In these financially unstable times, unemployment is on the rise, it is hard to get or to keep a job and many people I know are having a hard time with finding things that are suitable. For some reason I have been insanely lucky through it all. I was let go at my previous job because of financial reasons but before they had even started the process for helping me to find something new, I had already been accepted at my new job (which I love by the way). Maybe the odds are simply in my favor or maybe I’m doing or have been doing things right without knowing it.
I’m not saying I’m superwoman or an expert in the field of getting jobs. All I know is that for every time I have gone and looked for one I a) never struggled finding a job and b) always ended up with the job of my choice. In fact, I have always had to choose between several jobs that were offered to me. Instead of claiming sheer luck as being on my side through it all, I thought it might be handy to share some of the things I’ve done to build my cv, the things I do in interviews and letters as well as some overall tips on improving your chances with an employer.
1.) Selecting ads
The first things you do is of course looking for vacancies. Browse as many job advertisements as possible. Online, on websites where you’re sure to find jobs in your area of interest, but also on associated fields. Here in Holland your best bet are the major newspaper websites, large vacancy websites such as Monsterboard, and the government job database. Of course it depends on your area of interest where you will find most. So when you know what you want to do, or better yet, you know a company you want to work for, you can scout their websites directly.
One thing you shouldn’t do is exclude actual newspapers, local newsletters, or bulletin boards in supermarkets or libraries. These can all be valuable sources for finding ads. You can also go to a few job agencies and simply ask or leave your CV. Another thing you can try is to go to job fairs. Even if you don’t find a job that’s for you, it can give you inspiration what other areas might be interesting for you to look into.
When I was stuck for inspiration a few years ago (all I knew was I didn’t want to do the job that I was doing anymore), I went to a large national job fair. It didn’t give me actual jobs, but it did give me ideas where to look for something that might be of interest for me. I personally found most of my advertisements through the internet. It sometimes takes a while to find the actual vacancy on websites. In my experience, the job offer section is often tucked away somewhere in the crooks of a website.
Which leads me to my next point.
Don’t give up! Once you have found the advertisements you want to apply to, you will always be rejected. Keeping going can be tedious and very unrewarding, but if you stick to it you will ultimately be rewarded, with at least an interview. This also goes for actually applying to a job. I got my first real job (as a teacher) after nearly one year of occasional messages and e-mails. I applied to the job for the second time when I got a call: well, after so many nice messages we would really like to meet you.
Sometimes finding the right ads maybe hard as well. There is usually a certain time of year for vacancies to come about. In education it all starts in March (over here anyway). So even though I had started looking in October and upped the anti and started to become more active in my search from January onwards, I didn’t start finding the interesting vacancies until late February/ March. Figure out when vacancies become available for your field of interest and that’s when you’ll have to browse websites and try to find ads at least 2 – 3 times a week.
A quick response is vital. Even if you don’t have time to write a letter just yet, you can at least call or e-mail the company to show interest. You could for instance call to confirm the specifics of the ad or ask to talk to the person responsible for the application process. This way, your name might already end up on someone’s radar.
So you’ve found an add you like, now it’s time to write things up so you can send that letter and CV.
3.) Your CV
A CV isn’t something you make overnight. It’s something you build. Keep a file on your computer with a current, updated CV at all times. The minute you do anything that could go onto it, you add it. This way you won’t have to write up your CV every time you’re applying to a job, plus you won’t have to think of all the things you may or may not have done. Keep one full CV with all experience so you can simply select those experiences applicable to your application when you are actually looking for a job.
Building your CV is crucial to finding a job. most employers won’t read your letter if your CV isn’t worth their time. Your CV should fit onto 1 A4 page (you can change the font and margins so you can fit more onto the page). It should be presented neatly, in an easy-to-scan, organized fashion, without any typos or language mistakes. As I said, for the actual job application a CV should only list relevant experience to the job. A CV should be void of fluff and filler.
With that said though, any experience applicable to the job SHOULD go on there. Remember that one time you volunteered in college to help out with this that and the other? If it’s applicable to the job, throw it on there. Even if it may not seem to be at first. Is the vacancy for a ‘leadership function’? Well then go ahead and add that weekend where you mentored first year’s students/ ran your college’s newspaper/ lead a vocal harmony group. As long as it shows you have experience with leadership skills, you’re good. All experience counts!
In addition, building your CV is something that is highly important. More and more you can read people stating: well I went to college, but my degree is worth nothing. Which is exactly what is happening. A college degree is no automatic guarantee for obtaining a job. It was in our parents’ generation, but with more and more people getting college degrees, it means you have to set yourself apart. This means that you need to acquire skills while in school (or afterwards, when you’re unemployed) that will make you stand out from a crowd of applicants.
The worst thing you can do is sit around and expect that dream job to just ‘happen’. If all you did in school was study you’ll get nowhere. Depending on the job you’re looking for, you’ll need experience with organizing groups, international experience (going abroad), side jobs in line with your studies, internships, etc. The list goes on. And if you didn’t acquire any of that while in school than you can start doing them while you’re looking for a job. Help out your sports’ club with organizing events, sign up to volunteer at local events or do anything else that is useful for building your CV.
4.) Your letter
Apart from the CV, you’re letter is actually not that important. This only gets read when your maybe future employer wants to know more about you based on your CV. So yes, it should be good, but your CV should be the rock of everything. Again for the letter it’s important that you make no language or spelling mistakes and that it is organized in a neat fashion. This is what and in what order I write down mine:
Paragraph 1: A few lines where I say where I found the advertisement and stating that I would like to apply to the job (specifying the function).
Paragraph 2: Here I introduce myself and if applicable, I state why I am looking for (another) job. This is optional though.
Paragraph 3: If you’re leaving out paragraph 2 than you introduce yourself now. This paragraph is used for listing my most recent (and most relevant) education and previous work experience.
Paragraph 4: Explaining my skills. This should be linked to the vacancy! Look for which skills the company lists and write this paragraph accordingly.
Paragraph 5: Explains why I want to work for the company AND explain why I would be the ideal candidate for the job. Here I sometimes specify what I am not good at/ would have to learn with an explanation that I would be more than willing to learn the skills required.
Paragraph 6: Add a line where you invite yourself to a potential interview.
The most important part of the letter is to come across as confident, but not cocky. Also, don’t downplay your abilities. Don’t say, ‘but I only did that for one summer’, no, you did it. That’s all they need to know. Also bear in mind that you write the letter to be invited to the interview. So don’t be too specific just yet. If they need any more information they will ask you about that in the interview.
5.) The interview
YAY!! You made it to the interview. You and probably another bunch of people. Each company is different in how they go about these things. Some invite over 20 people, others only invite 5. There may or may not be a second round of interviews, so keep that in mind. A first interview is usually used for a general exploration of the candidates and a chance for the candidates to see the company and some of its employees.
This is why interviews are all about first impressions. Dress properly. It’s better to dress too formal than too informal. I tend to wear skirts when its only men or women, pants when it’s a mixed group. I don’t know why, but it’s what makes me feel comfortable in those situations. Keep make up, nails and hair to a minimum (unless your job will involve these areas).
What you should also do is prepare the interview. Go online and do some research about the company if you don’t know them yet. Try to find out what they stand for and how they work. They might ask you questions about that. Prepare a few questions on things that aren’t clear to you from your research. It will make you come off as engaged and seriously interested.
And then the most important part: BE YOURSELF. A company can only assess whether you’ll be a good addition to their working environment when you are who you are. Don’t lie or make things up. Reread your letter and CV before going into the interview so you know exactly what it is you wrote about yourself to this company. Be prepared to answer questions about anything and be honest about it. It may not lead to an actual job, but it can sometimes give you more insight into what employers are looking for or what you might be looking for.
Example: when I was looking for a new job earlier this year, I applied to a highschool. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go back to that setting so I just decided to give it a shot. It fell through because they thought I was more apt for teaching college students and during the interview I also found out that highschool really isn’t for me after all.
And remember: even if you can’t find a job you like or that likes you straight away, keep going. Don’t give up. Find a job as a volunteer or start doing things for free, or as a freelancer at first instead. It won’t give you money, it may not be a ‘real job’, but it may give you some valuable experience that you may need later on.
I hope this helps at least someone. Good luck on the job search.