentioning. Perhaps you handled buying food for your scout group’s weekend away, or you handled the promotion budget for your band. Small budgets can be just as impressive as large budgets if you managed to make a little go a long way. In most volunteer groups, the role of treasurer or similar is usually one that people shy away from, so it’s easy enough to pick up this kind of experience if people trust you to do a good job.
Events crop up in a huge variety of jobs, whether that’s weddings at the hotel where you’re applying to become a waiter, a drinks reception at the law firm where you’re hoping to intern, or a book launch at the bookshop where you’d like to get a Saturday job. Even if roles where there are no obvious events requirements, events can sneak in, and even if they don’t, events experience remains valuable. Let’s say you helped organise your school’s annual concert: that might involve budgeting, booking a venue if your school hall wasn’t large enough, printing and selling tickets, arranging overflow parking and a huge amount of logistical planning to keep track of everything going on. It’s rare as a teenager to be tasked with planning a really significant project with a lot of room to go wrong: planning an event is one of those rare opportunities to show your abilities.
Language skills sit in an odd place on this list. In most jobs, it’s pretty rare that you will actually get to use them (and if you’re applying for jobs where you would use them, they’re probably already on your CV). All the same, in the UK three in five people can’t speak a foreign language at all, so mentioning your language skills is another way to make your CV stand out if there’s not likely to be much difference between yourself and your fellow applicants.
We’ve already covered the importance of commercial awareness for law students, but this is a skill that’s important for just about any job – especially ones where the average applicant might not remember that they are there to make money; imagine a typical bookworm wafting around a branch of Waterstone’s and needing occasional reminders that they are there to sell books as well as celebrate them.
Proper commercial awareness means that you don’t just do your job like a cog in a machine; you’re properly aware of how the overall machine works. And this enables you to take the initiative to go above and beyond what’s required of you, without having daft ideas that aren’t commercially viable. Any experience of commercial operations – even if that’s just your success with eBay – can be evidence of your understanding here.
Toxic employees cost companies more than they gain from hiring stand-out superstar employees. It makes sense: a bad colleague will make your working life, and therefore your productivity, much worse than a good colleague can ever manage to improve it. Employers want to be sure that first of all, you’re not going to be the toxic employee, and second, that you’re going to be able to navigate difficult colleagues when you’ve had to encounter them. The classic interview question of how you resolved a disagreement at work in the past is one example of how employers check these things. Any experience of dealing with difficult colleagues, or possibly fellow volunteers, is useful.
When you’re a teenager, you don’t usually spend too much time with people from different generations (at least, not if you can avoid it). You might interact with younger or older siblings, but they’re likely to be roughly the same age as you. Otherwise, your main experience of other generations will be interactions with teachers, parents and grandparents: all people who play a particular role in your life, and who you’re unlikely to think of outside that context.
In the world of work, however, you might be working with children, adults, the elderly or all three. You might need to put yourself in the mind of an elderly customer trying to navigate your shop, or keep a group of schoolchildren entertained. Even something as simple as babysitting experience is valuable for this.
As we mentioned under ‘events experience’, there aren’t many opportunities for teenagers to gain positions of responsibility. If you can show that you’ve been trusted with responsibility, that’s a big boost to your CV. It’s worth thinking laterally about the kind of responsibility you have assumed – there may be things that you simply took for granted. For instance, are you a school prefect? On the school council? Perhaps you’re a fire warden? Being tasked with any of these things – even if they seem quite small to you – demonstrates to prospective employers that people have found you to be trustworthy and that you were prepared to take on responsibility when you got the opportunity.
Knowing about data protection is boring but valuable: the regulations are lengthy but breaching them can land a company in serious trouble. If you’ve been through a data protection training course, you might well not have thought much of it, but it’s worth putting on your CV if there isn’t enough there otherwise. Somewhere out there is the employer breathing a sigh of relief that they can leave a bit of this responsibility to you.
The issue of data protection is worth noting because it highlights a wider point: quite frequently, we forget the certification that we have, or don’t think about the fact that we lack particular certification. If you’ve been babysitting for years, you probably don’t think it matters much whether or not you have a babysitting qualification as well, for instance. But for a prospective employer, it’s concrete evidence that all that experience has also resulted in measurable knowledge and skills. The same applies in any area.
Whatever job you’re doing, chances are at some point you’ll be asked to finish a task without enough time to do it. Your employer will want to know your probable response: will you panic? Will you give up? Or will you get on with it calmly but quickly until you’ve finished it, or at least done as much as you reasonably could? Schoolwork deadlines probably aren’t going to be sufficient here, but anything you’ve done outside of the classroom could count: writing articles for the school newspaper, learning lines for a play or applying for a scholarship might all have you racing against the clock.
You know you’ve reached a position of trust and confidence in your skills when you’re tasked with training other colleagues (or fellow volunteers, or peers in some other sphere). You need to know your work and be able to explain it coherently to someone else. That might not sound like much, but these aren’t skills that everyone has. What’s more, unlike some of the items on this list, this is experience you can proactively get: if you volunteer to be the person who acts as a buddy for new starters and you’ll get worthwhile experience for your CV while saving your colleagues some hassle.
What skills and achievements do you recommend for any CV? Let us know in the comments!
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