This is terrible advice for your CV, please ignore it

This week, journalist Jenni Russell debunked the views of two experts that parents should worry less over their children getting a graduate job as terrible advice for your CV.

Writing for The Times, she said advice that parents should allow their children more slack “might be good for the soul” but is “extremely bad news for the CV”.

As someone who receives the poor souls who come out at the other end of university bruised and wide-eyed once the dawning realisation of how poorly equipped they are to get a good job hits them, I can only agree.

Why advice not to be concerned with getting a graduate job is poor CV advice

For your convenience, here’s the rationale from Jenni Russell’s article (find the link at the end) on why advice not to concern yourself with getting a graduate level job is bad advice for your CV:

  1. Advice that parents should be less occupied with whether a university course will lead to a graduate job is flawed and places young people at a disadvantage.
  2. It is true that education should be more than just about grades and that one should embrace the journey of discovery.
  3. While ideal, however, these ideas are extremely dangerous unless you have comfortable, achieving, confident parents who can bail you out when you fall on your face (i.e. you can’t get on the property ladder because you can’t get a decent job to get the mortgage you need).
  4. This advice doesn’t work in a graduate marketplace where tough competition is the raw reality.
  5. So, it’s good for your soul, but very bad news for your CV.
  6. The advantaged know this, and that’s why they push their children to get good degrees, and why their children get the better jobs.
  7. The advantaged also know you need to start early because small wins add up throughout your school and university years.
  8. The advantaged also know that a degree from some universities is worth a lot more than a degree from others – something working class parents tend to overlook.
  9. Therefore, if you follow this ‘expert’ advice and slack off, you’ll fall increasingly further behind and find it harder to compete for a graduate job.
  10. You should ignore this advice if you want to get ahead.

No experience on your CV, no graduate job

Russell also mentions research I’ve often quoted, that more than 30 per cent of the UK’s top employers say they are unlikely to employ you if have no work experience. You need to develop your skills and experience by making sure you have a good few internships under you belt – well before you even leave university.

This means that yes, university should not be all about grades, but also, neither can it be a time of coasting or slacking off. As Russell pointed out, “in banking, [for example] almost 80 per cent of graduate jobs go to interns”.  That means if you apply for a banking job after you’ve left university without having already done an internship, it’s too late.

You need to start building your experience in the job market long before you leave university. This has become the norm.

Then, and only then, are you positioned to get that high-flying management job as soon as you step out of university which, as Russell says, builds the confidence, experience and contacts you need to move ahead quickly.

So, here’s what you should do if you are a young person still at university: start building a better story for your CV. Think about what employers want and begin to equip yourself with those skills. Get those skills from internships, voluntary opportunities and other relevant work experience. Start networking and planning for your future now.

Here’s Jenni Russell’s article:

An important lesson about job interviews you’ll never forget

If there’s one important lesson about job interviews you ever learn let it be what I am about to share.

Today I was speaking with my brother-in-law who told me a story about a man he met in the gym this week.

The story is a familiar one but will remind us of an important lesson about job interviews.

Well, my brother-in-law got talking with this man – let’s call the man Brian.

Brian owns a large company with over a hundred employees but said things did not look great for him on the way to where he is today. He had been a troubled youngster. He didn’t do that well at school, in fact he left without getting good grades. Between the ages of 17 and 20 Brian drifted from one petty crime to another and frequently got into trouble with the police.

Brian decides to get a job

Eventually, however, he decided to make something of his life and to get himself a job. After a few dead-end positions, he travelled to London where an uncle offered him a position with his own company. However, Brian turned it down saying he wanted to try to make it on his own merits and started looking in local newspapers for positions he could apply for.

The job that caught his eye was for a position with a health food company. He applied and was asked to come for an interview. Due to the remote location of the company they arranged for someone to meet him at the nearest station and to drive him to the depot.

The man who picked him up was friendly enough. They chatted all the way to the depot and seemed to get along on well.

Showdown in the interview room

After a short wait in the reception area, Brian was invited into the interview room. Imagine his surprise when he found out that one of the people to interview him was that very same driver who had picked him up from the station.

But the surprise didn’t end there. The driver introduced himself as the CEO of the company and said that Brian would not be required to do an interview after all. He explained that he would not be hiring Brian for the position.

“Why?” asked Brian. “Did I do something wrong? Am I being sacked before I’ve even been given the opportunity to start?’

The CEO smiled and explained that he had interviewed Brian during the drive to the depot and found him to be a good fit for another more senior role he had in mind.

“You have a good work ethic and lots of ideas,” said Mr CEO. “The role you applied for is for a do-er but I also need a thinker, someone like you, to help me run my company.”

So, before Brian even got the job he was promoted.

A tall tale that’s not so uncommon

Now this may sound like a bit of a tall tale but it happens all the time. Many years ago, a manager at a company I owned found herself in a similar position. She was conducting a series of interviews for an editorial assistant position. Before the interview, she popped to the bathroom and met one of the interviewees arriving. He looked a bit lost so she asked if he was okay and he replied in a short and off-standish tone that he was fine. He had no idea who she was so imagine his face when a few moments later he walked into the interview room and saw that his fate for the job he was to be interviewed for was in her hands.

Perhaps she looked like the driver. Or the cleaner.

The thing is, dear graduate, whenever you go for a job interview you never know who is watching you. It is better to consider yourself as not just being interviewed by one person, but by the whole company. Your interview begins in the car park or the moment you approach the building.

I know of companies that go to the length of asking the receptionist and other employees for their feedback on candidates’ behaviour outside the interview room, because it’s often when interviewees are off-guard that you get a true sense of who they are. The interview room is too staged, too tense even, to really know what a person is naturally like.

Take this piece of advice and apply it to the next interview you go along to. It may not help much – but then again, you never know.