If your CV is looking skinny, then it is important to make the most of university by joining exec committees, university societies, taking part in competitions, completing online courses and exploring a variety of interests towards enriching and developing yourself.
The first and second years of university are key times to boost your CV, although, it goes without saying that joining a society just to boost your CV is not the right approach since they work towards enriching your skillset, building new relationships and making some of the best highlights of your university experience. Seeking leadership positions and joining execs are also part and parcel of playing a bigger game of becoming a better version of your past self.
If you’re looking for a post covering 90% of the advice given in CV Clinic sessions I’ve been part of, then click here. I am certain that if you follow all the tips compiled in that post, then when you get someone else to look at your CV, the only major hurdle (aside from opinionated advice) will be boosting your experiences, which is what this post tackles.
I start by focusing on how you can boost your extra-curriculars because the rest of Intern Game Plan is concerned with improving your work experience section by giving tips on how to actually secure an opportunity. I then move on to the skills and hobbies/interests section of your CV. I plan on making a future post about how to seek a first-year summer internship opportunity outside of the more traditional penultimate year routes, so if that’s something that interests you, then be sure to subscribe to the newsletter at the bottom of this page.
As a car is useless without fuel, without experiences, it is much more difficult to prove you have a particular skillset to interviewers or to write about experiences in your CV and to show you are a well-rounded person without the experiences to back it.
As a second top priority (below applying to spring weeks) when starting university, seeking leadership positions in societies is critical for your development, meeting new people and once again, boosting your chances of landing a job. Remember that applying to spring weeks is important because they are the most useful way of improving your approach to applications, not to mention how they increase your knowledge about your industry of interest, and may even convert to an internship.
The other key point is remembering that joining societies is not just to put something down on your CV, which my younger self admittedly wasn’t mature enough to realise. Yes, seeking such leadership positions in societies and getting involved in competitions is the foundation and basis for examples you talk about in the interview, but they also help you meet new people and actually enrich the skills you need in a full-time job e.g. dealing with pressure, organisation, communication, time-management, strategic thinking etc.
For all the competencies you should aim at improving and prepare to prove to a future employer, check out this post.
What should you seek when thinking about which societies to join?
I suggest joining one large society and here are some examples that should help generate ideas for whichever university you’re at:
The Warwick Finance Societies (WFS): As Co-chairman of this society, I’m biased promoting something like WFS, but these mainstream societies, with thousands of members across the university, are great for meeting new people and building stronger relationships with people you’ll probably be working with (it seems like paths crossover in finance more often than you can imagine). It is also likely that you’ll make some of your best memories at such societies.
The Warwick Consulting Society (WCS): Consulting is a great career path that opens many doors, and it is common for people to apply for consulting if they didn’t like a particular finance internship. At consulting societies like this one, you often get hands-on experience with working for sponsors or partner companies which is valuable for whichever career path you choose.
Warwick Enactus: If you’re more entrepreneurial, Enactus is a great way to make an impact with the work you carry out – look for entrepreneurial, social impact-focused societies at your university.
Raising and Giving Society (RAG): Being able to raise money for a good cause is tough, but rewarding. The confidence you’ll build and the impact you can make at such societies is worth the initial learning curve.
Warwick Economics Summit (WES): Joining a society that works towards a major event or summit can lead to real highlights of your university life alongside building teamwork skills in what is a collaborative project.
Note just how many large societies there are at your university, which links to the section I talk about at the bottom of this page if you’re worried about not being able to secure a fresher rep position at a society you liked the look of.
My second tip is joining a more niche society, that although may be a larger society, is more likely to be focused on a specific skill set, or sport. This is your chance to join something that feels like play – if you do something that you lose track of time taking part in, you’re more likely to thrive. Examples from Warwick include:
Warwick Motorsport Society: A core example of a society catering to people with a niche interest and that get to enjoy themselves a lot… this society at Warwick even have their own karts.
Warwick Debating Society: great for improving your critical thinking plus communication skills, gaining more confidence and I’ve heard debates being part of assessment centres in the past e.g. at Evercore and Lazard.
Warwick Gliding Society: I wish I had the guts to try this out in my first year – much cheaper when trying at university.
Warwick Game Design: Developing a skillset and building a network of people that can support a potential side project or side hustle is a great idea while studying at university.
Film Producing Society: Links to the point above about developing skills to support a side project – videography and photography are critical for start-ups and powerful messages of persuasion can be passed through films.
Graphic Design and Marketing Society: Perhaps more limited to Warwick or due to the government push towards STEM subjects several years back, I have noticed that creative skills are scarce and well sought after, with demand for such skills being high from other societies.
What skills should you include on your CV? This is where undertaking online courses are critical for boosting your skillset. Excel is without question something you should be aiming for ‘advanced’ capabilities in. I plan on doing a full review on good courses to take in the future, but if you don’t want to spend a long time undertaking the financial modelling courses offered by Breaking into Wall Street and WallStreetPrep, look through Coursera and Udemy for courses with a strong reputation. Putting advanced Excel and PowerPoint on your CV is great, but it’s much better to have a course that proves this.
Additional languages are gems on your CV, although it’s not the end of the world if you can only speak English, since there are other areas you can strengthen on your CV. But with those languages, being business proficient is ideal, and expanding your lexicon to talk about financial terms in that language is something worth working on.
The biggest mistake is adding a hobby or interest which is generic such as “reading, cooking, running and tennis”. This section is especially important because it sometimes gets first looks when an interviewer is skimming through your CV during an interview, so it is paramount that you are specific and express your interests in a way that is authentic and unique to you. Ensure that no one else can easily copy and paste this section (or any other section) into their own CV, otherwise, it doesn’t pass the non-generic test.
Reading and travelling are not good interests or hobbies to put down unless you have a specific focus e.g. reading 18th-century Spanish literature, or exploring the Himalayas with specifics on which summits you have already climbed (probably better to class as rock climbing or hiking). But don’t just go to the Himalayas to put it on your CV, instead seek things that feel like play for you, that you would enjoy talking about. Don’t force anything, because counterintuitively, it will probably make you worse off than starting with ‘no interests’. If you don’t have any interests or hobbies, explore: listen to podcasts, try out quirky societies at your university and don’t stop until you find one that you really enjoy.
Tennis and running are good to put down, but again you need specifics: was it that you ran a half marathon in x hrs, or that you were part of a particular tennis club and would compete in a certain tournament?
I didn’t get a fresher rep of the Finance Societies, what am I going to do now?
Not getting a fresher rep position is not the end of the world at all, in fact, it can be an asset because of the alternative opportunities it will help you seek.
E.g. I think the UCL M&A and Warwick M&A group were created by people not part of their university finance society. Enactus, RAG, WCS are alternatives just as a Warwick focused example – in fact, joining these may offer a more balanced and enriching experience than just being part of a finance society. So keep your mind open and don’t get trapped in the wrong mindset.
Remember that university societies are not businesses and are not run by paid employees, so even more than anything else at university, this is where you can show your initiative and offer to help out. As just one example looking at the finance societies, offering to deliver at a weekly markets discussion section, to contribute to the newsletter/commercial-awareness focused teams or to source a speaker for a future event are all things most exec would most likely be grateful for. Even reaching out to teams and asking if there is anything they need an extra hand with, or an event they’re looking to organise, but would need help in orchestrating is a great way to harness that resourceful mindset.
How many societies should I join at uni?
I think it is a good idea to join one big society and one more niche society, or a sport. Two is a good number although three is still manageable.
How to write a CV for a job with no past experience?
If you’re starting university without much past experience, then make it your number one priority to enrich yourself with seeking new experiences, applying to become part of the exec of a society, or looking for ways you can add value to different societies that are tight for resources.
Why are applying to springs so important?
As a quick reminder aside from building your extra-curriculars, applying to spring weeks should be a top priority in your first year if you’re looking to land a spot in a competitive internship or graduate position in the future – regardless of which division you’re looking to explore (e.g. M&A Investment Banking, Sales & Trading, Capital Markets like ECM or DCM, Asset Management, Real Estate, Consulting, Compliance and the list goes on).
Note how I focused on the word “applying to” rather than just “getting” a spring week: getting a spring week and converting it is a massive win and can save a tonne of time and stress in your second year, but the process of applying is the most valuable source of practice you can ever get with applications.
Applying to jobs are tough and when you’re applying for some of the most competitive internship or graduate schemes in the country, the chances of success are even slimmer, so you need to know how to play the game and how to maximise your chances, which is what I try and focus on with Intern Game Plan. But even more powerful than reading about tips and understanding the different application components you need to get under control, is actually applying, which in my opinion, nothing comes close to in level of importance.