Finding a job after school or college

For those who decide to seek employment after leaving school at 17, the world of work can be an exciting yet challenging place.

But with the right attitude and hard work, finding a job that gives you an income and a level of independence you never had before is entirely within reach.

Take some time to think about the kind of work you want to do.

Do you aim to start in an entry level position and work your way up? Or do you simply want to start earning, and perhaps decide on another career later?

What sort of jobs can I do?

If you think that entering the working world when you’ve finished school or college is the right step for you, here are some of the most common first jobs that school leavers have:

  • Clerical and administration
  • Retail sales and distribution, e.g. supermarkets
  • Information technology
  • Hospitality and catering
  • Production workers/assemblers; machine operatives in manufacturing
  • Trainee technicians in manufacturing engineering and construction crafts
  • Emergency and uniformed services
  • Banking, insurance and financial services
  • Health related – e.g. nurse training, technicians and care work
  • Public sector
  • Creative and media

It's important to think about two things here: your strengths, and what you enjoy doing. Think about the subjects you liked studying most at school and why. Which ones are you good at or would love to learn more about? Spend some time reflecting on this, and write down some notes to help you. Talking to family, freinds and teachers may also guide you toward the sort of the industries you might be interested in working.

Once you have found at least one or two areas you are keen on, it's time to start looking for vacancies and see which opportunities appeal to you most across your chosen sectors. Job boards where you can look for school leaver positions include:

Writing your CV

It’s no use going job hunting until you have a good CV to send to prospective employers.

This is worth spending some time on, since it has the power to influence an employer greatly.

Ensure it is well written with no spelling or grammar mistakes.

Since at 17 you will have little or no experience, and a short list of GCSEs, you should really focus on explaining why your personal qualities make you a suitable candidate.

And any work experience at all you have should be detailed – and if useful, drawn additional attention to.

Let teachers, parents or friends read through your CV and take note of any feedback.

Don’t be afraid of being positive about your skills and aptitudes; instead of “I believe I am good at maths”, write “I am good at maths.”

There is no point creating doubt of any kind in the employer.

You should also consider ‘targeting’ your CV for a job. This means changing aspects of your CV to emphasise skills you possess that are applicable to the role.

Covering letter

A covering letter is simply a letter that is given to a prospective employer along with your CV, and is specifically tailored to a vacancy. Ensure this is a positive message that outlines why you are suitable for the role.

Emphasise your availability in terms of when you can start work, and the hours you can work.

Job seeking

Searching for a job can take many forms. From checking your job centre to browsing job websites, from viewing shop notice boards to reading job sections of newspapers. Ask any contacts or friends you have if they know of any vacancies.

You can also ask in shops and restaurants themselves, remembering to take a copy of your CV with you.

If you do carry out such visits, ensure you are smartly dressed; a great first impression can really help land a job.

The kinds of jobs you might apply for include waitering/waitressing, office assistant, data inputting, manufacturing and cleaning.

You may find that some jobs are out of bounds to you until you reach 18 – for example working in a bar – but that there are many other opportunities for finding work at 17.

Being a school leaver seeking their first full time job can be a challenging experience. You may not get a job straight away. But be prepared to treat job seeking as a job in itself, and you will give yourself the very best chance of finding work.

Further information

For more tips and advice on GCSEs, please see: