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Getting a Job

On Friday a journalist asked me why people (especially young people) find it so difficult to get a job. It really is extraordinary that with so much information available candidates find it hard. When I talk to schools, advisors and support groups they are doing all but attending the interview for the candidates. It’s a bit like the joke about the Christian who wanted to win the lottery. He had been a good man all his life, but he was poor. He felt he deserved a bit of good fortune so he prayed and prayed to God to win the lottery. But nothing happened. He prayed again even harder. This went on for months, until in despair he threw his head back and wailed “Oh God, why do you not heed my prayers”. In exasperation God snaps, "My son-work with me on this one and meet me half way. Please, please, a ticket." Ok, so the point is What I look for – good raw material. Sensible, well- presented, on time, prepared to give me data (even if it means making a bit of an effort),well researched, thoughtful. Not a mumbling sloppy mess (or worse an arrogant, mumbling sloppy mess)


Errors in CV and letter – targeted for my job

Look to see what the

Taking a scattershot approach and applying for everything

Being poorly prepared

Personal presentation

Timekeeping – late for interview – oh dear

Over-selling themselves

Taking phone calls in interview


Make sure you have good basic educational skills

Be honest with yourself about what you’re great at, and what you’re rubbish at. If you get a job that plays to your strengths you will succeed more quickly, earn more money and live a happier, better balanced life.

You may have done a school careers test that gave you some ideas about what you should do for a job, you may not. Either way, you need to find out where to focus your energies for your University course search or job hunt. A scattergun approach will likely miss your target.

Did your parents say annoying things to you like “The early bird catches the worm!”? Well, in this case, your parents were right! You’ll be competing for Uni places or jobs with oodles of other very organised people and you’ve got to get in there quick. Job applications may only be open for a very short while, and the UCAS University system has very strict deadlines for entry.

Try to think about what sort of person you appear to be to someone who doesn’t know you. What is it about you that makes you you? You know you’re unique, now you’ve got to prove you’re unique to an interviewer for Uni’ or a job. They won’t want another clone – they’ll want someone who will do things differently, break new ground and new frontiers-show them that that’s you.

The world will never stand still, so you can’t either. If somehow your I.T. lessons passed you by at school and you’ve found yourself as good on a computer as your mother, it’s time to get up to date. Do a touch-typing course, start tweeting, get a smart phone.

Schooling rarely teaches current affairs well but as you enter the job market, you’ll find it essential that you’re up to date with what’s going on in your field of interest.  So, whether you’re reading the latest Apple blog, Farming Weekly magazine or The Economist tweets, stay connected with the world that you want to be a part of.

Often it’s hard to be objective and look at yourself and say what’s good about you, but you’ll need to get good at talking and writing about what you’re great at. You may be able to imagine this on your own, if not, ask your friends, teachers, family or other adults to be honest about how you come across. Be brave and ask them all to write down three things you’re great at, and three things you’re not so great at, so you know what needs practice!

You’re going to have to develop that skill because you’ll be selling yourself in interviews and for job promotions for ever more! Even if you decide to set up your own business you’ll be selling your services to your customers – you can’t get out of it, so get into it!

You know how if you secretly make a plan to go for a run, but no-one will know if you don’t, so when it rains it’s an easy decision (not to!) Don’t let your career planning go un-heard of either. Tell your parents, your friends, or a career guide what your plans are to ensure you’re held accountable and are motivated to achieve your goals.

It’s a competitive market so it’s highly likely you’ll have to spend some time working for free in order to gain the experience that lets you stand out from the crowd. So volunteer on a cancer helpline, crew a yacht for someone or do virtual research as a marketing intern. Whatever your target career, give your time for free and it’ll often blossom into opportunity.

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” rings true now more than ever in a difficult market. Don’t be shy, be brave. Make a list of all the people you know (it’ll be a big list!) and then think about who they might know that might be able to help you get a foot in the door to your chosen career. Maybe your parent’s friend works in a Sea Life centre and you want to be a marine biologist, or your friend’s brother works for a Law firm you’d like to volunteer at? People are usually flattered to be asked and very glad to help.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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