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Once you leave college or university, applying for your first real-world job can be a pretty daunting experience. You could be competing against hundreds of fellow graduates for that dream job, so you need to make your cover letter stand out, especially if you’ve got no, or very little, working experience.

Here are some tips to get you started on the road to your first job.

Is your degree directly relevant?

Obviously, if you’re applying for a job in marketing and you have a marketing degree, it’ll be easier to talk about the skills and theories you’ve picked up which are directly related to the role.

However, there’s no need to panic if your degree isn’t specific – instead you can talk about relevant elements or modules that fit well with the job. Choose a couple of examples to expand on, such as how your dissertation demonstrated that you can focus on a long-term individual project, and explain why this is relevant to the job you’re chasing.

Highlight any internships/holiday jobs

Don’t forget to mention any internships or seasonal jobs you might have done. Even if your holiday job wasn’t particularly relevant to the role you’re applying for, you’ll still have learned transferable skills, such as teamwork, handling cash and attendance/punctuality.

If you’ve completed an internship, this is likely to be more relevant to the role, so describe in more detail what you learned, and what you enjoyed, about the work.

Highlight any social clubs/extra-curricular activities you attended

Your hobbies and social activities can be a real help on your cover letter, especially if you don’t have much paid-work experience. So if you held a particular role within a society, such as treasurer, mention what you learned from this, or how you enjoyed the role.

Your hobbies can demonstrate a skill or enthusiasm, which provides a useful indicator of your suitability for a job.

Show ambition in what you hope to achieve

Just because this is your first job, it doesn’t mean that you can’t think about the future. While there’s no need to wildly exaggerate, or be overly ambitious – don’t talk about becoming a CEO within five years when applying for an entry level job – suggesting that you’re committed to a long-term career in a particular industry and hoping to learn and build your experience is no bad thing.

Explain why you think this job will help you on your first step to achieving your ambitions.

Highlight your immediate ability to start

One advantage recent graduates have over those already in work is their ability to start immediately without having to work out any notice periods.

Although if you’re starting to apply for jobs before you’ve finished your degree, make sure you include details of when your course is finishing in your cover letter.





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