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How to make the most of your job search/university preparation while waiting for your exam results

4th August 2014

Students, teachers and parents are all very aware of the August dates when exam results will be revealed and the next steps in your career planning can kick off in earnest. Whether you're fretting under the sunny weather or deliberately ignoring the calendar because you definltely deserve some relaxation, time and tide will take you in late August to a big decision point. Are you ready for it? 

Even before you know your exam results, there are still plenty of little job search or study search tasks that you can be developing to make sure that you will sail smoothly on into the next stage of your career plan. I've listed below a few tips that I know have proved very useful summer holiday development for many students. 

First gather your evidence of all your outside school activities (the jargon is "extra-curricular activities") and list what skills you have learned from doing them. For example, performng in a play or musical event does not merely demonstrate the technical skills of acting and singing. Everyone who has ever been involved in any sort of performance can demonstrate how they have contributed to a team effort, developed communication skills, understood the need for planning ahead and prioritising actions, managed project work, solved problems, developed your creativity, delivered customer service if you worked front of house, worked to inflexible deadlines and perhaps even led a sub team. When listing the skills you demonstrated in such activities, always consider the impact your actions had on the final project or the end users of your work. For example I recently helped a theatrical student identify that her resourcefulness and quick thinking solved a props problem and saved the group around £100 because they didn't need to hire some technical equipment. The message that she can save money will speak loudly in her future job applications. Every employer in every industry is looking for the sort of skills demonstrated by contributing to a theatrical performance. The detail of the project you have given your time to does not matter- these skills could be learned in sport clubs, volunteering, travelling, paid low level work experience; any interest will offer you opportunities to scale up your CV and demonstrate that outside a classroom, you are still learning new and relevant skills.

Another helpful tip for polishing up your CV is to locate your referees, ask them for their help and when relevant, alert them to a specific application that might be coming up. With young people, employers will expect to see a reference from your last school, college or university. However, you also have to provide at least 1 other contact of someone who can vouch for your character, experience and /or skills. For some jobs, e.g. involving work with children, or security sensitive buildings, more references will be needed. Consider who might be able to provide such help; not a relative, but perhaps an adult connected with your extra curricular activities who could confirm what you achieved. Don't bother including their contact details on your CV directly,- recruiters will expect to read a phrase like; " References available on request". Most recruiters will want an email or phone address first to make the initial contact and postal addresses are used later to tidy up the paperwork. Most job offers will be made " subject to satisfactory references" and do not take it for granted that you have the job until all those references have ben chased. In my recruitng career, I have several times withdrawn job offers when I've read a reference.

For more help with polishing your CV or job search, take a look at my book; Nail That Job, the complete guide for the less-experienced job seeker.

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