Knowledge Centre for recruitment


Finding the Right Job

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Finding the Right Job: Starting Out? Changing Direction?

At the start of your career finding the right job is more about just applying for vacancies, it is thinking about what you want to do and where you want to work. The more up front thinking you do the better your chances of landing a job that you enjoy and are good at. The benefits of 'taking stock' apply to other times in your career - perhaps due to an event outside your control such as the need to relocate or find a job due to redundancy - or equally because the time feels right to think about the next stage of your career.

At some point everyone needs to ‘take stock' and decide what career they want. The earlier you do this the easier it is, of course, but the advice in this article applies to anyone who is thinking ‘what is the right job for me?' Sometimes the need to take stock is obvious (just leaving school or graduating from University) or forced upon you (redundancy, the need to change jobs due to family relocation). Other times you will need to be the one to initiate things, perhaps you are bored at work, feel unsatisfied, etc. If this is you, the first place to start is this article.

"Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, on the back of his head behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels there really is another way. If only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it" A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Getting started

The first place to start is collecting information and ideas. Information and ideas that you need to write down. Doing this in your head is just not effective enough. These lists will do two things. First get ideas flowing and start to open up and identify options; second act as a ‘test' against which you can check your identified options - to make sure that you are getting as good a fit as possible. You need to take a bit of time over them; come back to them, read them over, add to them. Whilst you do not need to show them to anyone, talk to friends and family to get ideas - sometimes they see things about you - your skills and preferences - that you might over look. Create several lists:

Things I believe in; what's important to me
These are your values; they identify the things that are important to you; your beliefs and motivators. What stimulated your interest and holds it? What do you care about? Think about the programs you enjoy watching on TV, the articles and stories that catch your eye in a newspaper and the books your enjoy reading, they may give you clues. You'll end up with a list that tells you a huge amount about the values that are central to you which will help you decide where to focus your energies in your working life.

Things I like doing: my preferences
This list is starting to identify your preferences and interests. This is about activities that interest you and that you enjoy regardless of your skill levels. Are you outgoing? Do you like being part of a team or are you happier working on your own? What kind of tasks do you enjoy most - physical, verbal, mathematical, creative, manual, organisational? Do you make decisions on the basis of facts or with intuition? List the tasks and activities you have really enjoyed. This is an important list since it will give you insights into kind of person you are and the kind of work that will provide you with the most stimulation and the greatest reward. Identifying these can help you think of new options and possibilities.

Things I am good at: my talents
This is all about your skills, what you can do well. You should include in this list things that you like and things that you do not particularly like but are good at. Everybody has a talent for something. A career involves developing a huge range of skills, most of which you might not yet have, but talents are aptitudes that you already have. Your talents can help you decide which direction to take in planning your career, because if you have a talent for something you're by definition better at it than most people, so you already have a head-start, and the chances are that you will enjoy doing it as well.

Things I do not enjoy: my dislikes
This is all about the things that you do not like to do, do not enjoy doing. It is also identifying preferences and interests but from the point of view of dislikes. It can act as a check.

Things that I want: my choices
This is starting to identify goals. Think about what you want both in the short term and in say, 10 years time. Think also about how much time you want to spend working, how much variety you would like, how much stability and security, mobility etc. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in 10 years time, what will you be doing? You should also consider the things that you want to change and the things that you do not want to change. Write them all down.

Turning Lists into Decisions

The next step is identifying a job that will move you towards your career goal. You might be able to get there in one leap but you might also have to plot a path to get there.

Think about this from two angles. First the job that you would like to do, and second the sector, industry, companies you would like to work in. The information you collected about your skills and interests will help you with the former and the information on your preferences and values will help you with the latter.

Take the job first and exploring this in more detail. Look in papers and on the web to identify the sort of jobs around. Think about how different jobs will meet your interests and skills. Talk to friends and get their ideas and experiences.

Tackling this from the other side, explore your options from a sector or company point of view. Read up on the sector/company, identify the sorts of jobs and roles available and look for some that might suit you

When you have identified a potential job, gather as much information on it as you can. Read up about the industry and the organisations involved, get hold of any information you can from those organisations about careers, and talk to anybody you can find with any knowledge of the area.

Be imaginative. For example if one of your interests is art, if you are very practical and good with maintenance etc. consider applying for a role as a caretaker at a museum, gallery etc or working for a company that provides caretaking services to museums; or if you are good at organisation and administration try to get an administrative job at such a place. Another example would be that if you are really good at persuading people to do things and ‘selling' but do not want to be a sales person because it does not fit your preferences or values, consider becoming a fund raiser for a Charity or a University or other institution.

Consider your current skills and any gaps between them and what you will need in your chosen job and career. Think about how you can start to develop skills to close that gap.

Do not focus too much on money in the short term; don't let it distract you. Of course money is a part of any career decision, but it shouldn't be the main one. There are plenty of people who take a career path strictly because of its financial rewards, and end up well off but having spent their life doing something that means nothing to them. It's much more important to your health and happiness, and the happiness of those around you, to find a career that's right for you. Once you've chosen a career, money can still lead to the wrong decisions. It's important not to take your first job on the basis of the money, but on the basis of the experience it gives you. If that coincides with the most money, then great, but what you really need at the beginning of your career is experience. Take a longer term view to money and think about your earnings over say 10 years rather than a couple of years.

Turning Decisions into Action

Deciding what you want to do is a critical first step. The next step is getting the job. Some things that you should consider include:

  • Be organised and systematic - this will save you time and make things easier. Set up a file and track all your applications. Prepare a master covering letter with a range of optional paragraphs depending on the exact role you are applying for and mix and match.
  • Set yourself goals and targets. These should be the things that you will do - how many job applications a day, which papers and job boards you will read, how many recruitment agencies you will contact, how you will build networks and which conversations you will have with others to move these networks forward. Things that you have control over and things that will lead to success. Do not set yourself targets such as ‘I will find a job in 3 weeks'. You have no control over this and so cannot set it as a target.
  • Be realistic. As with many things, with finding a job the more you are willing to contribute the more you will get back. For example, if you want to get a job that requires a certain skill or experience, consider how you can gain the necessary skill and experience on an unpaid basis - perhaps doing charity work, or arranging to do some unpaid project work, taking on additional responsibilities at work?. Think imaginatively as well. Identify the specific skill or experience you need and then think about how you can get it via a different route. You need to demonstrate that you can work under pressure, deliver results and organise things. Are there charity events you can run, can you organise the Christmas party at work, etc. You might have to put in extra time and effort but provided this is focused on the career goal it is worth it.
  • Finally, make use of the resources available both on the site and elsewhere, job centre, career services, recruiter sites etc. Consider how to write a winning CV and cover letter, check out how to best present yourself at interview, think about interview questions that might be asked and questions you need to ask to ensure you make the right decision for you.

Good luck!

Finding the Right Job