This article was written by Nora Dennis while on work experience.

So, it’s your first time looking for work and you haven’t got any work experience to put on a CV. This is pretty much the equivalent of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. However, do not be deterred as the blank Word doc is a bit of a nightmare for everyone regardless of the stage of their career.

First thing you want to do is list your achievements on a separate document, all of them! That time you won best attendance at school, or when you helped your dad fix the shed – these all count. Now this isn’t your CV, this is just planning out what to include.  You might not consider these tasks professional but they are responsibilities and they help the employer get an idea of the kind of person you are.

If you were student ambassador or prefect at your school or college, definitely include that. Think about any activities or clubs you took part in, be that organising your end of year Prom or playing rugby as part of a team. Once you’ve listed all of them you want to start thinking about how you will construct your personal profile. Many first time CV builders make the mistake of including too much in their personal profile section. Keep it short (four lines maximum) because chances are employers are not going to want to read it half a page about your aspirations.

It’s likely you would have come across a few CV templates as a host of websites offer free examples that can give you an idea of how to structure your CV. An average CV will be two sides of A4, and as a first timer you should be aiming to fill one side as comprehensively as possible. That list you’ve just made; now is when you begin to apply it to building your CV.

When it comes to detailing your skills, bullet-point format is favoured. In school you were probably encouraged to write in full sentences (‘show your working out’) which is great for the examiner but not so much for recruiters who have to sift through dozens of CVs and cover letters. A clear listing of your skills allows those reading your CV to quickly skip to the more relevant points on your CV, making it more likely that they’ll continue to read on. What you want to aim for is structure similar to the example below:


Finding paid work with little to no experience is an ambitious task but to improve your chances how about volunteering? Voluntary work is amazing because it allows people to gain experience in a variety of roles without the permanence of paid positions. The flexible and temporary aspect of volunteering makes it easier to move on to new opportunities without causing too much fuss. Charities are a great place to start; charity shops are usually advertising retail opportunities; moreover there’ll probably be social development roles on offer and that could be anything from serving food at soup kitchen to assisting at youth centre.

Personal development roles can be very character building and when employers see you’ve given your time for free it tells them that you’re proactive and have a good work ethic. Making the most of your time while volunteering is also important; ask questions about how things work and what is the most efficient way of completing tasks. Leave a good impression on people so that when the time comes for you to present your references you can be confident that they will have only good things to say.

Be sure to check the GoThinkBig ‘Opportunities’ page for work experience, skills days and shadowing opportunities as these will all be incredibly useful for growing your CV. That’s another thing about CVs, they aren’t supposed to be static documents (they aren’t birth certificates); you want to add relevant experience and new skillsets whenever you can. Key word there is relevant: finishing school with seven A to C GCSEs: relevant. Going to Ibiza with you mates over the summer: not so relevant – not unless you were moonlighting as bar staff.

Want help with your CV? Send yours to the experts at O2 for help and advice

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