5 ways to showcase student life on your CV

November 27 2019 , 0 Comments


What’s the right way to tell employers about your time at university? It can be hard to know how to sell yourself when you’re a student, especially if you don’t have much employment history.

Rather than focusing solely on work experience, the trick is to think strategically about what makes you a match for the job. The good news is you’ll already have proof of this from student life. Here’s how to dig it out and make it relevant.


Scan job ads

It’s far easier to improve your CV when you have a template. For that, you’ll need to review job ads for your industry and preferred roles (these can either be jobs you want to apply for, or sample ads). Then:

  • Check any technical skills and qualifications asked for, and make sure you either have or can develop them.
  • Identify words and phrases used to describe the ideal candidate – i.e., ‘team player’ or ‘effective at building relationships’.

The purpose of your CV is proving you have the skills, experience and enthusiasm asked for. So how do you do that as a student?


Make your experience count

If you’ve spent the last 3+ years at uni, you definitely have valuable and relevant skills. Your aim is to show evidence of each attribute asked for, using examples that clearly spell out your experience with each one.


1. Academic

Consistently good grades are worth crowing about, along with 100% attendance or always meeting deadlines. Is your dissertation title relevant to the job? Mention that too.


Use to show: thinking skills, reliability and self-motivation. Depending on your course, it may also prove your interest in the industry, or have given you career-specific training.


2. Societies

Joining one or two student societies can be well worth the subs, if only for the chance to let off steam or socialise. The more you put into socs, however, the more they can add to your CV.

Some societies contribute to work experience (e.g., the student newspaper for aspiring journalists). Alternatively, helping run your favourite club can mean gaining a position of trust or getting marketing or events experience.

Use to show: team work, social skills, responsibility and work experience.


3. Work experience

No surprises that employment history is key to CV success, yet it’s not just a numbers game: showcasing relevant experience makes more impact.

  • Start with previous roles or tasks that demonstrate what the job ad asks for.
  • Have you tried freelancing or started a business? Both offer great experience, so highlight any skills and tasks that match the job ad.

Use to show: professional abilities and career interest.


4. Hobbies and training

Some employers use extra-curricular activities to get a sense of what you’re like as a person, but highlighting these can be a good strategy anyway.

It’s easy to downplay hobbies, but the reality is most provide hands-on practical experience. That makes them a good balance for training courses, which tend to be more theoretical.

Use to show: sporting success, team work and leadership. Things you’ve learned (software, languages), or times you’ve practised professional skills (such as designing posters or selling things you’ve made).


5. Time away from uni

There isn’t always a lot left after studying, working and sleeping, but how you spend your free time can be worth flagging on your CV. As always, the key is whether it supports your application for the job in question.

For instance:

  • Social media skills, especially if you have a large following or earn revenue from your channels.
  • Volunteering, activism or ways you’ve contributed to your local community or a cause you care about.
  • Things you’ve overcome or processes you’ve improved.
  • Holiday activities that align with your employer (i.e., they do a lot of business in Germany, and you spend every summer in Berlin).

Use to show: you understand your employer’s needs.


If you spend some time working through each of the steps above, you should find lots of good stuff to put on your CV. Remember the aim isn’t just to pad out your CV with your entire life story!

Keep looking back at the job ad and make everything on your résumé earns its place.  If you’re not sure, now’s the time to rope in trusted friends and family and ask for feedback.

Guest blog by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student – the UK's largest student money advice site.

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