How to improve your skills and employability
There are many free and accessible ways to strengthen your skills and improve your job prospects
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
Getting a job can be challenging, especially as a young person. However, there are plenty of things you can do to boost your chances of being hired, no matter what your age or experience.
How to improve your chances of employment
Employers usually seek candidates with a specific set of skills. If you are looking for a job and want to strengthen existing skills, or gain new ones, there are many different things you can do.
Sports teams, clubs and student societies
If you are or have previously been involved with a group, it is likely that you have gained some valuable skills. This can provide a major boost to your CV. Involvement in a sports team can help you to build teamwork skills, discipline and keep you fit and active. These are all positive attributes for employers.
If you’re in college, student societies can be an excellent way to develop skills while meeting people and having a good time. For example, debating, drama and language clubs can help you to build strong skills that can be applied to almost any job. Taking on a leadership role in a society by joining the committee or starting your own is another great way to gain valuable experience that employers will really appreciate. No matter what the focus of the society or level of your involvement, taking an active part will help show employers you have enthusiasm and skills you can’t demonstrate with grades alone.
Volunteer for a charity or cause
Getting involved with a charity or cause is another way to build up real-world experience and skills. By helping to raise money or awareness, you can support an issue you care about and pick up knowledge and experience that will be very useful in many workplaces. It is always a good sign for employers when a candidate chooses to spend some of their time volunteering as it demonstrates enthusiasm and empathy. Doing some amount of volunteer work is often a basic requirement if you ever want to work in the charity or not-for-profit sector, so bear that in mind if you think that career path might be of interest to you.
If you want to volunteer but have a busy schedule, research the different opportunities to find something that suits you. While some organisations require volunteers to help out regularly and over a long period of time, it is not always the case. Decide what kind of commitment you want to make and contact groups and organisations that interest you to see if you can arrange anything. Some of them may have one-off events that they require volunteers for, while others may have opportunities that you can do from home.
Work experience, internships and part-time work
Lack of experience is one of the most common difficulties young people face when looking for work. Many jobs will require candidates to have a minimum level of work experience. This can be very frustrating. If you have the opportunity to gain any work experience at any time and you are in a position to accept it, it could be very beneficial.
Getting an internship during your holidays is a good way to gain this experience and develop your skills. A well-organised internship can offer you some valuable experience that will help you when you are job seeking. Ask around local businesses in your area and see if any are taking on temporary help. Working part-time through school or college can also be great for your CV.
It is really important that you place your own wellbeing and your studies first. If taking on an internship or job places strain on your mental or physical health or your studies, it might be a good idea to ask for reduced hours, look for a less-demanding role or give up work for a while. If you are relying on your work income to pay for your education, accommodation and living expenses, this might seem impossible. However, there are supports available for people in your position. Find out if you are eligible for any of the financial supports for college students in Ireland.
Upskilling as a jobseeker
If you are currently unemployed, there are certain government support schemes that let you develop new skills while claiming jobseeker’s payments. Spending some time gaining new skills can help you to improve your employment prospects.
Ireland’s public employment service Intreo has a number of ways to support you to upskill for free. The education and training courses Intreo can discuss with you include:
- The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) offers unemployed people education and training opportunities through ETBs
- The Springboard+ initiative in Higher Education offers free, part-time courses at Certificate, Degree and Masters level
- The Skillnet Ireland programme offers a number of programmes for people who would like to reskill or upskill
If you want to know more about how Intreo can help you to upskill or return to education, contact your local Intreo office.
Employers are also interested in your life experiences. If you have an opportunity to study or volunteer abroad at any stage of your education, it is a good idea to add it to your CV.
Time abroad is especially valuable if you use it to learn a language. Having a language besides English will always be helpful when you are looking for work, especially in businesses or services with an international dimension. However, it is not necessary to travel to learn a new language. Using language apps such as DuoLingo, library books, YouTube videos, radio stations and films, you can teach yourself a language for free from home.
Keep your social media on private or clean
Employers will often take an interest in your online presence. If you don’t want potential employers seeing your social media profiles, consider changing your profile settings so only your online friends can see what you post. Think carefully about the words and images that you post. An employer might read into how you represent yourself on your social media platforms.
Need more information?
We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.