Job Hunting Tips: Improving Your Job Prospects

Work experience

Work experience is a great way to become familiar with working practices and business cultures. Add even the most basic administration tasks to your CV as this shows prospective employers that you are proactive and have an understanding of a working environment.

All work experience is valuable – paid or unpaid, at any level, in any setting. Make the most of your time by taking on a range of tasks that help you learn new skills, and be flexible about the duties you take on. Find out more about work experience.

Temping

Temping is not just doing a temporary job. To become a temp, you register with a temping agency and they use you to fill positions for employers who need temporary cover. You will be paid by the agency, not by the employer – don’t be surprised if you find out that the employer is paying the agency a lot more than the agency is paying you! You may be sent on assignments as short as one day, or you may find yourself ‘temping’ with one employer for several weeks. Some agencies handle both permanent staff and temps.

Temping has many benefits:

  • You experience a variety of companies, large and small, and different working cultures.
  • You develop new skills in systems and working practices.
  • Temping may lead to a permanent job  either because your agency is asked to fill a permanent position for which you have proved yourself suitable, or because an employer you are placed with decides they would like to have you on their permanent staff.
  • Taking a temporary job rather than remaining unemployed shows your willingness to learn and work, get on with other people and see a job through, even if it is routine or unskilled. All employers value this ‘can-do’ attitude.
  • If you are unsure about which direction to take in your career, temping is a good way to work with a number of different companies to help you make your decision.

To find a job as a temp, you should:

  • Do some research about which agencies are best for the kind of work you are interested in. See Agency Central for a list of agencies and job sites listed by sector, or go to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) for a directory of agencies and advice on how to use them.
  • Look at agencies on your local high street. They are likely to deal mainly with the traditional temping areas, such as office work, but going in to see them in person will give you a sense of what it will be like to work with them.
  • Check online. Major agencies to try include Reed – see their Temp Zone.
  • Make sure you understand the agency’s rules about whether you can register with other agencies too.

Volunteering

People volunteer for various reasons – helping others and/or to help develop personal skills and gain background knowledge in different industry sectors. Whilst volunteering is unpaid, the experience you gain is valuable, helping you to build on the knowledge and skills you already have and to develop contacts.

There are lots of different volunteering options, from one or two hours a week or month to dedicating your time on a full time basis – all of which make a big difference to the organisation you are helping. Volunteering shows a future employer that you are a proactive and a self motivated candidate. For more information about the types of jobs and what options you have with your degree subject, go to charities and voluntary work.

Further study

Some jobs require specific qualifications, so you may need to complete some further study in order to pursue your chosen career. Browsing current and recent vacancy advertisements is a useful way to find out the levels and types of qualifications that employers in your field are looking for. For information on the qualifications you need for your chosen career, as well as resources for checking vacancies, go to types of jobs.

Further study may take the form of:

  • a conversion course – for some careers, if you do not have a degree in a related subject, a one-year conversion course is required before you can go on to professional training;
  • a professional postgrad course, such as an MA, MSc, MBA or PhD – a postgraduate qualification to gain specialist training is often beneficial and sometimes essential, so find out more about postgrad study;
  • a short course – this is a way to develop personal, interpersonal and professional skills and you can take a course full time, part time or by self-study, so you may be able to fit it around work and other activities.

Courses can be expensive, so you may be surprised to know that the majority of postgraduate students are self-funding. What is more, successful completion of your Masters or PhD does not guarantee you a job. So you need to balance the cost, in terms of time and money, against the practical usefulness of the qualification. Find out about employers’ expectations so that you can decide whether further study provides you with the right kind of long-term return on your investment, and go to funding my further study for advice.

Stay motivated

You may feel frustrated with your job search at times. Keep in mind that no one is successful with every job application – learn from each experience and move on. It is important to stay positive, especially when dealing with potential employers. Confidence and enthusiasm helps make a good impression, both in writing and in person.

To help stay motivated:

  • build a support network of friends and family you can to talk to and ask for advice;
  • always focus on your strengths and not your weaknesses;
  • set written goals – the action plan will help get you started;
  • continue to network while you look for a job – go to industry and careers events, network online and log the details of the hiring manager you have applied to for future reference;
  • remember that knowledge is power – always make sure you fully research a job role and company before you fill out the application and apply for the role;
  • always structure your time, ensuring you have breaks and make time for fun;
  • challenge yourself – if you are not receiving positive feedback from your first few applications, try to change the way you tackle your job search;
  • research, research, research – you can never over research when preparing for an interview: you don’t know what they are going to ask you, so prepare for every eventuality;
  • follow up your interviews by asking for interview feedback – this is valuable information that will help you not to make the same mistake twice;
  • stay positive, enthusiastic and never give up – there are lots of options out there – it’s about finding the right one for you.

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