It may be cold enough for jeans and wet enough for wellies, but it took me months to get these legs this brown so I’m not putting them away yet. But will my tan make me look fit and energetic and help me in my hunt for more work (a girl cannot live by blog alone) or will it label me as a lazy scrounger who spent all summer skiving on a beach?
While I puzzled over the messages my flipflopped feet are sending out, I thought I’d take a look at what it takes to land a good job in these troubled times. Unemployment peaked at 2.7m in 2011, but still stands at about 2.5m, about 7.8% of the working population. And if you factor in the rush of newly qualified graduates desperate to prove their worth by signing up to 24-hour a day internships and zero contracts it’s enough to make the keenest job seeker hunker under the duvet let alone a sloth like me.
So I turned to my old friend, John Lees, the career coach of champions, for a spot of advice and encouragement.
John runs his own consultancy company and has worked for the House of Commons, Imperial College, Cranfield School of Management, Lloyds Banking Group and Marks and Spencer, among others, so what he doesn’t know about matching people with jobs is probably not worth knowing. He is probably best known for his book How To Get a Job You’ll Love, but his latest book Just the Job! is all about how to land a great job in tough times.
He likens the difference in finding a job in today’s climate as compared with the relatively healthy job market a few years ago to someone wandering around a ‘Job hotel’ lobby looking for a job. “Three years ago you stood in the lobby looking vaguely hopeful and people came up to you and offered you things. There were hotel staff around to help. The big, well-signposted conference rooms just off the lobby were full of exhibitions and presentations. The help desks were manned.
“This week you go back to the job hotel and now the lobby is full of people who have lost their luggage and missed their flights. Everyone is shouting, while at the same time trying to solve their own problems. The only person available to help is the night porter, who doesn’t have very good English and has no idea where the keys are kept. There may be helpful people around, but nothing is signposted and all the doors are locked… yet amid all this chaos, some people arrive, get what they want and leave. How did they do that?”
How indeed? The trick, says John, is precision, preparation and presentation. “Today’s job seeker needs laser-guided applications, not blanket bombing,” he says, adding that it’s not enough to be eager, presentable and have all the right skills and experience. You have to be able to prove it in writing, without looking desperate.
Here are a few tricks John recommends to help you shorten your hunt for the perfect job:
1. Get your head straight. Being made redundant does not carry the stigma it once did, use the experience to review what you are good at and what you enjoy, not to beat yourself up.
2. Get back up – work out what you like doing, what you do well and find examples, facts, figures and stories to back that up. Use these to tailor your CV job applications and give weight to your speculative conversations.
3. Get out. Once you know what you are looking for – and only then – start making connections and remember, one face-to-face meeting is worth 100 emails – so don’t waste them.
4. Be brave – start talking to people about what you are looking for. It makes sense to ring former bosses and colleagues, but make sure you know what you are looking for and have answers to their tricky questions before you pick up the phone.
5. Be prepared – recruiters and employers want to solve their problems, not yours, so listen to what they want and prove you can provide what they need, don’t expect them to care about anything else.
If you want to find out more Just the Job!: Smart and Fast Strategies to Get the Perfect Job, is published by Pearson (£9.99).
Are you looking for work at the moment? Spare a moment to let me know how it’s going. And if you have just landed a dream job, why not share the secrets of your success @AmandaAtCandis
Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn