Applying for your first job in the food industry

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Employer looking at an applicant's CV

Getting your first job is not only a huge achievement but is also an important step towards building a fulfilling and rewarding professional career. Your first job is a crucial step towards obtaining your dream job so, with this in mind, it is good to ensure that you choose a first job that is aligned with your ideal job pathway so that you are better positioned to achieve your goals.

Below, we explain how important it is to understand your strengths and weaknesses, how you can get your first job, how important your first job actually is, and the steps you can take to secure one.

Why is a first job so important?

There are loads of reasons why achieving your first job is important, especially when it comes to following your desired career path in the food industry. Whether full-time, part-time, or an internship, here’s why your first job is so important:

Valuable insights into your career

Your first job is an extremely valuable opportunity – helping you to learn about the food industry and the career you want to build for yourself.
As one of the most important and pivotal moments in your working life, your first job helps you to get a taste of multiple different aspects of the food industry alongside the potential to choose another profession while there is still plenty of time.

Opportunities for networking

During your first job, you will realise that you have the opportunity to network – something that continues to leverage as you keep progressing in the food industry. Your first job will introduce you to new friends and people, along with influential professionals who can positively influence your career trajectory.

Improving your skills and competence in a professional environment

On-the-job experiences in the food industry will be invaluable when it comes to developing your skills and professional achievements. During your first job, you’ll work with industry-standard tools, handle projects, learn how to work as part of a team, and other vital professional skills that will help you to achieve your professional goals.

Making yourself more employable

Having a certain level of work experience is a must for many employers when it comes to even considering a candidate for an interview. Your first job strengthens your CV with verifiable professional skills and achievements to make your CV more employable in your desired industry.

The steps to getting your first job

Realise your career goals

Before committing to the search for your first job, what are your long and short-term career goals? By setting goals which align with your strengths and weaknesses, you can realise a clear path to achieving your professional aspirations in the food industry. This can help you to achieve a job you have a passion for and it can be easier to work towards obtaining your dream position.

Have realistic expectations

It can be easy to set unattainable goals, so make sure to set goals based on your education, experience, and the skills you have. If you don’t have mounds of experience, competitive entry-level roles in the food industry and working your way up the ladder can help you to obtain more knowledge and experience along the way.

Utilise your network

Realising the potential of your network can be an extremely valuable source of inspiration. Family members, friends, and schoolmates who have already established themselves within the food industry can help to advise you on the best way to start your career. They may even have valuable contacts within the industry already.

Additionally, creating a LinkedIn profile is another excellent way of connecting with industry professionals you already know, such as tutors, teachers, and employers, and even industry professionals within your connections’ networks. LinkedIn is an extremely powerful tool when used effectively, and a good profile with a great network can even land you opportunities that you may have missed otherwise.

Write your CV

Creating a compelling CV that highlights the skills you have which are relevant to that role, plus some of the achievements and skills you’ve gained in previous positions, will help you to earn your first job.

Whether you’ve volunteered or completed months of work experience in the food industry, highlighting what you’ve learned in these positions is a must for any good CV. Additionally, highlighting the qualities that helped you to succeed in education can also provide a boost to your CV as they help employers to see that you are an ideal fit for the role you’re applying for.

Tips for building a CV

As your CV is the first point of contact between you and your next potential employer in the food industry, you’ll need some tips on how you should structure your CV, and what to include.

  • Introduce yourself:
    List your main contact details so that your prospective employer can actually contact you. You should also provide a brief summary of what you can offer to your employer. Include a short description of any career or educational highlights that are tailored to the role you’re applying for.
  • Summary of your skills:
    Use bullet points to list the skills and experience you have that are tailored to your chosen role. This section will be scanned quickly to see if you’re a fit, so make it readable and succinct.
  • Relevant experience:
    You should also include relevant work history in chronological order, including volunteer work or work experience. This section should be tailored to your role, so, if a job you’ve done is completely irrelevant; remove it.
  • Your achievements:
    Your CV is your opportunity to sell yourself, and shouting about the amazing things you’ve done will highlight why you’re the best fit for the role. This means including where you’ve gone above and beyond and really made a difference to gain these achievements.
  • Education:
    Only list what is relevant or required for your role. Include your GCSEs but, if they’re not your highest level of education, make it super succinct. Furthermore, include any professional training you may have received so that your employer knows you have relevant knowledge.

Where to get help for your CV

If you’re struggling with writing a CV, the National Careers Service has a fantastic guide on how to create an ideal CV. They even have the option to speak to an adviser who can guide you through the entire process. Additionally, there’s a huge number of resources on the web from trusted sources on how to effectively write your CV for your prospective employer.

Learn how to search for a job

Obtaining the attention of employers will mean that you need to know how to search for jobs effectively. There are many different platforms that are designed for finding jobs, including online job boards, social media channels, company websites, and even simply sending your CV and cover letter to a prospective employer. 

Is an apprenticeship the route for you?

Many employers in the food industry recruit new talent through apprenticeship programmes – a suitable system for people looking for their first job in their ideal industry.

These schemes enable you to receive valuable on-the-job training and receive academic and professional qualifications all without the need to go to university. As an added bonus in many cases, employment is guaranteed when you complete the apprenticeship programme.

Trainee positions

A trainee position grants you the opportunity to explore different roles in the food industry, helping you determine whether or not it aligns with your long-term goals. Even if you aren’t committed to a traineeship for a long period of time, it will provide valuable real-world experience and industry-specific competencies that will greatly increase your employability in a competitive environment.

Graduate schemes

If you’re a recent, or soon to be, graduate, a graduate scheme will be an option to you. Although extremely competitive, these schemes are greatly beneficial as they deliver training on different aspects of an industry – helping to make you a well-rounded professional.

Part-time jobs

If you’re still in education, a part-time job will offer real-world work experience while you complete your formal training and academic qualifications. The experience gained during a part time job, such as customer service skills, can be an invaluable addition to your CV – helping to make you considerably more employable as you’ve had real-world experience compared to other candidates who stayed in education.

The interview

Whether you’ve applied for a full-time job or a traineeship, adequate preparation for an interview is always key. Many of the job requirements will be listed in the job description, so making sure to study the description will reveal the skills, experiences, and personality traits a company is looking for from a prospective candidate. Learning a brief overview of the company’s history, products, services, and mission can also offer a positive spin on your interview.

Interview tips

An interview is your first opportunity to make a good impression on a potential employer. It is their chance to see if you’re the right person for the job, and your chance to make sure they’re the right fit for you. They can take place in person, over the phone, or over video software like Zoom or Skype.

Some types of interview include:

  • One-to-one interview
  • Panel interview
  • Group discussion

Some types of interview questions will include:

  • Competency-based questions
  • Strengths-based questions
  • Technical questions
  • Situational judgement questions
  • Values-based questions
  • Motivational questions

You may also experience more casual questions that are in place to get a grasp on who you are as a person and whether or not your personality is the right match for that specific working environment. Another candidate may have the exact same skills as you, but if your personality is preferable over theirs, then you’re the candidate most likely to get the job.

So, how do you prepare for an interview? Some tips to make sure you’re prepared include:

  • Make sure to read the job description and person specification carefully so that you are clear on the kind of person they are looking for. 
  • Find out more about the company, their products or services, and their plans for the future. 
  • Think about things you may be asked about based on your CV.
  • Prepare some examples that show you have the right skills. 
  • Ask someone you trust to help with practice questions.
  • Think of 2 or 3 questions of your own to ask the interviewer. This shows enthusiasm for the job. 
  • Choose something comfortable, yet appropriate for an interview, to wear. 
  • If in person, make sure you know the name of the person and the time you’re to see them. 
  • Research how to get where you need to be and arrive up to 10 minutes before the interview. 
  • Make sure you know who to call if you are late for any reason.

Following up

Following the interview, make sure to follow up within 24 hours to say thank you. While not an essential aspect, thanking your interviewer via email for their time can also set you apart from candidates who didn’t. You can also take this opportunity to clarify any issues, questions, and restate your commitment to the role – further selling yourself to the company.

Want to learn more about the food industry?

If you liked this article, you may want to learn more about the food industry, the latest innovations in the industry, and more. We have a fantastic range of food-related topics available to sate your need for knowledge – simply peruse at your leisure.

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Do you have any questions?

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