As gorgeous as those shoes at Gina are, it’s your basic bills you’re struggling with this month – again! You need a job, any job and fast. If this is where you are, don’t panic. First, check your budget and stop spending on anything that’s not essential, NOW! Every little bit helps. The good news is 70 per cent of jobs are not advertised so whatever your situation, there is a lot you can do.
Haven’t worked for a while?
Whether you took time off for kids, were made redundant or had an extended holiday, the first step in any job search is to update your CV. Your CV should be designed to get you an interview, so needs to be positive, perfectly written and professional. There are many resources around to assist you with this [eg: improveyourcv; bemyinterviewer; monster.co.uk], use them!
Keep it to three pages in length, and don’t assume the first people to look at it [HR professionals] will have your technical knowledge, so use minimal jargon. Then contact your referees and ask them if they are still happy to do this, if so, send them a copy of your CV to remind them of what you have been doing. If your CV makes the cut, your references will be important. Leave references off your CV if possible, so you can email the most suitable referees for that particular position.
If you have a gap of several years or something a little difficult to explain, you can still get around this. Reformatting your CV as a skill-based document instead of presenting it in chronological order emphasis what you can do and not the gaps. Also consider what you did do during the time away from work. Did you provide informal advice to friends on website design, help them to manage their cash flow for their start up business or volunteer for school duties? You can list this period as “freelance short-term consulting” to various clients and list some of the skills you used.
Once you have the best version of your CV, get someone in your industry to review it for you.
Finding a position
Check out professional networks in your industry, and generic ones such as LinkedIn, to come up with a target list of who to approach. For me, the ideal company has an excellent reputation, is growing or just been awarded a large contract so there is more chance of promotion. Start contacting your network with the least likely options first. This gives you a chance to practise your sales pitch and identify what areas are likely to be your weaknesses so you can tweak your CV before you try the best contacts. If there is no work at the company right now, let them know you are available for short term contract work with minimal notice, and ask if they know anyone else who may be looking for someone.
Even in good times, it can take many, many cold calls to get job leads, so DO NOT GIVE UP. This isn’t personal, you only need one good lead out to be on your way. If you’re having trouble getting leads, give back while you’re waiting. Contact professional organisations and volunteer your time, this sort of networking can really pay off. Attending free industry talks is also a great way of getting back into the industry and meeting new people already working in it.
Congratulations, you got an interview! Here’s a secret for you – most people on an interview panel do not know how to interview effectively and if there are several candidates with similar qualities, will choose the person who they like best. Plain and simple.
This is why you have much more power in an interview than you realise. Sure you will get the standard interview questions, but what they really want to know is “can she actually do this job?” “will she get on with my existing team?”, and “will she make me look great to MY manager?”.
Can you do this job? All jobs have a job description, and the real job content. During the interview, try to establish what you will spend a typical day doing, what is the department doing or working towards that is most important and use specific examples from your background to illustrate your compatibility. Ask what they most like about their job?
Have a summary statement ready for when you leave confirming you would really like to work for them and smile on the way out. And remember, most employers interview at least three people, some many more, so keep up your job search after the interview.
Landing a job in trying times is tough. You may have to settle for less before stepping into the position you would really like. You may end up working for an under resourced company and find the position more challenging than you anticipated. That’s what happens during a recession. The sun will come out again, and jobs will get easier to get, its all part of the economic cycle. If you really need food on the table, be prepared to do what it takes.
But one thing you simply must do. As soon as you can afford it, buy yourself those Gina shoes or that Mulberry bag and treat yourself to a decent night out. You deserve it after going through this process!
BY HEATHER MCINTYRE
[picture credits: marisa beth; dharma communications / doug ellis; The-Lane-Team / Colleen Lane; Angela Radulescu]