subscribe: Posts | Comments

Job Hunting Guide

Job Hunting Guide

You’re only just starting out on your career, so there’s time for a bit of trial and error in fact, for most people except those who knew from age 5 that they wanted to be a vet or a brain surgeon, that’s an inevitable part of the career planning process. You may well need to try a few things to see what suits you best. At the same time, it’s sensible to remember that around 30% of graduates are still out of work up to 3 years after they graduate, and even more will be stuck in low-paid administrative jobs. If you don’t want to be one of the “drifter” statistics who’s still temping 10 years down the line, now’s the time to get planning.

The good news is there is plenty of help available. Many universities and colleges have reasonable careers services, and will make their resources available to graduates as well as undergraduates. This is as good a starting point as any.

OK, so you’ve exhausted the resources (and possibly the patience) of the University careers service. What next? One thing that we strongly encourage graduates not to do is ask their relatives or friends for advice. This is because, however well meaning they are, the people who are closest to you will inevitably have a whole set of preconceptions and prejudices about what you could or should do. The decision about your career path needs to be yours and yours alone. Do, though, ask friends and family to find out about the jobs they do, what this involves on a day-to-day basis, and what they like/dislike about their roles. This is all useful background research.

Also useful is an objective source of information and advice, such as a professional careers adviser. There’s a wide range of this kind of service available, with different approaches and price tags. Some use psychometric testing, for example, while others use in-depth questionnaires and interviews to help you to identify your key drivers, skills and interests. The trick is to find an adviser and a process that you feel comfortable with. Shop around – many will offer a free initial consultation which will give you a flavour of how they work, and possibly even some tips and pointers on the sorts of question you should be asking yourself. Sessions with a career coach may seem expensive, but measure it in terms of your increased likelihood of making a good career decision, and it starts to look like an investment more than a cost.

• You can’t find out what you want until you find out who you are. What are your values? What’s most important to you? What are you passionate about? What do you really want out of life and how do you want your friends and family to remember you? Taking the time to think about the things that really matter to you is a good starting point for finding your ideal role. Work is a very important part of most people’s lives, but it is only one part – so get clear about what you want your life and lifestyle to be like, and what kind of work-life balance you’re looking for. You need to have a context for your career choices.

• The real secret to finding your career niche is to focus on the skills you like to use and things that you’re really interested in. Carry out a skills analysis – the trick is to focus on your favourite skills. The mistake that most of us make when we’re asked to list our skills is to focus on what we’ve done in the past, whether we’ve enjoyed it or not. Think about the aspects of your study or work experience that you’ve really enjoyed, and why. Be specific, to say that you are a “good communicator” doesn’t really throw a lot of light on the subject. But if you know that you like talking informally to small groups of people but hate making formal presentations, then you’re starting to get somewhere.

• Once you know the skills you have and most enjoy using, the next step is to find the area or field where you want to apply those skills. The key here is to focus on what you’re interested in. Let’s face it, if you don’t care about what you’re doing or the environment you’re doing it in, your job satisfaction isn’t going to be very high. Write down every single thing that interests you – what books do you read, what films and TV programmes do you watch, what do you talk about at parties? How do you have fun? Put together a comprehensive list of everything that you get enthusiastic about.

• Now consolidate your findings. Use your skills analysis to draw up an ideal role specification for yourself, exactly what would you like to spend your day doing? Use your interests analysis to identify industries or sectors that appeal to you. Browse the Internet, newspapers, magazines and, yes, even careers directories for ideas. Brainstorm ideas with your friends – but remember you don’t want their advice, just their creative input. Think laterally, let your imagination run riot and, above all, listen to your gut instinct.

• Be aware, too, of the other factors affecting your career choice. What are the most important aspects of work for you? The money? Your work colleagues? The working environment? How do you want to work – on your own or in a team? Do you want to travel or be based in one place? You need to know your preferences so that you can find a career that fits you. Don’t be afraid to be imaginative – the work environment is more flexible now than it has ever been, so allow yourself to think outside the “9 to 5” and “traditional career route” boxes.

At the end of the day, finding the career that suits you best comes down to a combination of self-knowledge and trial and error. You may not get it exactly right first time, but look at the process as a learning curve and an adventure. The most important thing is to get out there and get on with it.

Leave a Reply