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Here are things you should know about a CV and building one.

As an undergrad, you have a limited amount of time to build an impressive CV before starting your career at the end of your tertiary education. You can’t leave it to chance!

Human Typing on Google Docs
Glenn Carstens-Peters (Unsplash)

What's a "CV" and how does it differ from a "Resume"?

A CV, according to UC Davis, contains a complete history of your academic credentials, professional experience, accomplishments and honors, publications, and technical skills.

A resume, on the other hand, gives a concise picture of your skills and qualifications for a certain job, hence page length is usually lower (usually 1 or 2).


Why do you need to be intentional about your CV as an Undergraduate?

As an undergrad and a recent graduate, having a CV is just as crucial as having an identity. You'll need a CV to concisely inform potential employers about your skills, internship and work experiences, volunteer experiences, and general competencies. The four primary purposes of a CV are;

  • Prepares you for opportunities upon completing your undergraduate degree

  • Introduces you to employers and other opportunity providers. e.g. Scholarships

  • Presents your skills, experiences, and qualifications

  • Secures you an interview slot

Remember: CV writing is also an art. As with all art, it requires time, purpose and direction. You are with each line, each alignment, each word and structure telling a story about who you are, what make you unique and why you are desirable as an indispensable asset.


As an undergraduate, how do you build your CV?

As an undergraduate or recent graduate, you'll need to put in effort to improve your CV so that it appeals to employers and allows you to compete locally and globally by the end of your tertiary education. Companies don't expect you to have a lot of work experience, however, they do want to see what kind of exposure and skills you have.

Rock Building | Balance
Andrik Langfield (Unsplash)

As an undergraduate, you can do the following to improve or build your CV; Obtain Leadership Experience, Learn Basic Work Skills, Take Certification Courses and Training, Internship Opportunities, and Voluntary Work. Let's explore these recommendations:


1. Obtain Leadership Experience

You should include leadership experiences in your CV. Employers will be impressed by your ability and experience to lead and work as part of a team and your ability to manage and collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds. This can be accomplished by taking on crucial developmental roles in your faculty, department, church or school association.

2. Learn Basic Work Skills

Employers expect undergraduates and recent graduates to have some fundamental skills. Learning them will increase your chances of being noticed by potential employers. Work on projects to put these skills to use, and showcase them on your CV.

Such general skills include: Presentation and communication skills, basic data presentation and analysis with Microsoft Excel, Interpersonal skills, Leadership skills, Initiative, Commercial awareness etc.

Candidates interested in specialized fields like Investment Banking, Technology, Private Equity etc. must hone specific skills to demonstrate their interest and ability in the field. Examples are: Financial Modelling and Valuation, Financial Statements Analysis etc. for students interested in Finance, Programming languages etc. for students interested in Tech.

There are many free online learning platforms to leverage so leave no stone unturned.

3. Take Certification Courses and Training

Certification courses and training are an excellent way to learn new skills while also proving your capacity to adapt to new situations. To improve their abilities, undergraduates and recent grads can audit or enrol on free online courses. These certifications or skills can be listed on your CV as long as you can demonstrate that you have them.

4. Obtain and learn from Internship Opportunities

This is one of the most significant aspects of a CV that employers check for. It demonstrates that you have real-world work experience, practical skills, and collaborative experience. Some internships may be unpaid, others may be very competitive - whatever the situation, never throw in the towel when it comes to obtaining real-world work experience.

Strive to get relevant internships in the field you want to build your career in. Should that prove difficult due to limited supply, take up internships wherever you can and leverage every opportunity to build transferable skills during such internships.

5. Engage in Voluntary Work

Some employers value volunteer work as it reflects your desire to give back to society. As an undergraduate, volunteer work complements internship experience well and provides a platform to hone a number of skills. It exposes you to a diverse work environment and allows you to use your skills and experiences to make a positive impact. Highlighting the impact you’ve made can significantly improve your CV.

"Your CV does the talking for you before you get invited into a room to speak for yourself. You need to be intentional about making sure it is speaking in your favour."
- Joycelyn Ansu-Gyeabour [Programmes and Operations Manager (SEO Africa)]
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