Student career advice: What your next employer will be looking for in 2015


Ann Pickering
Wednesday 07 January 2015 16:17 GMT
Today’s school leavers are becoming 'savvier' in shopping around for alternative career routes
Today’s school leavers are becoming 'savvier' in shopping around for alternative career routes (PA)

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


As conversation turns to New Year’s resolutions and best intentions for the year ahead, plenty of you may be thinking about applying for new - or first - jobs. With competition still tough, how do you make sure you’re giving yourself the best possible chance and really differentiating yourself from the rest for the right reasons? There are four things which will be high on the agendas of all employers in 2015, and which will therefore be important for all young jobseekers to bear in mind.

Digital skills

The phrase "digital skills" has been a very fashionable one in 2014, and this is definitely set to continue next year. Speaking from a company at the forefront of technology, we know that the future of our business relies on having the right pipeline of digital talent, and that means recruiting the brightest young people.

You’ll have no doubt been called a "digital native" at some point - but what does that really mean? Having grown up with the internet, you have the natural digital skills at your fingertips that many employees simply don’t have - so make sure they’re signposted throughout your CV and application. Have you helped arrange a school event and publicised it on Facebook or Twitter? Ever blogged about something you love? Do you document every minute of your holiday on Instagram? These things can come so naturally that they’re easy to take for granted, but the reality is that they set you apart and demonstrate a digital understanding that businesses in all industries will be crying out for in 2015.


Apprenticeships are an increasingly popular route into the workplace and will therefore continue to be hotly contested next year. With new Degree Apprenticeship programmes also on offer from September 2015, there are plenty of great opportunities out there to earn a salary while getting genuinely valuable on-the-job learning. Apprenticeships aren’t for everyone, but they can be the perfect way to kick-start your career, so do your research before deciding whether it’s for you.

Making the most of social media

We recently carried out a global Millennials survey (speaking to 18-30 year olds all over the world), and found that nearly two thirds of young people in the UK said tech has transformed the process of finding a job. With statistics showing that 98 per cent of UK jobseekers search for their next role online, the days of people poring over ads in their local paper are clearly over.

Social media gives businesses a direct line of communication to prospective employees, allowing us to engage with potential applicants where we know you’re already spending a lot of your time. More and more employers are now turning to social media to ensure their new recruits are digitally savvy and confident – so what better way to demonstrate that than by engaging with them online before you’ve even applied for the job? We sometimes hold live Twitter Q&As, for example, with our existing graduates and apprentices, inviting applicants to ask questions and hear about what the next few years could be like for them at O2.

Forging connections early

Work experience and internships can be a great way to get your foot in the door, but applying for placements doesn’t just involve sitting at home writing endless cover letters. A whole host of organisations are now emerging designed to matchmake the needs of businesses with the skills of young people in their local area, and this trend will continue in 2015.

The Digital Youth Academy and the National Council for Work Experience are great examples of organisations connecting young people with potential employers. We also hosted the UK’s first Digital Skills Marketplace last year, which gave businesses a new forum to attract the best tech talent. A face-to-face meeting with a prospective employer can leave a much longer-lasting impression than a CV or an application form, so keep your ear to the ground and make the most of opportunities to go out and make those all-important first connections.

Some principles will always be true when it comes to applying for a new job: do your research, show initiative and get as much exposure and experience as you can. But the truth is that the landscape is changing and, with digital now underpinning everything we do, demonstrating how you will put your digital skills into practice from day one will be a sure-fire way to impress any prospective employer.

Ann Pickering is O2’s HR drector

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in