How to Get My First Job

If you’ve often thought to yourself, ‘I wonder how I can get my first job’, you’ve come to the right place! It can feel daunting making the decision to take your first steps into the world of work but it doesn’t have to be – there are lots of options!

First and foremost, you’ll need to figure out your interests and skills to decide which first job is right for you. Don’t be hasty when it comes to accepting your first offer, think about whether it’s right for you, then make an informed decision based on your career goals. 

It can feel stressful beginning your job search, especially if you don’t have any previous work experience and are unsure of where to start but don’t panic. Whether you decide to start your career journey with an apprenticeship, graduate scheme, work experience, traineeships or employment without training, these are all viable steps to securing your first job.

What should I do to help get my first job?

If you’ve decided not to go to university or you’re due to graduate from university, then you’re likely to be considering getting your first job. This can feel challenging if you don’t have any previous experience but remember, employers understand that you have to start somewhere. 

Enke Futsum, Recruitment Digital Marketer, at QA Ltd says, “don’t worry if you’ve not had work experience – you’ve definitely got life experience and you can relate it all to the job. Think of what you have done in your spare time – did you learn how to code, take up public speaking or have you built a website? Employers love to see that you’ve taken time and the initiative to learn something new. It shows you’re motivated, resourceful and willing to learn.”

Think about short and long term career goals

First of all, you should consider your short and long term career goals. Don’t expect to walk into a management position in your first job because you will be setting yourself up for failure. Look at the bigger picture, you will need to work your way up the career ladder. Just because you won’t be a manager tomorrow, doesn’t mean you won’t get there in the future with hard work, experience, determination and persistence. 

Make sure your career goals align with your strengths and interests. This will help you to evaluate your weaknesses and eliminate ending up in a job role you don’t enjoy. Knowing your weaknesses will also help prepare you for the most loathed interview question, ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses?’ Once you have an understanding of the career sector which is right for your interests and goals you can start thinking about how you can achieve it. 

Focused young African female entrepreneur deep in thought while working at a table in a modern office building lobby

Steps to get my first job

Now you’ve identified your strengths and interests, it’s time to consider which sector matches these. For example, if you enjoy English, a career in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) might suit you or if you like maths, an accounting career might be right up your street. This will then take you onto the next step of finding your first job:

Are you looking for an apprenticeship or graduate scheme? Thinking about gaining work experience first? Or would you like a job without formal training?

Once you have decided which one is right for you then you can start browsing online for opportunities. To help you decide, we’ve put together a brief overview of which each one includes:

Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship combines on and off the job training which will enable you to gain work experience, qualifications and skills. They are offered at Level 2 (intermediate) to Level 7 (masters), meaning you can even get a degree without carrying the burden of tuition fees. All training undertaken via the apprenticeship route is free to the learner and you will even get paid. 

Work experience

Work experience is a temporary position which helps you to explore a particular industry. If you don’t feel quite ready for the world of work just yet then work experience or a traineeship can help better prepare you. If you’re still unsure about your career options, work experience can lay the foundations for your first job. It’s a great way to find a path which is right for you and it is extremely beneficial to your CV. 

While providing you with the opportunity to try before you commit to anything fully, work experience can also help you to stand out in a competitive job market. It supports you in gaining transferable skills and industry specific knowledge and experience. Plus it’s an added bonus that employers love it!

Graduate scheme or graduate job

Graduate schemes are a great career route for soon to be or recent graduates. They provide fresh learning and development opportunities so you can drive your career forward while undertaking structured training. This gives you the opportunity to expand your knowledge in a particular industry and role.  During a graduate scheme, you may have the opportunity to rotate around different areas of the business. Graduate talent is a demand of businesses of all shapes and sizes, however, graduate schemes are typically offered by large blue chip companies.  

Graduate jobs cover a broad range of careers but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will have the structured training that a scheme would offer. It’s worth bearing in mind that this doesn’t mean you won’t receive any training with a graduate job as normally you will, it will just be less formal and structured. Another aspect to take into account is that graduate jobs don’t have set recruitment windows like schemes do. Unlike a graduate scheme, where you normally apply well in advance to the starting date, graduate jobs expect you to be able to start as soon as possible.

Part time or full time job without formal training

If you’re looking to get a part time job alongside studying or if you’ve finished your studies and are looking to commit to full time employment without any formal training then there are lots of options. You might choose a part time job as a stepping stone into full time employment at a later date or to support an apprenticeship application. 

Working a part time job is a great way to show you have a strong work ethic and understanding of workplace principles like how you should act or deal with pressurised situations. Whether you work part time alongside your studies, during the christmas period or summer holidays, they can be extremely beneficial. It can help you to gain commercial awareness, develop skills such as time management, teamwork and prioritising. Plus you’ll also get paid which makes it a win-win!

If you’re looking for a full time professional job, then you’ll normally work a minimum of 35 hours. However, there are no set hours which differentiates full time to part time employment. If you’re looking for a full time but find yourself being knocked back, you could consider volunteering. This is a great way to develop the experience and skills which employers look for. 

Some part time and full time jobs will lead to in house qualifications but it’s worth noting that not all do. Make sure you take this into consideration when applying.

Young businessmen analyzing documents on wall in first job

Highlight your skills

Do you keep asking yourself, ‘how can I get my first job when I don’t have any skills or experience?’ You might want to rethink this! First off, everyone has skills, you just might not realise it yet. 

Soft skills and transferable skills are increasingly important to employers and you’ll be pleased to know that they aren’t just developed in the workplace, they can be developed from personal experiences too and are vital across all sectors. Examples of soft and transferable skills include:

  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Dedication
  • Time management
  • Teamwork
  • Organisational skills
  • Decision making
  • Creative thinking

This list is not exhaustive and there are plenty of other skills you may have developed over the years. These skills will all contribute to boosting your CV. Here is an example of how communication skills can support your application:

‘Although I don’t currently have any previous work experience, during school/college/university, I built excellent communication skills, both written and verbal. I often had the responsibility of presenting information to the class. I used my creative thinking skills to develop a clear and precise presentation which could easily easily be understood. I then communicated this effectively to the class. Sometimes we would do this as a group, which also meant I would need to work as part of a team to ensure we all understood the deadline, aim of what we were presenting and our delegated tasks.’ 

Still feel you need to improve your skills to secure a job? If so, there are plenty of skill building tools available online. Future Learn is a fantastic starting point with lots of courses available, from data analytics to healthcare and medicine. There are lots for you to explore and some of these are free. 

Nail your application and CV

Now it’s time to find the right role for you. Use the Careermap job search tool to find a vacancy that interests you. Make sure to read the job description to learn more about the company and what they are looking for. 

Once you’ve found a suitable position, it’s time to nail the application or CV. Remember to always tailor your application and CV to the job you’re applying for. The employer will normally list what they are looking for in description, if you possess these skills make sure to incorporate them into your application. 

For example, if the employer wants you to be able to work in an organised manner, under pressure and methodically, make sure to include this in your CV and reference when and how you have shown this previously. Remember that this doesn’t have to be in the workplace, you can use examples from education and personal experiences.

Daniel Doherty, Attraction and Recruitment Manager – Early Careers at Capgemini, explains the importance of personalising your recruitment journey,

“Before you apply

  • Think about your online branding or presence online and how that may accurately/positively represent you before applying to a role/course/programme
  • Are you following relevant channels or information sources to gain insight into the opportunities you wish to pursue?
  • Tailor the careers content you see on social media – it’ll enhance your experience on the channel whilst giving you insights into careers

When you apply

  • Make sure you capitalise on the option to add a cover letter, submit a motivational answer or tailor an answer
  • Can you emphasise or show evidence of your passion or interest that’s not working experience?
  • This is a chance to get the reader to see/read/hear about you – NOT what you think they want to hear/see”

I want to get my first job but worried I might make the wrong choice

If you’re looking for your first job but stressing about making the wrong choice, it’s important to remember that everyone has to start somewhere. The world of work is evolving daily and making the wrong career choice is perfectly normal. The UK job market is also constantly changing to meet the requirements of the economy and it’s important for you to keep up to date with the array of opportunities and fresh challenges available. 

Gone are the days when people used to follow a career path which was set in stone. The new norm does take side steps, in terms of job hunting, but never look at it as a backstep. Many employers today actually expect it. If you make the wrong choice, that’s ok, it gives you the chance to grow and learn from it. 

career ladders in sky concept

I’m still on the hunt to get my first job

Still on the hunt for your first job but find yourself faced with rejection? Don’t be disheartened! Instead, realise that the job wasn’t right for you and you will find something. Just don’t give up. Ask the interviewer for feedback so you can learn your areas of improvement to ensure next time you do get the position. Overcome the barrier and rise to the challenge. Look at it as a practise makes perfect and a direction to something more suitable. 

Are you ready to take a step closer to securing your first job?

No matter how daunting applying for your first job is, you have to start somewhere. Whether you choose the right position first time or fancy a career change at a later date, take it one step at a time and focus on your career aspirations. If you’re ready to see what opportunities are waiting for you, head over to the Careermap job search tool, simply refine by location and industry interest to secure your career.

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