This advice is aimed at younger people. Perhaps graduates. Those looking to get their first step on the ladder into a career. I write this as someone who runs a business and interviews people regularly, and has recruited several people over the years. It’s my advice and free of charge to anyone who wants it.
What job do you want?
First off, it’s worth thinking about the work you want to do. If you have strategically designed your education and learning to coincide with a role you crave, then you already know precisely what you want to do and whom you are going to work for. If you are open-minded, though, and not quite sure what work you want, look for the overlap in the following questions:
- What are you good at?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What pays well?
If you can work in the overlap of all of these, then you will never have to worry about work. Each day will likely be enjoyable. But here’s the thing with work. Not every day is always enjoyable. Not every day is rewarding. But you should always look to try and do something you are good at - a natural fit for your talents, and you should always try and do something you enjoy doing. Life will be better.
I always think that anyone over the age of 40 should by now be doing something they enjoy. By that age - nearly 20 years in the jobs market - there is every opportunity to re-train or re-position. Never rely on the HR department to plan your career. If you take the attitude that you are the managing director of yourself, then it’s down to you to plan ahead and make what you can of your skills. Plan or be planned as they say.
How are you going to get your perfect job?
Be a purple cow
You need to stand out. When it comes to the CV you create, you need to make it look good, read well and have relevant information. If you just click apply on a job and leave the portal you are using - say Indeed.com - to do the hard work, then I’m afraid you will just be one of many applying and could get lost in the mix. What have you got on the CV that makes you stand out? My own son put a line on his CV “Encyclopaedic knowledge of premiership football”. The MD of the company that employed him said, “Get him in; I need to challenge and test him on this”. As a result, he got his foot in the door, could back up this bold claim and got the job. He stayed there for five years. What is your bold claim?
Show your passion
Your CV says you are interested in social media marketing, or you are interested in a job in UX design. But what have you done to demonstrate your interest in this? The most important thing you need on your CV is evidence to demonstrate your passion. This could be your uni course, but the most valuable evidence will be things you have done yourself - like running a blog or a TikTok channel or a website with your latest designs. An employer is looking for passion for the role you are applying for.
Dress for the job you want
If you get an interview or a scheduled zoom call, make sure you look the part. For a face-to-face meeting, you need to dress for the job you want. Research the employer - what is their dress code likely to be? You can’t go wrong with a suit. Remember, trainers make you look cool, but no one will rule you out for wearing smart shoes. You might like to dress with the latest styles, but a prospective employer will likely be older and less engaged with your style choices. Keep it simple, keep it smart. A tie might be too much - unless you are going for a job with a city bank or high-end law firm. Try and synergise with your dress choices.
If you get a Zoom call booking, prepare. You will need good lighting, good audio and good video. I’ve actually interviewed someone who put their iPhone on the floor and squatted over it. I ruled them out immediately for being disrespectful. You have an opportunity to create a good impression. Don’t blow it by not preparing.
Don’t blow it
I remember an interview in my 30’s. It was an important job opportunity with my current employer. I was all prepared but had a Red Bull before the interview. Pumped up with anxiety and caffeine, I completely blew it. When asked where I wanted to be in 5 years, I said, “doing your job”. There is a line between confidence and arrogance. I crossed that line and accelerated way past it! I didn’t get the job and left 12 months later. Confidence is great. In a world of uncertainty, confident people inspire hope. Arrogant people are a problem an employer doesn’t need. The difference is humility.
Research the employer
This should be a “goes without saying”, but please, spend some time researching the employer. Then you can tailor your questions accordingly. At least find out what they do, where they are based, who their customers are and how they are performing. The employer won’t want you to ask lots of challenging questions - but they will expect you to know the basics. Be genuinely interested in this employer and demonstrate this interest in the questions you ask.
Take massive action
Getting a job or, more importantly, THE job is not something you should leave to chance. You should be strategic in your approach. You could draw up a list of your targets of who you would love to work for. Then use their website to find the careers page and see what jobs are available. Don’t be frightened to send off cold emails. If your email is polite, short and professional and accompanied by your CV, you may be surprised by the responses you get. Don’t blindly apply for anything. Use something like Trello to have a list of your targets and applications and move them into new columns like Target, Applied, Interview, and Rejected. The harder you work here, the luckier you will get. Set up all of the alerts you need to on the jobs board. Don’t just click apply! Have I said this already? Tailor your CV and wherever possible, send an accompanying letter or text.
Like most things in life, proper planning prevents poor performance. Searching and applying for a job is no different. Whilst the world of work is ready to embrace you, it also has a choice and needs to know about you. You need to apply for the right jobs, and when opportunity knocks, you leave nothing to chance. You need to create a great first impression and perform to your highest standards when in an interview. And then don’t sit back and wait.
Apply for other jobs and keep following up on the jobs you really want. A polite nudge will be appreciated. It doesn’t matter what role you want; sell yourself to get noticed and be considered. If you’ve watched Dragons Den, you know the best outcomes are the ones with multiple offers from the dragons. And that’s where you want to be as well - in demand.
By Martin Peirce.