Over 10 years of job searching, 11 short-term contracts, approximately 135 interviews and being unemployed several times, I’ve acquired something of a knack for applying to jobs. Through this I’ve developed several strategies that I have found helpful and I hope others will find them helpful too:
- Ask yourself what are you best at?
Business graduates will be aware of SWOT Analysis. This stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threat Analysis. Do an internal review of yourself. This will show what you are best at and areas you need to improve. This may also indicate industries that you may thrive in or industries to avoid.
- Create a spreadsheet of companies you’d like to work for.
If you want to work in business, download the 1000 top performing companies in Ireland. Add in any smaller companies you like. Ask yourself, how much do you want to work there? Rate them; use a scale: some will be 5, some will be 1. Start researching and finding what they do and where they’re based. By the end of this process you will have a better idea of what areas you want to work in.
- Leverage or grow your network
Create a LinkedIn page. Add family, friends, college contacts, previous colleagues etc. It’s easier to get into a company through a referral. If any of your friends or families work there, see if they can refer you the next time the company is hiring.
- Reach out to companies you like
Research potential companies and connect with appropriate staff in your companies spreadsheet. Reach out to people in those organisations. Aim to speak to middle or lower leadership. Don’t directly ask them for a job, or send on your CV. Instead ask for a 30 minute meeting to get advice on how best to move into their industry. You’d be surprised how many have been in your position and are happy to help.
- Look at underrated recruitment websites.
There are obvious starting points for recruitment websites LinkedIn, indeed.com, Irishjobs, jobs.ie, activelink.ie etc. but don’t forget about the associations of the industry you wish to enter. College careers pages, or Twitter “Jobfairy” are underrated in this area, as are newer organisations such as growremote.ie that advocate for remote working positions.
- Use a traffic light system for jobs you’re interested in
If you’re interested in a job description, copy and paste it into Microsoft Word. For every bullet point, If you have:
- A lot of experience/knowledge, highlight it in green.
- Some experience/knowledge, highlight it orange.
- No experience/knowledge, highlight it in red.
If you have a lot of green/orange apply for the job. When you’ve applied for the job, save the word doc. If you get an interview you can go back to the job description and remind yourself of what you’re good at.
- Get a Job Coach
To start with, if you know any friends/family in recruitment or HR or if you know someone who is particularly good at English, spelling and grammar, ask them to help review your CV/Cover Letter. Then look into job coaching services. See if you can access free ones. They give you advice on your CV, Cover Letter and interview preparation. This gives you a far greater chance of getting a job. Here’s a link to services for people with disabilities.
- Develop Your Cover Letter/CV
I’ve done a whole other article on this. You can access that here
This is essential. Everyday you should get out of the house. Go for a walk, go out jogging, go to the gym/pool; anything just to get out of your own head for a while.
- Keep in touch with the industry
Find relevant people on social media. Read, watch YouTube clips or listen to Podcasts in your industry. Go to free online or in-person events. Stay as up-to-date as you can.
- Avoid the “what you need to do is” brigade
You will get this; EVERY! SINGLE!! DAY!!! You will always meet people who will give you advice in an area of employment they may know nothing about. All the advice I can give is – smile and nod at these people – but listen to very little of it. You know what you can do best, not them.
- Look at alternative or new types of employment
9-5 Monday-Friday jobs are becoming more and more competitive. Look into alternative pathways to employment. Freelancing, the gig economy, retail shift work, part-time work, give grinds, start your own blog or start your own company (do as much research as possible before embarking on this). Try anything that will impress a potential recruiter in the future.
- Watch out for Red Flags
When you’re job-searching for a while you’ll begin to see some big red flags that will tell you not to apply to that company. Some of these are:
- Reviews – ask friends or family or going on review websites such as Glassdoor, you can see what their staff think of the organisation. If you have concerns it may not be the job for you.
- Posting the same job often – This means that either they are too picky or they don’t pay enough. If you see a position regularly they may just want your data, there is no job there.
- The job description – Studies have proven that if men believe they can do 65% of the job description they will apply, women need to believe they can do 95% of the job description to apply to a job. If you’re concerned, watch out for buzzwords such as ‘superstar’, ‘guru’, ‘wizard’ etc.
- Keep a record
In another spreadsheet keep a record of every meeting you had, event you went to, application you put in, interview you had etc. You’ll begin to see what went well and what went wrong. It could show that there’s a particular area where you shine and then you can work with your job coach to give you a better chance of being successful.