Career coach

Q I have just graduated from university with a degree in HR management, but I am having trouble getting my first step on the career ladder. I keep being told that I am over-qualified for admin positions, but have no experience for anything higher. How can I better present my CV, given that I have no work experience?

A Many people trying to get into HR complain that it’s impossible to get in without experience and a relevant qualification, but HR graduates are told that they’re over-qualified for the relatively basic tasks they will be undertaking.

The only way to write a CV under these circumstances is to pull out anything relevant from your work history (including temp jobs), and your academic study, and keep pushing for an entry-level position in the right organisation.

The “you’re over-qualified” response is often convenient shorthand for “we can’t see how you’d fit in”.

Your CV almost certainly needs refreshing, and some of the following may help:

  • Don’t over-egg the academic side of your studies

  • Don’t make your studies the primary message of the first page of your CV

  • Focus on ways that you’ve looked at practical contexts and solutions

  • Give priority in the profile of your CV to hands-on, transferable skills

  • Write your CV in terms of skills and achievements, not just potential

  • Bring out the relevant, transferable skills from any previous work experience, including work outside HR.

What concerns me is that you seem to have got this far without some relevant work experience as part of your degree, or at least during holidays. What convinced you to get into HR in the first place? Perhaps revisiting that initial motivation might invigorate your job search. Even if you haven’t actually worked much in HR, it would help if you could bring out any parts of your course where you have learned about the real world of work.

Finally, articulate your clear understanding that you need to gain experience at entry level. You might even consider a voluntary placement just to build up some experience.

By John Lees

  • John Lees is one of the UK’s best-known career coaches and the author of the best-selling How To Get A Job You’ll Love (McGraw-Hill).The book is now available in its 2007-08 edition.

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