Finding a job today isn’t easy, although the market in the UK is improving… gradually. Even university graduates are finding it hard even to get as far as job interviews, despite having paid hefty fees for a degree.
It can be particularly tough if you’ve been out of work for a while. The longer you look for work, the more fruitless emails you send into the void, the more you start claiming that you can speak Hebrew and walk the tightrope just to get your foot in the door, the less likely it seems that you will get that phone call. It’s easy to become demoralised.
So what can you do if you’ve lost the confidence to go for job interviews? Well, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Although it may not seem obvious, the job situation is improving and more jobs are being created. In fact, many employers say they are struggling to find the right people with the skills and qualifications they need to fill the posts they have.
So it could be that there are several jobs out there that would be great for you – you just need to know how to find them and how to present yourself properly for them.
We’ve put together a helpful guide here to help you find work quickly.
- 1. Change your thinking
- 2. Here’s where you can get some help
- 3. Think and behave like the people who succeed
- 4. You would be surprised how many contacts you can make this way
- 5. Are you really as good as you can be?
- 6. Go low to go high
- 7. This one free method can bring you the top job!
- 8. And this one can bring even more opportunities!
- 9. Use your friends
- 10. Try these new government-backed routes to market
- 11. Get royal!
- 12. Use agencies well
- 13. Top ways to create a killer CV
- 14. The importance of cover letters
- 15. How to win friends and influence people
- 16. Disabled and looking for work?
If you’ve been unemployed for a long time, it’s easy to start feeling like nothing will ever improve, which of course just makes the process of finding a job all the more stressful. If you’re putting a lot of effort into your job search and applications but then not hearing anything back, it can really start to damage your confidence.
However, negative thinking won’t achieve anything! It’s time to push your shoulders back, stand up straight and face that job market with a smile.
Change your thinking and develop a positive mentality
Easier said than done, perhaps, but absolutely vital.
Don’t let rejection get you down and instead persist in your job search with an enthusiastic, can-do attitude.
If your current approach isn’t working, switch it up a bit.
Do you mostly apply online?
Don’t give up on that avenue, but you could also try giving companies a ring, or just walk in one day with your CV and ask to speak to the manager. A little forward? Maybe. But it will also get you noticed. If you’re going for a job in sales, for example, that kind of self-assuredness will come in handy. Make certain to tell them confidently what you can do and highlight your strengths.
See if you can grab their contact details, then follow up your visit with a thank-you email that summarises how great you are and how much you would love to work there. Send it a few days later to remind them of you and your impromptu chat. Even if nothing comes of it, then at the very least, you’ve begun to network.
offer to work for free
Woah woah woah, you’re probably thinking, isn’t the whole point of a job to not do stuff for free?
In short: yes. But this can also be the perfect way to show potential employers exactly what you can do, and at no risk to them. This can be a fantastic way to gain exposure, work experience, an addition to your CV and maybe help a cause that you care about.
It’s important to be careful and not get dragged in too far, so make sure you set limits on what you will do for free and in what circumstances. Check out this Inc.com article on when working for free is a good idea.
A practical, positive friend can support you in your job search and guide you towards professional assistance.
They can keep an eye out for jobs and good opportunities and will lift your mood when you’re feeling downhearted.
Also, look into help from government agencies or private companies.
This is an executive agency of the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK, set up to aid unemployed people with their job search.
It helps people to find employment and also deals with financial provision for the unemployed.
- You might be entitled to Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA). Jobcentre Plus will be able to help you with this. To collect JSA you must be actively looking for work and able to start the job immediately (although if you’re a carer or a volunteer there is some leeway.) Some people still feel there’s a stigma to this benefit but don’t feel bad – it’s money you’re entitled to, that’s what it is there for!
- They will also help with your CV and covering letter and can give you some good tips on presenting yourself well. Some will also give you the option to borrow suitable attire for your job interviews.
- It’s important to take on board all the advice you get from these professionals as they know what employers look for, both before and during the job interviews..
There are companies and organisations out there that can help you with your job search.
- Work For All is a scheme set-up by the Salvation Army to help support people who are currently unemployed. They can offer short-term work placements which are immensely valuable if you’ve been out of work for a long time. They welcome anyone regardless of age, sex, religion, nationality or sexual orientation.
- The Samaritans can offer emotional support if it’s all feeling too much. They are there to talk whenever you might need them, whether you’re suffering from suicidal thoughts, feeling hopeless, or simply worrying about those bills that need paying.
If you’ve been unemployed for a long time, it’s important to get into a routine again.
People who succeed have routines that they keep to. Quite often they have started their own routine and then their successful lives have created new routines for them.
So don’t sit at home feeling sorry for yourself, plan your day and live like someone who has already succeeeded.
- Get out for an early fresh morning walk which will lift your mood and prepare you for the day. Make sure you do this every day to get yourself into a regular way of starting the day on a positive note.
- Decide on a time of day when you’re going to apply for jobs and stick to it. In fact, look at it as your job and spend a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon. Just trying for 20 minutes and then watching TV for the rest of the day, however tempting, is not trying!
- Make sure you give yourself breaks to lift your mood. 15 minutes away from the computer can clear your head and freshen your determination.
- Set yourself deadlines and goals – for example: “I’m going to apply for five jobs today.”
- Don’t just send the same CV and cover letter to every employer. Customise and personalise, so that each sentence is relevant to that particular company.
- Remember to put what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you, in the covering letter.
When you get into a work mode, work will find you!
It’s a good idea to volunteer for charity work or activities in your church or local school if you’ve been out of work for a long time.
When you go for job interviews, it will look better if you have done something worthwhile in your time out of work and it will give you something interesting to talk about.
It can also create its own work opportunities. You never know who you might meet and what sort of work you will be doing for free. It’s an opportunity that could lead to other opportunities.
Who knows who you’ll meet when volunteering? You could meet employers looking for employees and could even get a job in a charity! Plus it’s work experience which is vital for landing a job.
You’ve nothing to lose with volunteering – it’s certainly a lot more productive than sitting inside watching TV all day.
If you don’t know where to go to get volunteer work, start with your local council. All councils have a volunteers section and they will be thrilled to hear from you.
As mentioned above, you could also look into the Salvation Army ‘Work For All’ scheme.
If you’ve been out of work for a long time it’s important to update your skills.
The world is ever changing and new skills are becoming vital, so make sure sure you’re employable by constantly refreshing your skill set.
- There are free government funded courses that you can use to improve your maths, English and IT skills. Find out more about those here.
- There are also many cheap and free courses online you can do. For example Free2Learn offers lots of free training courses for a wide range of vocational jobs. There is currently free training to help get a forklift licence, become a door supervisor, a social media traineeship and more.
- If you’re looking for a more academic site, FutureLearn also has a huge variety of free online courses to keep you up to date in your field.
- Your efforts will show employers you have a good work ethic and are keen to develop your skills.
- If you have a particular career in mind then research relevant training courses. A small investment, if you can afford it, may well pay dividends later down the line.
- Age UK offers free computer classes and also has a great list of websites you should visit to find the right courses and classes for you.
If you’re a graduate, it can be really daunting when you first come out of university and have to find your first real job.
So, consider doing an internship to try out a new career and to get yourself in front of potential employers.
- Internships are a great way to get into work and are excellent opportunities to impress potential employers. For example finance internships are a great way to get your foot in the door with companies that pay excellent starting wages.
- You might begin working for free or for a small salary, however internships often lead to paid work.
- If the employer doesn’t snap you up, it’s something to put on your CV and may catch the eye of another employer.
- You’ll gain lots of new skills which will put you in good stead for the rest of your job search.
- If you have a specific career in mind then internships allow you get a taste of the job to see if it’s really right for you.
- You’ll make good contacts who can keep you in the know about future positions.
- Not all internships pay (there is some debate exactly what interns should be entitled to.) However, some employers who don’t pay do offer a travel and food allowance.
Even if you’re not a recent graduate, doing an internship can be a useful way of switching career.
Why not contact an employer in a company that you’re interested in and offer to work for free for a few weeks? It’s a mutually benefiting relationship as you’ll get some key experience to talk about on your CV and they’ll get some extra help.
- If you make a good impression and do some good work you could be offered a more permanent position
- The employer might keep you in mind for future roles
- You’ll gain some fantastic, transferable skills
- Employers are eager to offer work experience, you just have to find the right contact to ask about it
Most of the best jobs are never advertised.
You only find out about them by being in the right place at the right time and hearing about them from other people.
So get out there and NETWORK!
You can network anywhere:
- At specific networking events run by local business organisations or trade associations
- Whenever you go to a party or out with friends
- At the gym, on the bus or doing volunteer work
Really, anywhere you go is an opportunity to meet new people, tell them what you’re doing and to ask them for ideas for work that you could do.
Remember that with networking it’s best to give more than to receive. See how you can help the people you meet, wherever you are, and it will be easier to ask them for help in your job search.
So right now:
- Look online for local business groups that you could join and find out when their next networking events are.
- Join Meetup.com and see the MANY get togethers that are advertised there. Most of them are free and you never know who you could meet
- Think of the places you already go and see how you can help more people you meet there. Once you start giving out help – in whatever way (maybe contacts for other people, help with their work, advice etc) then you will find they help you back and maybe point you in the direction of your next great job
Attending free events such as Job Fairs is a fantastic way to increase your chances of employment.
You get the opportunity to talk informally with prospective employers, learn about their company and even apply for their vacancies and have job interviews on the spot.
You can hand employers your CV and get their contact details so you can stay in touch – such a refreshing experience if you’re so used to never getting a reply that you wonder if employers even get your CV.
It’s another way to make important contacts and make sure you’re in the loop to hear about all the latest vacancies.
A simple search on the internet can tell you about local job fairs happening around you and keep an eye out in your local newspaper for local free career events.
For example, jobfairs.co.uk has a list of all the job fairs they are holding across the UK.
Social media is another platform that recruiters and employers are using more and more to promote their jobs and show their vacancies.
More and more companies are using social media to promote their vacancies as it’s free and they don’t have to pay agencies – in fact it’s becoming one of the first places you should check to find a job.
Not only that, but at the moment, because a lot of people don’t realise that many, many job are advertised on Twitter and Facebook as well as LinkedIn, it means that there is less competition if you look there.
- If you’re interested in working for different companies check out their Facebook pages, Twitter or other social media as they often put up job details and good work opportunities
- Check regularly for job details and why not even tweet them asking to work for free for them?
- Using this method to find a job will demonstrate that you are social media savvy
- Search using hashtags like #jobs #AccountancyJobs #Designjobs etc and who knows what opportunities you’ll find!
- There are even social media pages set up specifically to list openings for certain kinds of jobs. Try to find one for the field you’re in and you’ll have a head start on a lot of other applicants!
- Use LinkedIn every day. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is strong (see Jasmine’s here). There are lots of articles and videos online helping you to improve your profile and search for really good jobs through that website.
Apprenticeships for school leavers
Apprenticeships are a great alternative to further education. More and more government funded apprenticeships are being created to help people into employment.
And don’t think apprenticeships are just for young people either – every year thousands of adults do apprenticeships to gain the skills and qualifications they need.
- They’re the perfect opportunity for you to gain invaluable skills and experience that are essential for the workplace
- Apprentices get to learn on the job and are trained fully in a particular profession so they can become experts in their field
- You would usually study once a week and achieve a nationally recognised qualification at the end
- Apprenticeships typically can be completed between 1- 4 years
- They’re a good opportunity to make relevant contacts
- If you make a good impression with the employer you are doing an apprenticeship for, they may offer you a permanent position
- Apprenticeships earn a wage and get holiday pay
- Apprenticeships can increase your average salary by £2,000 – £3,000
Apprenticeships for graduates
If you’re a graduate you can complete a higher-level apprenticeship.
These were set up to enhance the work skills of graduates when it was revealed that graduates coming out of university were earning less than those who did apprenticeships instead.
Many graduates are great academically but have little business experience or the skills needed to thrive in the work place.
This is why more and more employers are recognising the value of offering graduate apprenticeships which offer bright graduates the chance to earn and learn about the workplace at the same time.
The Prince’s Trust scheme is set up to help young people get into work.
It is available to all UK residents aged 16-30 who are unemployed and offers intensive training and experience in a specific sector.
The trust runs short free courses called Get into. These not only provide you with relevant skills and experience for work, but also offer continuing help and support as you look for a job.
Don’t worry if you don’t think you could afford to go on a course – travel expenses are all covered and if you’re a parent, childcare is paid for during the course.
Find out more at http://www.princes-trust.org.uk/.
Employment agencies can be a great way of finding relevant work. They’re especially good if you’re looking to gain some experience and want some temporary work to begin with.
Make an appointment with a good agency and they’ll ask you about the kind of work you’re looking for. Agencies won’t charge you to register (if you come across any online that ask for money, ignore them).
Once a suitable role comes up, they’ll contact you and you’ll be out to work in no time.
- Agencies are particularly good for graduates who are not sure what they want to do as a career. You can temp for different companies to discover what you like. The experience and the skills you learn will help you get a permanent job later on.
- Make sure you listen to the advice agencies give you. If they tell you your CV needs improving, listen to them and update it.
- Sign up to lots of different agencies so you have lots of different recruitment consultants looking for work for you.
- Be aware that agencies take a cut of your earnings and you don’t get the holiday benefits that you would get with a permanent position.
- Make sure you go to the interviews as it’s shocking how many people make appointments and don’t turn up!
- Also, ring the agencies regularly to remind them that you’re there. It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil, as they say, so if you call regularly (at least once a week) they will remember you and put you forward for more jobs.
As you already know, CVs are absolutely crucial to your job hunt. This is your opportunity to show off your qualities, skills and qualifications to employers.
CVs have one purpose only and that’s to get you into job interviews.
It’s the first thing potential employers look at. This means you only have about a page (keep your CV short, no-one wants to read reams of information!) to make yourself stand out and to show what an asset you will be to the team.
Employers for big companies tend to skim CV’s for 30 seconds before moving on to the next so keep it concise and straight to the point.
If you don’t have much experience…
Experience is important and makes you stand out from other applicants.
However, don’t be daunted by those who have more experience than you – we’ve all got to start somewhere!
eager to learn
- Lack of experience means that you will need to learn quickly in order to catch up with everyone else. In your CV, emphasise that you are not only willing but eager to learn.
- The best kind of student is the enthusiastic one, full of questions, positivity and passion about the subject.
- If you went to university, discuss something that showcases how hard you study and give an example of when you went the extra mile in a project.
- If university wasn’t your thing, there will still be plenty of examples from your everyday life in school, a part-time job or in volunteering to support your claim.
- When writing your CV focus on the skills you have and talk about your strengths. Chances are, every single one will be transferable to the new role you’re applying for.
- Do you have strong research skills? Excellent communication skills? Sharp attention to detail? Always remember to back up these buzzwords with examples, names, dates, and numbers to make it appear as objective as possible.
- Say what you’ve learnt and why your skills will be effective in working for their company. You can also discuss how you have improved over time; admitting that you haven’t always been as good as you are now takes courage, and can throw your current achievements into sharper relief – especially if this progress was made over a short period of time.
- Consider what it is that makes you unique, and spin it into an indispensable quality about yourself.
And finally: remember to proofread!
When applying for positions, as well as asking for a CV many employers also request you write a cover letter.
A cover letter explains why you want to work for that particular company and details what you can bring to the table.
Along with your CV, use it to really sell yourself and to stand out from the crowd.
Explain why you’re attracted to the job, but don’t go on about what the company will be able to do for you – employers first and foremost want to know your skills, why you are right for the job and how you can have a positive impact on the role.
Refer to your CV rather than repeat what’s in it. You don’t have enough space or time to tell the employer the same thing twice!
One of the biggest mistakes people make in their covering letter is to go on about how great the job would be for THEM, rather than what THEY can do for the JOB. I have had many letters like this and the applicant usually ends up in the bin!
If you get to the interview stage then well done!
The employers are interested in you from what they’ve seen in your CV.
Here’s a few basic tips to get you in tip top shape for your interview:
There’s nothing worse than wasting an employer’s time and not preparing for an interview.
If you don’t, it gives the impression that you don’t care and aren’t really interested in the job at all.
The first step to preparing is researching the company’s background. In most interviews, the first question you will be asked is: ‘So, what do you know about our company?’
You must, must, must be knowledgeable about it and what it does. What’s it’s purpose? How long has it being going for? What’s the relationship like with the customers? What’s the company’s ethos?
If you speak confidently and knowledgeably about the company, this will really impress the interviewer as it shows your interest, enthusiasm and preparation.
Much easier said than done but confidence is key to being successful in interviews.
Confidence is contagious: for the employer to be confident that you’ll do a good job in your role, you must ooze confidence yourself. It’s completely normal to be nervous before job interviews, and it’s important to accept this and not criticise yourself for it. Try practising meditation, repeating a mantra or striking a power pose to keep those nerves from taking over.
If you’re looking for more advice, this link here will connect you to an excellent list by Forbes all about beating those nerves.
Talk about your top skills
Another question interviewers love asking is, ‘What are your top three skills?’
This is the chance for you to sell yourself and highlight what you are best at and where you thrive.
Believe it or not, it can actually be fun talking about your top skills as you are talking about what you like doing and where your strengths lie.
Also be prepared for the ‘What are your weaknesses? Be honest and explain them but try to put a positive spin on them.
For example, ‘I’m a bit of a perfectionist but I still work to meet deadlines and have excellent attention to detail’ is a classic way to really be showing your strengths when you answer this question.
Try to relax in the interview
Interviews can be daunting and scary. However, they don’t have to be! Try not to get worked up about them the night before. As long as you’re fully prepared and do your best you’ll be fine.
In the interview, try to relax and keep calm. Smile, be confident and friendly. The interviewer wants to find the perfect person for the job and wants you to do well.
Finally, when the interview comes to the end you’ll be asked if you have any questions.
Before the interview think of some relevant, substantial questions to ask. It’s also a chance for you to show off what you know about the company and to show you’ve done some thorough research. For example you could analyse the job specification and if you’re not sure about something, ask about it.
Or you could ask if there are opportunities to grow within the company. This shows you are serious about committing to the company and want to excel in your position. Write a couple of these in a notepad to bring with you, so if your mind goes blank you’ve got a fallback.
Happily, there is now more help available than before for people with disabilities who really want to work.
Your local job centre is there to help make your job search as easy and effective as possible.
There are Disability employment advisers who are knowledgeable about local companies that are disability friendly. This means on their job descriptions and ads they present the ‘Positive about disabled people’ symbol.
If they are using this symbol, the company or business is committed to employing disabled people and if you meet the basic requirements of the job specification, you’re guaranteed an interview.
Disability employment advisors can also send you on free courses such as interview coaching – as well as offer free training to develop your skills and build your confidence.
Which of these methods will you be using to help get your career back on track? Do you have other suggestions? Let us know in the comments section below.