Landing a job after finishing school is hard. Add in a global pandemic, and things get a little bit more difficult.
According to Prospects, August 2020 saw the UK slip into a recession with the biggest slump on record. Hearing this alongside all the news of redundancy, things start to sound very bleak.
New research reveals that 75% of recent graduates and students feel like the COVID-19 pandemic will heavily impact their future career prospects, so heavens knows how worried students leaving school will be!
It is more important than ever to get prepared, not scared. Despite the vaccines providing some light at the end of the tunnel, it is likely that many companies will adopt homeworking long into the future. It’s therefore a good idea to form job-hunting habits and routines that can set pupils up for a successful career in a future that looks a lot more digital.
Love Energy Savings has put together 7 top tips to securing that dream job, even during or after a global pandemic:
1. Get your CV in order
It’s important to get all the key points across without overloading it with information. With so many applicants applying for the same jobs, employers will not spend very long reading your CV.
In fact, research has shown that employers only spend an average of 6-9 seconds looking at a resume before deciding whether that person is fit for the role so it’s important to keep it snappy!
According to Indeed, your CV should be no more than 2-3 pages long but try and get your most glowing and relevant experience on the front page. You need to get noticed within 9 seconds of reading.
So, what should it include?
- Personal statement - short summary to introduce yourself.
Here you need to avoid using generic phrases like “works well in a team”. Try and stick to this structure: first describe yourself in a word, then highlight your profession or best experience and then describe the role and company you’re looking to move into.
E.g., ‘A highly motivated individual with a strong background in customer service and hospitality, looking to move into a consumer-facing role within a company that offers opportunities for progression’.
- Education - keep high school/ college brief.
Unfortunately, no employer wants to hear about every extra-curricular activity you took in your GCSE’s unless they’re extremely relevant to the role you’re applying for. In other words, do you really need to include that certification in grade 1 piano? Space is more important, if in doubt leave it off!
- Experience - any experience and how it can relate to aspiring new roles.
Here don’t fall prey to listing every single one of your duties, especially if you’ve had more than one or two roles. When you reach the point that you’re struggling to fit all your experience on one page, look to list ‘achievements’, rather than duties when describing your role. 9 times out of 10 your employer will understand what your role entails if it's in the same field.
- Hobbies & interests - keep this pretty professional.
I.e., don’t tell your employer you can eat 20 hot dogs in under a minute (unless you’re a professional competitive eater, in which case this could be an interesting talking point!)
- References - have 2 references from other professionals.
This is entirely optional, so if you’re lacking space, don’t worry about including this. If they like your CV, they will ask for references.
2. Make LinkedIn an extension of your CV
LinkedIn is a great way of securing a job. LinkedIn research highlights that top recruiters are 60% more engaged on the platform in comparison to other tools.
LinkedIn is an amazing tool. Not only can you apply for jobs directly through the platform, if you do your research and find people in the company/companies you want to work for, this could be a way of connecting with someone who may well advertise a job you want (be this a recruiter, or industry professional).
It’s also a good idea to send a polite message to your dream employers enquiring if they’re hiring, as a very high percentage of jobs are filled through the hidden job market, without even being advertised. Many employees also start their careers by progressing through a company from an internship, so it’s worth ringing a potential employer to ask if they’ve considering hiring one. You’ll also want to make sure your picture looks professional before doing this!
LinkedIn can also be a fantastic tool to set up freelance work, particularly if you have example work to share. Share your work in a post and then pin the best examples to the top of your profile using the ‘featured’ section and write your hourly rate in your bio.
Then all you need to do is click the ‘open to work’ button and you’ll be amazed how many people come to you! Although it goes without saying you’ll need to reach out to people as well.
3. Tailor each application
Employers will see straight through a standard application. It is important to make sure you do everything you can to stand out from the crowd. Most jobs ask for a covering letter. This is sometimes optional. Make sure you send one along with your CV as this is your chance to tell the recruiter why you would be a perfect candidate for the role.
It may be time-consuming, but it will be worth it. The key to writing a great cover letter is to base it on the job description.
To save time, especially if you’re applying for a few different job roles within the same industry, write several templates and save in a document. This will save you heaps of time!
4. Make a list of companies you would love to work for
Companies in your area, or close to where you live, may have job openings coming up. Send a ‘speculative CV’ along with a strong covering letter highlighting what you will bring to the company, but make sure you call up and enquire first.
Not only does this save you time, but it stops your CV sitting with the gatekeeper, rather than the relevant manager who is thinking about hiring. If you’re the right candidate, they might call you in for an interview without having to undergo a costly hiring process!
It’s important to research any company that you’re sending an application to. Remember, a job must be a great fit for both your and the prospective employer. You’ll want to find a role you will be happy in, that will develop your skills professionally. Glassdoor is a great tool to find out about a company’s culture and attitude towards career development. It provides unbiased reviews so it can help you evaluate any decisions.
Don’t be afraid to go for companies that are not a global brand. Some SME companies offer great graduate programs, just make sure you double check reviews, as the smaller the company, the more you may have to do. Don’t let yourself be overworked and/or underpaid. Milkround is a great tool to search for graduate jobs all over the UK.
5. Determine your financial worth
At the start of your career (and later on) it’s important to find a job that offers great training and development opportunities, but just as important to manage your expectations. Do not expect to walk straight into your first job and start earning a salary of £30,000 plus.
Research your industry and desired career and work from that. Remember that starting salaries will differ depending on your region and field.
Luminate Prospects found that graduate starting salaries are around £22-23k in the North of England and around £27,000 in London. This doesn’t mean you should dismiss any opportunities with a lower starting salary than this average. It all depends on how much this job will add to your career. What training and development opportunities do they have? Do they have multiple awards, or are renowned in your chosen industry? For average salaries specific to roles and industries, take a look at Save the Student.
6. Preparation is the key to a great interview
Typically, the more prepared you are for the interview, the better. Even if your interview is being conducted over video conferencing, the preparation is still the same - know your CV back-to-front and have a good level of understanding about the company.
The first thing you need to do is put your CV and job description side-by-side and highlight where your experience aligns with the requirements. It’s also best practice to write down some anecdotes and more in-depth examples of how you have achieved some of the things they’re asking for.
You need to know the basics about the company: who their founder is, what they do, when they were founded, but also extend your search to LinkedIn. How many employees do they have? Do they already have someone doing the same role as you, or would you be the first one?
You may ask why this is important. The answer is - knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you can tailor your questions and the more intelligent you will appear. If you are the first person, they’re hiring with your job description it might mean they aren’t as sure of what they need, or it could mean you end up doing a lot more in the role, so you need to ask the right questions and decide if that’s right for you.
A good interview tip is to visit companies house and search the company name. Here you can see how much the company made in the last year, their staff retention and more. If they seem to have lost a lot of staff in the past few years, that's a red flag you might like to ask about in your interview. Were they re-structuring to go in a new direction, or could there be a problem with the work environment?
7. Confidence is king
There’s a lack of confidence across the job market at the moment, with 52% of students worried they won’t be able to secure a job after they graduate - according to Onrec. With many of the industries students usually flock to while figuring things out, (like retail and hospitality) taking a hit at the moment, it's easy to see why.
BUT, this shouldn’t get you down or stand in the way of landing a job and the first thing you need to do is put all of the external things that you have no control over out of your mind. It might sound easier said than done, but think of it like this, if you put as much effort into feeling great about the things you can control versus worrying about the things you can’t, you’ve already fought half the battle.
Once you’ve secured an interview, it is important to dress professionally and have a plain or un-distracting backdrop, but don’t feel the pressure to have a ‘TV worthy backdrop’.
Do not be afraid to ask questions to understand the culture and career progression policies. Overall, if you’ve prepared properly you have no reason not to be confident.
All of these skills will help you with whichever career path you decide to take and if you want to discover more opportunities including apprenticeships, traineeships and first year Jobs then take a look at www.notgoingtouni.co.uk.