Finding that job
When you’re starting out in your career and are looking to find a job as a graduate, you will hear a great deal about the amount of jobs available. But there will always be challenges to succeed in landing a good job, particularly at the start of your career. In order to be effective in your job search you need to be both resilient and systematic in addition to remaining optimistic and realistic. Here are some steps you can take and some issues you will face.
Timing is everything
A common mistake for many graduates is to apply for a lot of jobs, very quickly, for which they are neither suited to nor have the necessary experience for. Not only will this lead to inevitable rejection, it will also result in your confidence taking a hit. Take your time, concentrate on building your network and contacts and use them right, not to apply for a job that you have very little chance of landing.
Summarise your strengths, list your weaknesses and where you improve, and target jobs that are realistic for you, but in which you can also develop and learn. Use your contacts and network to find out what skills people doing similar jobs actually need on a daily basis and how you can bridge any ‘skills-gap.’
Take time and take stock
Before you contact employers and decision makers, make sure you have the answers to the questions that they are likely to pose. You need to know how to market yourself and your specific skills, and how they make you suited to particular jobs. If someone asked you what your best skills are, could you list them? Do you know what job titles would be particularly relevant to you? Take time and gather your thoughts so you can be as well prepared as possible.
Brace yourself for rejection
Except in very rare cases, rejection is a common fact of life in the jobs market, even during economically buoyant times. You will get things wrong before you get them right and you will likely hear no before you hear yes. Cultivate your ability to be resilient when this happens and if you do get rejected for a job, try to take something educational from it that you can use in the next interview or application. That could be preparing for difficult interview questions or thinking about how you can better articulate your skills and how you have demonstrated them.
Remember what’s important
An interviewer is interested in three main things when they make a judgement on you. They are, your experience, your ability and your personality. When you’re putting together your CV or application, scrutinise the first lines that you write about yourself-because they are obviously the first thing an employer will read about you. Make sure they are positive and something that will be easy to remember. Emphasise what you can offer and the sort of role you would like to fulfil and grow in to. Reflect these messages in all your communication with a potential employer, and also on your social media profiles, as there is a very distinct chance that the organisation to which you are applying will examine your social media presence.
Research, research, research
Few things can copper-fasten the almost instant demise of your application than sending out a host of generic applications to a wide range of companies. You would be far better off to take time and gather information relevant to the company to whom you’re applying and consider how you can make your application stand out. You may think your CV is fine, but is fine good enough? Get someone else, a professional contact preferably, to read it and give you their honest feedback on how your CV demonstrates your skills. Remember, you need to research each role and tailor your CV for it. Does the CV clearly convey that you can do this job?
Get interview feedback
Many jobseekers waste real job interviews as practice sessions. Interviews are hard enough to get; don’t waste them by making basic errors. Find someone who has interviewing experience and who will give you honest feedback on first impressions, how you link your experience to the job on offer and how well you handle tricky questions. Practice short, upbeat answers to tricky questions about gaps in your CV or why you’re jobseeking right now. Don’t ignore vital job-related topics or the dull but obvious questions, such as ‘tell us about your strengths and weaknesses’.
Identify and study your target employers
People will need examples of the kind of organisations you’re interested in to help you. This matters even more if you’re trying to make a career change; you’ll be a much more credible candidate if you’ve researched the sector in depth and can say something about the main players. It’s also smart to identify employers in your locality. Build up a list of six or so target organisations and spend time every week learning more about them, trying to get closer to them through mutual connections, exploring job boards and generally doing everything you can to pitch yourself as a potential employee.
Use a multi-channel approach
Make direct approaches to organisations that are not currently advertising, build relationships with the right recruitment agencies, talk to people in interesting roles and sectors, and research like mad. Above all else, don’t kid yourself that spending all day in front of a computer screen is the best use of your time; get in front of people too. At least once a week put on smart clothes, find someone to meet so you can practise talking about yourself and what you’re looking for. It maintains your confidence levels and ensures you’re remembered.
How to benefit from careers fairs
Most fairs consist of company stands manned by representatives of the organisation, often from the HR department, who briefly talk one-to-one with students interested in working for them. At the registration desk you will be asked to sign in and will be given a free programme, which will help you find the companies you are interested in.
Before the fair: plan
Find out which companies are coming and research the ones you are interested in – this will allow you to ask intelligent questions on the day. Know why you want to work for each company and be able to express your skills, accomplishments and goals in a clear, concise manner. Update your CV and bring along plenty of copies.
On the day: network
Make sure you get the name and position of the person you meet. Make a note of your discussion afterwards. Don’t expect to be offered a job at the fair, but try to interest them in inviting you to an interview at a later date. (And if you expect companies to make contact with you, make sure you have a serious message on your voicemail.)
Leave your interview suit at home – employers don’t expect students to dress formally at a careers fair – but ‘smart casual’ will impress prospective employers.
After the fair
Follow-up is important, but often neglected. Obtain business cards and send letters or emails to employers that interested you and thank the person that you met for their time. Manners and networking skills should never be underestimated. Then, include another CV and restate your interest in the company. Don’t be shy!