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How do I prepare for my first job as a young person?

Jenni Chismond Jenni Chismond Talent Resourcer, NCFE

From writing a CV to getting ready to start, preparing for your first job can feel incredibly overwhelming. There are lots of steps, however, you can take to ensure you’re prepared for the world of work.  

Here we speak to Jenni Chismond, Talent Resourcer at NCFE, who provides answers to your most pressing questions on the topic – as well as plenty of advice and guidance. 

What skills do I need for my first job? 

You’re unlikely to have much experience when you first step into the world of work, but what you most certainly will have are transferable skills – soft skills that can be applied in all job settings.  

They include things like time management, listening and communication skills, problem solving and a positive work ethic, which will give the employer an insight into your attitude towards work and could even put you ahead of other interviewees when they’re deciding who to hire.  

Volunteer work is also great to highlight on your CV when applying for your first role and a good way for you to try out different things before deciding the type of employed roles you will enjoy.  

You can learn more about transferable skills and why they are so important by reading this article by Indeed. 

What type of first job should I get?  

When looking for your first role, it’s important to think about what skills you would like to learn or acquire and whether the type of roles you’re looking at is likely to give you exposure to them. 

Customer service roles in places such as supermarkets, theatres, cinemas, clothing stores, sporting venues and leisure centres are popular with younger workers, as they provide entry-level, customer-facing experience that allow you to learn great transferable skills – for example how to communicate with others which is a skill you can carry throughout your working life.  

Apprenticeships are also a great way to get paid whilst you learn and will build your competence through knowledge, skills and behavioural training. There’s a huge variety of apprenticeships available to you – for example, at NCFE we offer them in subjects ranging from social care and leadership management to accountancy, tax and payroll. 

It’s also very unlikely that your first role will be your only role within the world of work, so it's important to find a job that can provide a great culture and working environment where you can meet new, like-minded people. 

How do I write my first CV? 

The key components to include when writing your first CV are:  

  • Contact details: your name, e-mail address and a contact number  
  • Personal statement: a short paragraph highlighting what you’re looking for in your career and those all-important transferable skills that we discussed above 
  • Work experience, charity or volunteer work: be sure to include bullet points detailing the key activities that you carried out 
  • Hobbies and interests: include any clubs or societies that you’re a part of – this is another great place for you to list the transferable skills that you demonstrate in a team environment.  

There are some great websites out there which provide example templates. Reed also has a suggested template for school leavers. 

How do I get my first job interview? 

Firstly, make sure that your CV sells you as a person! Think of your CV as your “shop window” – how can you advertise yourself to employers in a way that will make them want to find out more about you, your skills and your career aspirations?  

You could also ask a friend, family member or someone who works in the field you’re looking to enter to review your CV and give you feedback. You might be able to speak with someone at the organisation you’re looking to join as well, to find out more about the role on offer and what they’re looking for, and tailor your CV accordingly. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to your chosen organisation and ask if work experience is a possibility. 

What are some tips for my first job interview? 

My top tips for preparing for your first job interview are: 

  • Plan your answers ahead of time – consider providing the interviewer with STAR method responses (you can read more about the STAR method in our Interview Candidate Pack) 
  • Research the organisation you’re applying for it’s often one of the first questions you’ll be asked in an interview setting  
  • Think about your appearance – you don’t need to wear a suit and tie, but sportswear is likely to be a no go!  
  • Make notes highlighting your skills – you’re likely to be nervous in an interview setting, so having some notes in front of you will help you to remember all the points you want to get across  
  • Think of some questions to ask your interviewer – maybe you want to find out more about the culture or structure of the team you’ll be working in. Remember that an interview is just as much about ensuring that the organisation is a correct fit for you, as you are for them! 

Does your first job determine your career? 

Absolutely not! Use your first job role as an opportunity to absorb as many skills as you can, as this will likely determine your next career move until you find the sector or type of role that you'd like to forge your career in.  

I started my career within customer service, dealing with thousands of guests per day at a busy London tourist attraction. I then decided that customer-facing roles weren't my passion, and so I moved into a back-of-house administration role and later worked as a personal assistant.  

I then started helping with, and even facilitating, group assessment centres organised by HR and realised that this was what I enjoyed doing – recruiting people and seeing their careers develop. I finally found myself within NCFE’s in-house Recruitment team – an organisation that’s truly passionate about developing their people. 

Anything is possible and it’s only through experience that you’ll come to realise what your true passion in the world of work is. 

How do I prepare for the first day of my new job? 

It might sound obvious, but make sure you get plenty of rest the night before – try not to overthink things and remember that everyone feels apprehensive on their first day!  

Next, be sure to plan your route to make sure you arrive on time, as first impressions are very important.  

It might be easier said than done but try and be as relaxed as possible – you've got the job which shows that the organisation believes in you and your potential, so try to enjoy the experience of meeting new people and finding out more about your colleagues and wider team.  

At NCFE, we always make sure that new starters feel welcomed by running induction sessions, introducing you to a buddy who can answer any questions you have and ensuring that your new teammates introduce themselves to you.  

Different organisations will have their own way of welcoming you on board, so don’t worry! 

You can find out more about life at NCFE and our current opportunities on our Careers page. 

Anything is possible and it’s only through experience that you’ll come to realise what your true passion in the world of work is. 

Jenni Chismond, Talent Resourcer