Short and Long Term Strategies For Building Your CV

For most application processes, your CV is your ticket into an interview.

No matter how great your potential, with a poor CV, you’ll never make it onto the door list.

But a good CV, like Rome, isn’t built in a day. And we’re not just talking about WRITING a CV, we’re talking about CULTIVATING one.

Before applying for campus roles, it’s invaluable to spend some time early on to think critically about your application and set of experiences and capabilities, and whether they will tick the criteria for your target roles, and tickle the fancy of your reviewer.

There are some key things you can do over the long term - and short term - to help you build a knock-out CV:

Long-Term Strategies

These are the things you can do 1+ years out from your applications (i.e. think in first year or between an intern and grad application):

Volunteer: don’t underestimate how important volunteering is to employers. It shows you have an interest in the community, and can work in different environments and teams. Volunteering is different to applying for a part time job. Pick a cause you’re interested in or something you’re passionate about - and consider contacting organisations directly to see what’s available.

Student Society Leadership Roles: leadership roles can be hard to land during your university years. The most common roles are with student societies. Alternatively, look for leadership roles with volunteer groups, or sporting teams.

Work Experience: an obvious one to include. If you have time before your application deadlines, you’ll be able to be a bit more strategic about your work experience. If you’re interested in joining one of the big 4, can you get a part time job at an accounting firm (no matter how small)? Or a boutique advisory firm if you’re after a career in IB. Other options are to look at a tutoring role at uni, or work as a research assistant - these roles are good to have for most commerce fields, and better demonstrate your ability to use your “brain” in your job than say bartending.

Sports or Extracurricular Activities: showing you are well rounded and have some interests outside uni and work is helpful for the majority of roles. Again focus on stuff you enjoy doing. For example, if you played netball at school, but dropped it when you started uni, look into whether you can resurrect your sporting career by joining the netball club at uni.

Student Exchange: going on exchange might not appear to have much direct impact on what you’ll be doing in a graduate role, but it is often used by employers as an indication to whether you have the ability and courage to put yourself in new situations, and it can help give you new perspectives. Plus a semester exchange can be heaps of fun.

Short Term Strategies

OK, we get it. Applications close in a month or so and you’ve been busy with other stuff and OMG is it too late and will you be working for Uber Eats for the rest of your life??!

Never fear, if you’re strategic/lucky/put in the effort, you can try and tick off some of the following and give your CV a boost:

Case Comps: we love these. So do employers. And they’ll actually teach you something really valuable. And they’re fun. This is our number one priority CV addition if you can fit it in before deadlines close - and is relevant for “long-term” CV planning too. Think consulting case competitions, IB case studies, asset management / investment portfolio comps, etc.

Student Ambassador Roles: sign up for a student ambassador role at an open day at uni. Think of this like a short term volunteer role. Because these are typically screened by the uni it gives some added weight and shows you are community minded, and have good communication skills

Short Courses: these can be a great way to boost your credentials and support your academic standing. Ever wanted to study in Boston but can’t afford the airfare? Well, the online courses from Harvard and MIT might be a good place to start. Pick something directly relevant to your target role.

Freelancing: the next best thing to having had a relevant part time role on your CV for 1+ years. Jump on some of the freelancing websites to look for any project work relevant for your area of study. Also check out the careers centre at your uni - sometimes employers have short or part time roles. Pick something broadly relevant to your target role.

Company Events: not something you put on your CV, but they are a great way of making a connection with your target employers, and you can learn a lot about the roles and companies you are applying for. If appropriate, you can also reference meeting a company rep in your cover letter.

These are just a few ideas to get you going.

The key is to identify where you might have capability or skill gaps, and try to find an activity or role that you can take on, that will help address this in your CV. E.g if you have great marks, but no extracurricular activities, think about what non-uni activities you can take on board that might help rebalance this.

Or, if your academics are suffering, look to enter yourself in a case comp, where you will be able to prove the application of your finance or commerce skills from your studies in a commercial situation.

Ultimately, the aim of doing these things is to better yourself, strengthen your own capabilities, and make you stand out as a better candidate for your target roles. Good luck!