First of all I want to tell you that you don’t know it all. They may have told you at school or university how to apply for jobs but on the whole the people who told you would have limited experience of the world of work.
So I thought I would give you a ‘heads up’ for some of the things that you need to pay attention to or look out for.
First of all the world does not ‘owe you a living’ and your future employers are not your parents – they will not find you adorable just because you exist. Nor do they need you to excel and prove yourself. All they want is to employ someone who can do the job, wants to do the job and will ‘fit in’ with the existing staff in a professional manner.
If any organisation is going through a recruiting process to find you they will usually go through at least 2 stages. One is the CV, Resume, application form or some other written communication and the other is a face to face interview or chat.
When I first started out in the job market like most people I learnt through trial and error. After a very slow and often demoralizing process, I started to get most interviews and then in the end started to get numerous job offers because I had found a way to present myself well.
Then years later I went into the outplacement industry which teaches people how to approach the job market and realised that by learning simple tips and tricks we can vastly speed up the job search and also that if you know what you are doing it is easier to target (and get) the job that you dream of.
So let’s begin with the CV.
I have written a blog on how to write a CV so just click on the link at the side of the page to read that if you want to know more, but for now I just want to give you the headlines.
First of all the CV gives potential employers an opportunity to decide if they want you – not the other way around. They want to be able to answer those three core questions – can you do the job? do you want to do the job? and will you fit in? If you just tell them how wonderful you are they might read it – it might even amuse them but they will not call you for the interview. Mostly at the CV stage they are trying to decide if you can do the job although how you present yourself in writing will hint at your motivation and your sensitivity to the recruiter’s needs, will indicate your ability to fit in.
One of the most difficult things for someone entering the work force for the first time is that they have no relevant experience so they have to make the best of what experiences they have had. So I advise you to get some experience – virtually any experience that you can talk about. It could be going on an educational trip, it could be a work placement, it could be volunteering for a charity, it could be in a sports team, choir or band, it could be being part of a youth scheme in the summer, it could be going out of your way to assist people or perhaps you have been able to do some paid work already. Then you need to work out what you have learnt from the time you have spent doing these activities then work out if any of this could be relevant to a future employer.
A good way of thinking of this is – I have done this, so what does this mean to you as a potential employer? For example if you have been part of a project to clear snow in the winter for older people – think about what planning was involved, were you punctual? Were you working as part of a team, how much did you achieve in one day? What reactions did you get from the people who you assisted? Did you persuade people to lend you equipment or did you convince other people to take part in the action? Once you have asked yourself all these questions the trick is to write one or two snappy sentences about it.
- Initiated a project to clear snow for older people, engaged and organised 4 volunteers, persuaded neighbours to lend equipment and cleared all snow in two days so that delighted residents could leave their properties safely.
To a potential employer this sentence tells them that you were motivated, can get on easily with people and like to achieve your goal.
I will be honest with you, doing a CV for a younger person is much more difficult than doing one for someone who has had a few jobs. But I also remember a time when I managed to assist someone to write a CV based on only one week’s work experience in a law court. This was made easier because she was reflective and wanted to learn so she managed to show that she was interested and engaged and didn’t mind doing the low level filing and carrying of books and papers that she was asked to do. So you need to be positive, a little creative (never ever lie) and think outside of the box a bit. But most importantly you have to think about what you are saying from an employers point of view and ask yourself does what I am saying address one of their three core questions – Can you do the job? Do you want to do the job? and will you fit in?
When it comes to the summary at the top – write this last – and let it be a summary of your experience and the type of person you are. Try to make it unique to you – not just the usual ‘I am a good communicator and work well as part of a team’ – which everyone says.
Much better to say something that reflects the type of person you are. For example
I like to spot an opportunity to assist. I anticipate when things need to be done and take action. I can influence and organise other people.
If you think about it the snow clearing project would have demonstrated this and lots of organisations would appreciate these skills.
I was recently chatting to a very personable young man in a café who clearly enjoyed talking to customers when he told me that the place was short of staff because all the other young people had left en masse the previous week. He said the trouble was that the existing staff didn’t understand them – they did actually want to do a good job and they wanted to impress. But from my point of view the problem was the young people did not try to understand the existing staff who would be still there long after the temporary summer staff had gone. They would have seen loads of young people come and gone over the years who wanted to impress when all they want is someone who will fit in with them and do the job, which they were employed to do.
And I think that is easy for young people who are approaching the job market to forget – that being employed is as much about ‘fitting in’ as it is about being able to do the job and wanting to do the job.
So impress on the CV and at the interview by all means but never forget that in the end if you want to be happy in a job and the employer and your colleagues to be happy with you – you must put some effort into trying to fit in with the existing culture of the organisation – or perhaps think of becoming an entrepreneur.
In my next blog I will tell you how to professionally approach the interview process including those deceptively difficult questions
- Tell me about yourself?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Why do you want this job?
And in the meantime when making an application to a future employer in writing just think of all your relevant experience in whatever field, think what you have learnt from it, think about the business’s needs and their three core questions. Then work out what you have to offer them and why they should they should want to interview you.
Good luck ‘out there’
With thanks to Jo Grant for the use of her photograph in this article.
Please note this blog is copyright (2017) and cannot be shared, stored or otherwise transmitted without the prior consent of the author Pamela Milne