I remember working on my CV when I was just coming into my third year at university. I'd gone from having no idea what I wanted to do to being interested in finance, technology, marketing, sales all the way down to just any graduate job.
I remember my first CV. It's funny, I've recently seem the LinkedIn phenomenon of #MyFirst7Jobs. I'm not on number 7 yet but my list looked something like this:
Pretty bleak! However, like all third year students I was advised to 'sell myself' and link in my experiences, skills, any training, my out of work activities and my volunteering. They asked me to write a snappy one liner at the top of my CV articulating who what skills I had and where I'd got them from. If I remember correctly, the list looked something like:
- Punctual - because I had a paper-round and was always on time (most of the time)
- Team working - because I worked on a presentation in class jointly with other students
- Retail management - because I worked in a shop
- Leadership - because I was captain of the Basketball team
- And so on...
Although I had some impressive stuff that would make my CV 'stand out' (being awarded an all expenses paid trip to Poland in order to study the concentration camps and three weeks as a volunteer agriculturalist in the Pyrennes) I didn't exactly have any real marketable experience.
I remember being told that everyone's in the same boat and that it's all about marginal gains; little things that make your CV stand out.
Four years since graduating, now is the time for reflection. I've definitely come a long way (being the Chairman of a volunteer organisations and the board member of a social enterprise) and I've noticed many students connecting with me and also seeing them at some of the events which we put on with JCI Bradford. I wanted to share an impartial view to you all.
If I can give you all one piece of advice it would be this; get out there and make something of yourself! Being captain of a sports team doesn't make you Churchill, running a promotional campaign for an event doesn't make you Don Draper and having a amateur finance blog doesn't make you Warren Buffet. Sure, it helps, but employers are looking for something a bit more ... impressive ... than that.
JCI (Junior Chamber International) has allowed me to explore myself as a leader by, wait for it, running an organisation in my spare time. Chambers are run by members so they're full of opportunities to demonstrate your capabilities (I often refer to it as a 'proving ground' when I'm explaining it). In my time with JCI I've done the following:
- Successfully turned around a struggling organisation
- Grown an organisation by 400%
- Recruited, lead and developed a team
- Acquired another organisation (believe it or not!)
On top of this I've had experience in both managing and growing a small organisation that needs a strategy, a board, strong finances, needs to market itself, run events, run projects in the community, sell the organisation to others etc. All skills any small businesses would want in a graduate - and something to fit every career ambition.
Along with that comes a network, the prestige (it's still a well recognised brand in the UK - especially when it was the British Junior Chambers of BJC) and finally, confidence! Confidence in yourself, your ideas and your assertions.
If you can join a chamber and prove that your worth your dream job with some solid, qualitative experience - you'll 'wow' any interviewer and even find yourself in the top 1% (whenever I'm doing interviews - I always look for activities outside of work as being a key indicator of strong employee performance. Why? Anyone who's willing to give there free time voluntary to grow themselves is a keeper!)
So, here's the call to action. There are over 150,000 members of JCI around the world in 5,000 chambers in over 100 countries. There are 20 chambers in England at varying stages of growth. I was lucky that I found one that was struggling and made it my mission to turn it around. And I did! And I'm better for the experience