Unfortunately, being unemployed, or being employed but in a job you are unhappy in, is a situation that at some point in our lives we are all likely to find ourselves in. Whether it’s as a result of the competitive jobs market for recent graduates, because you’ve been made redundant, or because your current job isn’t giving you the money/responsibility/opportunity you need, there will likely come a time when all of us need to look for a job.
I have applied for A LOT of jobs in my still relatively short life, especially towards the end of university. Because of this, I was lucky enough to find a job to go straight into after graduation. However I’ve also seen my colleagues, friends, and family go through periods of unemployment and underemployment, and it sucks.
The keys to successful job hunting in my opinion are all about finding and applying for the right jobs, making sure you have the right experience, and getting it if you don’t, and above all, CONFIDENCE in talking about and demonstrating your skills and how awesome you are.
I know that self-confidence is sometimes hard to muster. If you’ve applied for 30 jobs and got nowhere, been let go from a job you loved, or decided to leave a job because of difficult circumstances, your confidence isn’t likely to be high. If you’ve come to this blog and started looking into how to get back on the wagon however, you’ve already taken the first step! In this mini series, I’ve pulled together my top tips for looking for and finding jobs, applying for them, and finally interviewing and most importantly getting them. Hopefully some of these will help you on your journey to workplace bliss.
First things first – Looking and finding…
“Find a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”
…But first you have to actually find a job.
Finding the right jobs to apply for is obviously the first step towards being offered a position. However, nowadays if you are searching for jobs you will find 99% of them on the internet, and the sheer quantity of information can be overwhelming. How do you find the right jobs for you? How do you make sure you don’t miss any potentially great ones, whilst avoiding getting swamped in the hundreds and thousands of vacancies out there?
The answer for me is always to be organised. If you’re unemployed and starting to suffer mentally from not having anything to occupy your day, stay sane by putting 100% into looking for a job. Think of job-hunting as your job. Set yourself targets, be it spending a certain amount of time each day on applications or searches, or a list of tasks to get through. If you are employed and looking for something new, put all the free time you can into your search, but also invest time in getting organised so you can make the best of the time you do have to job search.
In this post are three key areas you might want to consider in your hunt for a job. You can pick and choose what works best for you and your circumstances.
Job alerts and searches
Most of us search for job vacancies on the internet, and the easiest way to do this is using the multitude of job vacancy websites out there. However this can be both overwhelming and difficult to keep track of, so whenever you can you should set up ‘job alerts’. Job alerts allow you to enter certain criteria or keywords that you would usually use to search for a vacancy, and sign up to receive an instant email, or a daily or weekly roundup, with details of any jobs that have been posted which match the criteria you have set. You should set up job alerts on any website you regularly search through. Most have a fairly obvious ’email me with more jobs like this’ or ‘alert me’ links on search results pages, and/or the ability for you to create an account and then specify what jobs you’d like to receive email notifications of. You can usually then set whether you want these daily or weekly etc.
In terms of criteria for your job alerts, I would always start as wide as possible, and you can then cut down if you’re getting too many. You can set as many different alerts as you like depending on what you’re looking for, the more the better! If there are keywords that appear on a lot of the vacancies you’re interested in, you can set up an alert for each of them, for example ‘marketing’, ‘digital communications’, ‘property management’, anything you are interested in or have skills in. You can also often search on pre-set categories such as ‘IT’, ‘Health and Social Care’ or ‘Fashion’, or specific job titles. To make sure your alerts are relevant, I’d also suggest putting in a salary range (put the upper limit as the highest salary you’d expect to reasonably get right now, and the lower limit as the lowest you would accept). If you want to stay in a certain geographical area, you should specify this too. Make sure you include ‘home-working’ and ‘various locations’ as well though, and if you would be willing, at a push, to work in different town or city, then set up an alert for these too. You can then assess the jobs as they come in and if any of them might make you reconsider working in a different city or even moving for the right job.
If there are particular companies or industries you are interested in, you should also look around for and follow their social media accounts and sign up to their newsletters to make sure you are alerted to any vacancies they may have.
While they can seem a pain to trawl through, job alerts, newsletters and social media posts mean you are less likely to miss a job you might be interested in just because you didn’t search for it while it was up. They may also highlight jobs which meet your basic criteria, but which you might not have looked at on a search or on individual employers websites. Each day or week, you can look at the alerts that have come in, and decide which ones you think are worth applying for. There will be more on applying in my next post…
LinkedIn, the professional social network, is also a great place to find jobs. If you haven’t got a LinkedIn profile, get one! It’s free, and it’s basically just an online version of your CV. Once your profile it set up, you can search for jobs using similar criteria to your job alerts, enable email notifications of new vacancies, and follow companies and groups you’re interested in. People you’ve worked with in the past can ‘endorse’ you for certain skills and write recommendations, all of which will make you look like an attractive candidate. Some roles will let you apply using your LinkedIn profile instead of a separate CV, which will save you time. A lot of headhunters also use LinkedIn to look for potential good candidates for roles, so you might even find you are approached and encouraged to apply for something!
Last but not least, you should also keep up a weekly good old fashioned Google search. Not all vacancies will be listed on job boards or social networks, so to avoid missing those that aren’t, once a week or so you should do a Google search for your top few job types or keywords. You can cut down the number of results by using the Google search ‘Tools’ to specify results from the ‘past week’ and/or ‘only from [your country]’.
Internships, government schemes and graduate schemes
Internships are a great way to gain experience and get your foot in the door of companies and industries. They can also help you learn about different areas of a business or organisation and expand your horizons and what you might be interested in doing. However they are often unpaid, and you will not always be doing interesting and valuable work. Be wary of ‘internships’ that look like someone is trying to get something from you for nothing.
If you are able to work without pay for a short period of time, lots of reputable charities have good quality voluntary roles, with clear tasks and responsibilities, which you can usually put on your CV as an internship as long as you commit to a certain period of time. Just ask the charity if they’d be happy for you to say you were an ‘Intern’ rather than a ‘Volunteer’. You may also be eligible to apply for internal vacancies while you’re there, or hear about new vacancies within the charity sooner than others. Plus it’s always a bonus if they know you and how great you are from your volunteering role, and this might help you in getting a permanent job.
There are also some amazing social enterprises and government funded schemes providing paid internships for graduates and young people. Do some Googling and look for organisations offering support and opportunities for paid internships near you. Adopt an Intern are an independent not-for-profit company based in Scotland who offer exclusive graduate opportunities to kick-start your career and/or support you out of unemployment and underemployment. They work with employers to find them the best candidates for their vacancies, and to encourage them to consider taking on interns, creating temporary graduate positions, and offering experience to young people. And most importantly, paying them for it. They have a great website where they share their current opportunities, and you can also follow their Facebook page for updates on new vacancies
Depending on the area you want to go into, you should also think about looking at things like ‘Modern Apprenticeships’, which are part of UK government scheme to help 16-24 year olds into roles where they can learn on the job, gain experience, and work towards a qualification. Again, do some Googling and see what schemes are available where you are, and sign up to any newsletters or alerts they offer.
In your job hunt you’ll also no doubt come across lots of graduate schemes. Graduate schemes with big companies are often advertised as great looking opportunities, with high salaries, offering loads of experience in high profile business areas, and the promise of a permanent job at the end. If you are successful in being offered a place on one of these, amazing. Well done you! HOWEVER, be careful. Most graduate schemes worth their salt have hundreds, if not thousands of applications for every spot available. One lovely fact I heard when I was job hunting was that one big grad scheme had eight positions available in Scotland. They got 8000 applications… Don’t quote me on that as I can’t remember the source, but it illustrates that these are often very very popular roles. Because of how popular they are, they usually have long and complex application processes, which you can end up spending a huge amount of time on. Several also use online tests and all day assessment centres to further filter down the quantity of applicants, and these can be brutal. Given their popularity and tricky application and selection processes, no matter how awesome you are, you’re a lot less likely to be offered a position or even an interview for one of these jobs than you would be for another type of job. I would look carefully into each scheme you consider, be selective in applying, and only invest the time in ones which are in areas you really want to be in and that you think would definitely be worth the effort if you got them.
Networking and ‘who you know’
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Apparently. My last top tip for looking for and finding jobs is to tell people you are looking! Tell your friends and family, and ask them if there are any opportunities in any of the places they work. Ask people to send you on any jobs they see that they think might interest you (you can also return the favour and build up your job hunt karma by sending on any jobs you come across that you think would suit someone else who’s looking). If you get any opportunities to ‘network’, i.e. to connect with people outside of your immediate social circle and develop contacts and relationships, do it! Go to events, meet-ups and clubs and chat about your job hunt (in a positive way), ask about people’s own jobs and industries and if there are any positions or opportunities going. Ask if there are things you can help out with or get involved in. At worst, you’ll meet new people and make new friends and connections. At best, you might get a job out of it. If you never ask, you’ll never know.
That’s all so far on looking for and finding jobs. Next week we’ll move on to…. *drumroll* … applying!