Whilst many students don’t have any ideas about what they might want to do (see this post for help if that’s you), there are also many who will know exactly what they want to do, or at least have some ideas. If you’re in the latter group and struggling to find opportunities of interest, or not getting anywhere with your applications, it could be time for a new approach to your job-seeking strategy. In this post we outline how taking a more proactive approach to your job search can net you a job, and how to do it well.
When most people are looking for work, the first (and often only thing) they do is search for job advertisements. This is fine, and should be an element of your job-search, but not the only one. I would always recommend a combined approach. There is a general consensus that the majority of jobs are never widely advertised. This might be due to them being filled via personal recommendations, networks, people approaching an organisation speculatively or for any other reason. It is also worth noting that many small-medium sized businesses (which account for 99% of private business in the UK) will not generally advertise widely. If you are keen on getting a job outside of the traditional “graduate scheme” this can be a particularly useful approach for you.
So how can you take a more pro-active approach to your job search?
Understand the industry
Find out and stay up to date with what is happening in your preferred industry. This will help you understand key trends, skills-shortages and so on which can help you position yourself strongly when approaching organisations. Professional bodies/ associations are a great way to do this as are trade publications and websites, LinkedIn Pulse and Groups and other social media such as Twitter. We have loads of career-related resources on our website which are great starting points for industry- or sector-specific information.
Understand the organisation
Regardless of whether you have a specific employer in mind or have broader interests or ideas on the types of organisations in which you’re keen to work (see below for how to find organisations), it is essential that you take the time to research them thoroughly and understand them: Start with their website and scour this for everything you can possibly find, look for other content whether their own (such as social media channels) or third-party coverage. What is the purpose of their organisation? What are they trying to achieve? What are their values? Have they recently announced intended expansion or new business partnernships? There are some more tips on how to research organisations in this post.
How to find organisations
This extract is taken from a recent blog post about finding organisations to approach about work experience, and is equally applicable when looking for graduate roles.
Some useful ways to identify relevant organisations are to use professional bodies or associations, which often have member directories, or if you’re on LinkedIn, the advanced search function is really useful. Also this 3-part mini series of posts.
You can find more information about professional bodies in this post and also links to relevant professional bodies in the careers resources section of our website. And of course, there is always Google or any other search engine!
Know what you’ve got to offer
Having a clear idea of your skills, strengths and interests is crucial to securing a job. Use your sector and organisation research to assess yourself: Have you got skills or experience which might be particularly in demand in the sector? What evidence can you provide? Remember evidence doesn’t have to come from previous employment or work experience – it might be something you’ve done in your spare time, or in a completely different context (for example in a student society, a university project etc.) but which is easily transferable.
Use both to articulate what you can offer them
Taking the time to do the leg-work in your research will enable you to approach the organisation/s in which you’re interested in a strong and positive way. For example, rather than saying something like “I was wondering if you have any potential job opportunities” you could say “I have skills/ experience in x, y, z which I feel could benefit your organisation”, or “I’ve noticed that you are growing x area of your business and I could help you with this by x,y,z”.
Stand out – creative approaches
If you really want to stand out, you could try a more creative approach. There are plenty of examples of people who have landed jobs as a result of creating their own mini-campaigns, from advertising on billboards, Twitter campaigns to video cover letters. For even more example, see our board on Pinterest. Whilst a lot of these types of approaches might be best suited to creative roles, it doesn’t mean that you couldn’t try a similar type of approach with different industries or roles. Again, researching and understanding the industry and specific employers in which you are interested will help you judge whether a less conventional approach could work for you.
When taking a more proactive approach, I would always expect to have to follow up any enquiries you make. For example, you might have a great conversation with someone over the phone, they ask you to send a CV, you send it over, and then……….nothing. Chances are that they are just busy or got caught up in something else. Leave it a couple of weeks and if you haven’t heard anything, simply call them again. Saying something like “Hello, it’s X, we spoke a couple of weeks ago about any potential opportunities in X and you asked me to send over my CV. I did this and just wanted to check if you received it OK, and if so, what you thought?” is a gentle way of reminding them about you without you hassling them.