How to Improve Your CV at University

While it is still unclear to what extent universities across the UK will be open in September, this article explores what you can do at university to improve your CV.

Join a Society and Run for Election

One of the easiest and most rewarding steps you can take is to join a society. There is a huge variety of societies at universities across the country, ranging from skydiving to biochemistry, each of which is run by a student-led committee. Not only will joining a society introduce you to other like-minded students, if you are elected to the committee you will develop skills that employers look for.

Many firms actively encourage applicants to gain experience working on the committee of a society, as it is a great way to develop a range of transferrable skills. Jordan Denney, a law graduate from the University of Leeds and veteran of society leadership, describes the benefits of participating in societies: ‘I have taken on positions of responsibility in order to boost my CV and develop my skill set. I became President of the Women Breaking Barriers initiative in my second year – allowing me to acquire leadership and people-management skills – as well as Society Affairs Secretary of the Law Society where I negotiated sponsorship and organised the Law Ball. In my third year, I became General Secretary of the Law Society. I talk about all three roles in my applications because they show my organisation and negotiation skills, as well as demonstrating that I am more than just my academic grades.’

My own experience as Treasurer of the Law Society helped me to develop skills not taught in a law degree, but nonetheless necessary for any aspiring solicitor.

Volunteer in Your Local Community

Another way you can improve your CV at university is to get involved with local volunteering initiatives. If you are pursuing a career in law, pro bono work is one of the most effective ways you can demonstrate experience working with clients and improve your knowledge of the procedural elements of legal work. Nadia Jahnecke, a final year law student at the University of Leeds outlines how her extra-curricular experiences helped her to secure two vacation schemes at Magic Circle firms: ‘Securing a job in the legal industry does not necessarily mean having countless legal experiences, but rather, being open minded about the opportunities you’re presented with and taking them on. At the start of university, I had zero legal exposure. I stopped trying to secure “internships” and instead, looked to get involved. I took on the volunteering opportunities presented in the Law School, I ran for first year representative on the Law Society, and focused on my academics. It was through exposing myself to these opportunities that taught me skills which ultimately allowed me to gain legal work experience and secure these vacations schemes.’

Similarly, Roxana Cretu, a law graduate from the University of Leeds, discusses how her enthusiasm and commitment to get involved helped her to secure a vacation scheme with an international law firm: ‘In my second year, I decided to get involved in the university’s wider community and I became the President of the Romanian Society and a Student Recruitment Ambassador for the School of Law. In my final year, I was the Student Engagement Ambassador, responsible for organising employability events in the Law School, a Gateway Assessor for Chapeltown Citizens Advice Bureau and a Volunteer in the Welfare Appeals and Tribunal Clinic. These activities have helped me develop myself, my commercial awareness and many other skills I need as a lawyer and versatile individual. They mirror my unique personality and have made my CV stand out from others.’

To learn more about the benefits of pro bono work, follow these links:

External Competitions

One of the most effective ways to improve your CV is by getting involved in external competitions. The Aspiring Solicitors’ Commercial Awareness Competition, held annually, is a fantastic way to improve your commercial awareness. This year’s winner, Sam Winter, describes the personal benefits of participating: ‘This competition fundamentally changed how I interpret business news stories. Through the five rounds, I improved my communication, presentation and team-working skills, all of which are vital for a successful legal career. The competition also gave me the confidence to launch the Commercial Awareness Society at Leeds University, with the aim of delivering clear and succinct overviews of corporate concepts and commercial trends.’ Sam’s hard work was rewarded by vacation scheme offers from Travers Smith, Dechert, Mayer Brown and TLT, which he looks forward to completing this summer.

For more information about the Commercial Awareness Competition, follow the link below:

Use Your Holidays Productively

It may be the last thing on your mind when leaving your final lecture before Christmas, but using your holidays to gain work experience is a great way to build your CV. Whether this is formal employment or informal work experience, employers look for individuals who are able to balance multiple workloads and have exposure to client-facing businesses or the legal profession.

Writing Your CV

When it comes to writing your CV, make sure to take advantage of the resources available through your university careers services and faculties. University libraries may offer CV-writing workshops, which will help you get started, and employability teams within your faculty may be able to provide more specific advice tailored to the profession.

For more information or advice on how to write your CV, get in touch with any member of The Legal Line Up who will be more than happy to help.

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