Starting to look for a job can feel like quite a challenge, especially if you haven’t done it before or for some time.
I’d encourage you to first answer these 4 questions:
Who am I?
- What are your strengths, achievements (academic or otherwise)? What do people value in you? If you don’t know, ask them.
- What is it about the subject(s) you chose to study in some depth that interests you? What aspects did you enjoy – and not enjoy?
- Do you prefer autonomy or to work closely with others?
- Do you prefer to work under the pressure of a tight deadline or have a long time to plan ahead?
Use your answers to build your list of things that would be important in your work.
What matters to me?
This is critical to finding a job that fulfils and interests you.
- Look for clues in things you have done in your life so far – at school, uni, in sport, activities, holidays, any work experience – paid or voluntary, or positions of responsibility you’ve held. What did you like – and not like – about them?
- Which organisations would you love to work for and why? Or maybe you’d prefer to work for yourself… If so, what would you do?
What am I good at or capable of getting good at?
I recommend getting feedback from those know you. Ask your friends and colleagues what they think your strengths are and what they value in you. People like to be asked and you will be pleased and surprised at their responses.
Doing a strengths assessment like Strengths Profile can be very valuable. For the small cost involved you get a useful report, which you can use to understand what energises you at work and how to talk about and evidence your strengths in your CV and interview.
Who do I know?
If you don’t know where to start looking for a job, or want to do something different from what you’ve done up till now, ask people you know about their jobs, what they like and don’t like about them. If the job sounds interesting, ask if it’s possible to spend a couple of hours shadowing someone in their organisation. Most people are willing to help and flattered to be asked, especially when they are enthusiastic about what they do and the organisation they work for.
Use the information you have gathered from these questions to start looking for jobs. Find jobs that include the elements you’ve identified that appeal to you. Use these to identify potential jobs.
Then keep taking action
- Do your research – about potential jobs and employers you’d be interested to work for.
- Talk to people about their work, what they enjoy and how they found it.
- Go to careers fairs.
- Work with a friend or coach who can give you support, help you focus and be accountable.
- Ask for feedback from unsuccessful applications and interviews.
- Stay positive! Everyone has to begin somewhere….
Helpful sources of advice and information for job seekers
- Guardian Careers – a mine of information!
- Careers advice – great people to follow on Twitter
- Prospects – the UK’s official graduate careers website
- 6 fresh ways to discover your passion if you’re not sure what it is
- Nick Gendler. Good blog articles and he also runs workshops (at very reasonable cost) on preparing your CV, job search and interview techniques. His advice to 20 something job seekers about the world of work is worth reading
- How to optimise your Linked In summary & profile to get more jobs. Having a Linked In profile is now a necessity for all job seekers, otherwise you’ll be missing out on a lot of opportunities.
- Advice on putting together a great CV – The Ultimate Guide to Building a CV and How to write a resume (what they call a CV in the US and Australia).
Some great inspiration for job seekers
- TED talks – in particular these 11 talks on a ‘work smarter’ theme (each less than 19 minutes long)
- Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech (15 minutes long)
- How to find fulfilling work (5 minutes long)
- What if money were no object? (3 minutes long)
- How can I build a 21st-century career?
- Advice on a good CV
- Powerful questions to ask at job interviews
- What you wish you’d known before your job interview (infographic)
- 5 questions to ask yourself instead of ‘what’s my passion’
So good they can’t ignore you: why skills trump passion in the quest for work you love.
The Career Playbook: essential advice for today’s aspiring young professional
How to find the career you’ve always wanted: how to take control of your career plan and make it happen
What color is your parachute? A practical manual for job hunters and career changers.
Dude: where’s my career. The guide for baffled graduates.
If you know of other useful job search resources, please let me know.