Now that the ’21 days to Career Success’ has come to an end you should be much better equipped to sort out your work-life. Hopefully you have learnt lots of new things about the world of work and maybe about yourself too? Whether you have followed the posts methodically or just dipped in to top up your existing knowledge we hope you have found it useful.
So here is a short recap of what you need to do:-
Take a look at yourself. What have you got to offer? What do you want? What is important to you? What do you feel has been stopping you from success so far?
Get to know the world of work. Be curious and proactive. Don’t just rely on the internet… get out and talk to real people too.
Make sure that your practical job-finding skills are doing your justice (CV writing, interviews, online presence) and if not, get help!
Make decisions and take action…be courageous and challenge yourself to do new things even if they are outside your comfort zone initially.
Remember that it can take a while to settle into a career after you graduate so stay strong and positive! Look for ways to build up your skills and experience and don’t be too hard on yourself. It is a great chance to develop courage and resilience which will serve you well for the rest of your life. Hold your nerve.
Do the How ready are you Questionnaire again and see how your responses compare. You should find that your scores improve HOWEVER if they don’t maybe there is a good explanation. Perhaps you know more about the world of work and temporarily feel less confident. That is fine. Although it may seem like a step backwards your future efforts and decisions will now be better informed.
Remember that Careers & Employability are here for you even beyond graduation from the University of Salford.
Thanks for reading and we wish you every success in your career… (whatever ‘success’ means to you).
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Imperial War Museum, Salford Quays
Some of the graduates I have talked to recently have said ‘I didn’t realise it would be this hard to get a job!’ They feel frustrated and find it hard to keep on trying.
If you feel like that, even just sometimes, then today’s post will help you.
When the tough times hit hard some people crumble and yet others seem to grow stronger. But what makes the different between being a ‘hero’ or a ‘victim of circumstance’? And how come some people will be amazingly tough-minded in one area of their life and yet easily beaten in another?
This fundamental question has always interested me. How can we get over the hurdles we encounter throughout life? A key to this question is something called ‘RESILIENCE’. Let’s consider what resilience is and how you can get more of it. Improving your resilience means you can more quickly and easily ‘bounce back’ from disappointments which is good news for your happiness and your health.
Occupational Psychologists Robertson-Cooper have found there are four things which will influence your resilience:-
- Social support
The good news is that you can strengthen your psychological armour by building up these specific areas.
Some days you may feel like hiding under your duvet and that you daren’t apply for that amazing job. These are the times when you have to dig deep and find your inner courage and ‘grit’. Grit is defined as ‘perseverance and passion towards long-term goals’ (Duckworth & Seligman 2006) and could be as important in achieving success as IQ has long been believed to be.
Get some perspective
Walking around the Quays with its open spaces, open water and bracing winds helps to clear my mind. You will probably recognise the building behind me in the photo as the Imperial War Museum, near the university building in Salford Quays. This place always helps me find some perspective on my own problems when I think of the atrocious suffering people have endured – and still endure – in wartime all over the world. I am in awe of the stories of collective courage and how people all pulled together to get through. As a surviving and thriving species self-preservation is our strong instinct.
Having a degree is a huge first step on the ladder of career success. Ok so maybe you’ll struggle at first to find your place in the world of work – but studies consistently show that higher education is a worthwhile investment of time and money. Not only does it increase your earning power, it also gives you a sense of purpose and achievement, it broadens your horizons as you learn and meet other people different to you. Now you have that degree nobody can take it away from you. Not only is it useful in getting that first job but also for promotion later on in life. I have friends who regretted not going to university once they got into their thirties as they felt it held them back. Be proud of how far you have already come!
Acknowledge the positives
Practising ‘daily gratitude’ has been found to be very powerful in helping strengthen your psychological wellbeing. And when you feel more positive you feel more optimistic. And when you feel more optimistic you are more likely to take the time to make that job application that will be THE ONE!
Step outside of your comfort zone
Go on… be courageous! Nobody said it would be easy… but it could just be worth it! Setbacks are bound to happen if you are stretching yourself.
- REFLECT – Can you think of a time when something has gone wrong for you? What helped you to get through it? What did you learn from it?
- Every day, when you first wake up in the morning (or before you go to sleep at night) think of three things – even small things – that you are grateful for in your life. There is even an app to help you do this!
- How resilient do you think you are? Try this quick, free on-line test from Robertson-Cooper and watch the video. The report will give you specific ideas on how to build your resilience.
You can complete the career adaptability test online here. Find out how adaptable you are as being adaptable contributes to career resilience. The test is on an accountancy website but it’s open to anyone to do.
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Do you believe that your future success and happiness is completely within your own control? Some people do.
Or do you believe that your future success and happiness is completely down to fate, luck, chance, god, serendipity or other people’s actions? Some people do.
In reality, whichever of those is right (and we could have a long philosophical debate about this) a pragmatic approach might be to suppose that the truth lies somewhere in between. There are probably things about your situation you can’t control and there are certainly things you can. Feeling that you have control, autonomy and agency over your own life can help to boost your self-esteem when things are going well BUT the flipside of the coin is that, when things go badly you may overly blame yourself. Similarly, if you believe nothing is within your control then when things don’t go your way you can easily blame someone or something else BUT this belief can stop you from taking action to make things happen!
You can certainly increase your chances of success by going out to find opportunities… or at least meeting them halfway. Make a plan, be proactive and looking out for chances to learn things and meet people. Job offers can spring from the most unexpected sources!
You may have heard the saying ‘Grant me the serenity to courage to change the things I can change; the serenity to accept the things I can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference’? This definitely applies to career planning and job seeking. Of course there will always be things we can’t personally control (the global economy and its impact on UK graduate recruitment, for example) but there are things we can. Perhaps the most important thing that you can take control of is your own response to events and your attitude *
In his latest book ‘Happy: how more or less everything is absolutely fine’ Derren Brown suggests that there are just TWO THINGS we can control. One is our own thoughts and the other is our own actions. If we accept this truth and stop getting frustrated when we can’t change other things and other people then we might be happier! It’s certainly worth a try?
Hold on tight and keep on going.
This may help to give you some perspective and help you to identify actions you can take:-
- Think about your own situation now, in the context of finding a job you would like.
- Write a list of all the things that you currently feel that you can control.
- Next write down a list of all the things you currently feel that you cannot control.
- Think about any on this second list that you could take control of, influence or at least mitigate.
- Write down some actions (however small) you can take which are in your control.
- Use this activity sheet and example to help you.
*If you are finding it extremely hard to cope or you are suffering mental health issues then it is not always so easy to take control of your mind. You may find it beneficial to seek professional help from your GP or a trained professional such as a counsellor. Techniques such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy may help.
Brown, D. (2016) Happy: Why more or less everything is absolutely fine. Bantam Press
Read this explanation of ‘circle of concern and circle of influence’
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Eileen is a co-author of the book ‘How to succeed at an assessment centre’
SO… you complete an online application and then you get an invitation to do some assessments online or attend an assessment centre. What can you expect and how can you give it your best shot?
What is an Assessment Centre?
An assessment centre is not an actual physical PLACE but a format which is used in recruitment (though obviously it happens in an actual place). It is designed to get lots of information about job applicants so that the company can make well informed decisions and hopefully select ‘the right’ people for the job.
Why do employers use them?
They are much better at predicting future job performance than interviews alone. From your point of view a great thing about an assessment centre is that you can be sure you have had lots of chances to show your stuff!
Assessment centres are increasingly used by companies looking to employ graduates for a couple of reasons. First of all, competition levels are high and they can get to see lots of applicants this way and secondly, when they invest time and money in training a new graduate they want to know that they have long term potential to do well, not only in their first job but hopefully in many different roles later on in their career. So many companies are keen to find ‘good all-rounders’ who have the skills
What happens at an assessment centre?
You will have a timetable of assessment activities which might include any of these:-
- Group task/discussion
- Practical work-related task
- Lunch where you talk to people from the company
- Psychometric assessments (see below)
How can you do your best?
It is totally normal to feel nervous about going to an assessment centre but most people forget nerves once they get started as they don’t get the time to worry!
- Prepare for it. Read about the company and especially any ‘competencies’ they are looking for. You may have had to talk about these competencies in the application process already so make sure you have read your application as they may ask you about it.
- Think about what to wear. Smart and tidy is essential but the dress code may be different for a creative media company than it is for a traditional firm of accountants. Make sure you feel comfortable in your clothes (and shoes!)
- Relax but don’t drop your guard. You are being assessed the whole day, even during breaks & lunch, in corridors and lifts so be on your best behaviour.
- Remember that you might not be in direct competition with those around you, many assessment centres have a ‘benchmark’ level which you pass or fail. Some days everyone might get through, other days nobody!
- Reflect upon the day afterwards, especially if you are not successful. You might never know why you didn’t get through but think what a great learning experience it has been and what you could do better next time.
These are tests which have been scientifically developed to give an accurate and objective picture of your abilities. You may face:-
- Numerical ability
- Verbal ability
- Abstract ‘intelligence’ or problem solving (e.g. shapes and patterns)
- Other abilities specific to the job role (e.g. scientific knowledge, technical aptitudes)
- Personality (or personal style)
- Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs)
You may have already done these online as the timing of the tests differs between employers. You may be asked to repeat them to check you didn’t get someone else to do it for you!
How to shine
Assessments are usually strictly timed so you need to work really quickly but not so quickly that you make mistakes.
Although there is an element of ‘raw ability’ involved in some tests, that is, things that you haven’t specifically learnt (e.g. abstract shapes and number patterns) there are also things which you can revise and refresh your memory about (e.g. working out percentages, verbal comprehension).
Don’t worry if you think everyone else is better than you at these type of tests. It doesn’t mean you won’t get through. Usually there will be a pass mark, which might not be as high as you think. They may want to know that you have at least a ‘good enough’ numerical ability, not that you are an A* Maths student.
In personality assessments don’t try to second guess what the test is trying to find out or what kind of a person they are looking for. Many of these assessments have an in-built lie detector but more importantly, do you really want to change your personality to fit in? Be your ‘best self’!
Even if you are not successful in the end it will have been valuable experience so reflect upon what you have learnt from it and what you could improve next time. Lots of people actually enjoy the experience of the assessment day and feel quite euphoric at the end… believe it or not!
Do lots of practice psychometric assessments and if there is something you struggle with, learn how to do it.
If you still have an active university email address you can use the ‘Graduates First’ portal which allows unlimited test-taking practice of numerical, verbal, and logical reasoning tests. It also includes a Situational Judgement test and a trait-based personality test. If you don’t still use your university email address, contact the Careers team in askUs and we can add you as a user of the system manually (email@example.com).
Check out this great website Assessment Day set up by two graduates who wanted to pass on their experiences
If you feel that you need to brush up on some basic maths skills look at this BBC resource and Maths Centre resources. There are also some useful Maths MOOCs. Here’s one from FutureLearn.
Saville & Holdsworth develop many of the tests you may encounter so try some of their practice tests
Read this advice from a recent graduate and a graduate recruiter taken from Houston, K. & Cunningham, E (2015) How to Succeed at Assessment Centres. Palgrave Macmillan
Read Salford Careers guide on assessment centres and Psychometrics.
Watch this video from Career player about Assessment Centres.
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Fiona Christie – careers consultant
Job interviews evoke mixed emotions – anticipation but also dread. If you are invited to an interview, very well done, this means your written application is good and you are on the next step towards getting the job you want. But most of us worry about job interviews while also being delighted to have one. This is natural, so the secret is to manage your nerves by preparing effectively and viewing the interview as your opportunity to impress and even enjoy talking about yourself!
Fail to prepare and prepare to fail
It is critical to prepare by researching the employer and the role you are going for fully. Nothing can rule you out quicker than showing you aren’t really sure about what the job is. Also, get the small stuff right – make sure you know where you are going and allow yourself time to arrive in good time. Plan carefully what you are going to wear – follow the dress code that’s normal for the industry you are going for, e.g., for industries such as Law and Accountancy, dress codes are smart and conservative, whereas if you are going for a job in Advertising or Media, you can probably risk adding a bit more colour to your outfit.
Familiarise yourself with what kind of interview to expect? Interviews can be conducted in person, over skype, over the phone. Do you know who will be interviewing you and if it will be a small panel of people? If you know the names of the people on the panel – google them and see if you can find out about them.
Questions you can expect
Probably the most important thing you can do is anticipate interview questions and prepare potential answers. You can pick up clues about this from the ad or the job details.
But the following tend to be the broad areas of questioning to be prepared for:
- Your reasons for applying
You need to have this kind of insight for answering questions about why you want the job or to work for the organisation (these simple questions can trip people up). But think about it from an employer’s perspective – if you can’t tell them why you want to work for them, why should they bother with you?
- General career aims
If they ask you what your career goals are or where you want to be in 5 years’ time, what would you say? These questions are a bit old hat but knowing how a job fits in with career ideas is good to nail.
- Your strengths and weaknesses
Be sure to know what your greatest strengths and achievements are as well as your development areas may be in relation to the post you are applying for.
- About your experience
Be ready to talk about the relevance of any experience you have for the job you are applying for. What have been key achievements you would highlight? Even non-relevant work experience will have allowed you to have developed relevant skills.
- The skills & competencies required in the job
This is a biggie. Virtually all job interviews will ask you about skills and competencies, questions, e.g. teamwork, problem solving…Have your examples ready.
- Your knowledge of the organisation
Do your homework on their marketplace / their culture / the profession / any competitors. Also are you aware of key developments within the industry.
But do be aware that sometimes unexpected things may happen at interview! This Heineken video is an entertaining example.
The STAR technique for structuring your answers
A technique recommended by lots of employers and careers advisers is the STAR technique. This is particularly suitable for skills and competency questions.
Here’s an example for team-working.
S – Situation. Set the scene, e.g. in the second year of my business degree, a major part of the assessment involved working within a small project team on behalf of an external client, in this case a local charity that provided services to disabled people in the community.
T – Task. What was your role e.g. a key challenge for the charity was funding and it was decided that the project would focus on developing a marketing strategy that would assist the charity in raising funds in the short-term as well as providing a viable fundraising plan for the future. As a group, key tasks and roles within the project where identified. I led on the design of the posters as well as the marketing and promotion of the charity event that was identified as a key project outcome for the short-term.
A – Action. What action did you take e.g. I spoke with a graphic design friend who helped me to produce posters and displayed them around University. I then developed a social media marketing plan, publicizing the event on Facebook, Twitter and the University website as well as the Charity’s website. In addition, I was able to secure interviews with our local radio and local community newspaper.
R – Result e.g. The project team was successful in securing donations from local businesses and a rugby player from the local premier league team helped to compère the evening. We raised money by selling tickets and holding raffles for prizes donated by local businesses. The event was well attended raising over £1500. We were acknowledged for the effort we had put into promoting the event, and for being able to use our negotiation skills to persuade local businesses to make donations to a raffle.
Watch this short video in which we ask employers who came to campus what makes a stand-out candidate at interview. Make a note 3 points you find most useful.
Using the STAR technique, script out how you would answer one of the following questions.
- Can you outline your experience of working in teams and tell me about the most successful team you have been in and why?
- When have you had to communicate complex information effectively? Please give me an example.
My online presentation about preparing for interviews.
Interviews guide written by your Careers team.
A range of short films about job interviews.
Amy Cuddy’s fascinating TED talk about body language.
Purely for amusement – watch this Armstrong and Miller sketch.
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Do you have an up to date CV?
Is it a good one?
These are two questions I often ask students. Even those who answer an emphatic ‘yes’ to the first question often seem less sure about the second. And maybe their CVs are amazing but how would they know? It is also quite natural to feel slightly embarrassed having to write about yourself (and maybe even brag a little). So how can you make your CV as good as it can be? And more importantly how can you make it work for you?
I had a message from an ex-student the other day. He was frustrated because he felt he was being really proactive, sending his CV out to lots of companies he would like to work for. He wasn’t getting anything back, not even an acknowledgement. I asked to see his CV and I could see why straight away. It wasn’t bad. The basic information was all there and it looked neat. BUT it was just a little bit…. Bland. I explained that there was no point spending time and effort sending mediocre CVs. We improved it and within a couple of weeks he had a new job.
Will your CV or application get you an interview?
Now I am not going to tell you here how to write a CV or complete a job application, there is already a lot written about that and you can follow the links below. I want to ask you to consider things from the viewpoint of the person who reads it…
Imagine that you are a manager in charge of finding a new graduate to work for your company. It’s a big investment so you really want to find someone who can do the job now and also can adapt to new roles within the organisation in the future. Perhaps you would like
someone who has experience but most of all you want to know that they have POTENTIAL and the right ATTITUDES and VALUES. Your inbox is full of CVs/application forms.
Now answer this question… what would stand out to you? And what would persuade you to invite someone for interview?
Now look at your own CV or application form as if through the eyes of a recruiting manager (maybe you could ask someone else to do this too?) Would you want to give ‘you’ a job?
An initial sift (by person or computer) will immediately eliminate applications which are poorly presented (scruffy with spelling and grammatical errors) and the ones which don’t seem to mention any relevant skills or ‘essential’ criteria.
The person looking at your CV or application will be making a judgement quite quickly. They want to like you! They are hunting for hidden gems but you need to give them clues. Recruiters are not mind-readers, if you don’t tell them what you can do and why they should employ you then you miss your opportunity. Tell them about your skills and qualities which you know they are looking for (as you will have researched the job and the company. Obviously). Give examples to back-up your claims and make it interesting. Show them your personality. Make it look professional. Tease out their curiosity and persuade them to invite you for an interview to find out more. This is how it works.
What if you don’t have much to say?
Do you know how to get your point across to employers?
Well, maybe you need to be a little less modest? And look for ‘transferable skills’ in things you have done. And maybe you can use this time while you are still looking for your ‘Proper Job’ to do some other things such as internships, work experience, volunteering or taking up a new interest to enhance your CV? You might even find this leads to a job itself.
Job applications take time and effort to complete but you never know which one might be THE ONE to succeed so keep up your motivation and your standards. Make sure that you are familiar with what they are looking for and give them good examples to demonstrate what you can do and how this meets their needs. See below for advice on job applications.
- Download the CV guide available here which has been created by your careers team at Salford. Review the example CVs. Which do you like best?
- Read this advice on how to write a CV from prospects.ac.uk
- And this about how to write a successful application
- Have look at this ‘bad example’ and spot the mistakes. Don’t make them on yours.
- If you haven’t got a CV, write one now!
- Book a CV review appointment with the Careers team or if you can’t get into see us, email it to us for our comments (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Check this online presentation about CV writing.
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Fiona Christie – careers consultant
Where do you go to find suitable vacancies to apply for? It can be a challenge to know where to actually find the right kind of opportunities for you. Google is good but may just overwhelm you with possibilities! Developing a productive job-hunting strategy can really help. What worked for you as a student getting part-time work might not for finding a job that will take you in the right career direction.
Did you know?
Graduates find jobs in all sorts of ways and all kinds of places. Here is a list which shows how 2015 graduates nationally said how they had found the job they were doing (data collected as part of the national graduate destinations survey 6 months after finishing university).
Recruitment agency/website – 19.7%
Employer websites – 18.5%
Personal contacts, including family and friends – 17.3%
Already worked there (including on an internship/placement) – 15.9%
University Careers service – 7%
Media (e.g. Newspaper/magazine advertisement) – 3.4%
Other university source (e.g., lecturer, website) – 3.2%
Social media/ professional networking sites – 2.8%
Speculative application – 2.5%
Source – Charlie Ball, Graduate Prospects (2016)
So people get jobs in all sorts of ways. It can be useful to think about the ‘open’ and ‘hidden’ job markets. The open job market refers to those jobs that are advertised. The hidden job market refers to those that aren’t advertised and you might get through contacts or an internal move.
How not to find a job
In the classic careers book What Colour is Your Parachute? Richard Bolles talks about the best and worst ways of getting a job. According to him your chances of success are most likely if you make highly targeted and tailored applications, you are least likely of success if you just post out your CV to as many employers as you can and rely solely on job ads.
And I’d agree with him, job-hunting isn’t like the lottery and just hoping the more jobs you apply for, the higher your chances of getting a job may be flawed thinking. The opposite may actually be the case if you invest valuable energy in applying for so many jobs, that you can’t do justice to the ones you really want.
Enhance your chances
So job-hunting is easier if you can work out your priorities in terms of the jobs you are applying for which takes time. Find out where the jobs are being advertised for the field you are interested in. The internet made job-hunting easier but also harder as it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the volume of opportunities advertised especially by sites such as Indeed which harvest opportunities from a variety of sources. As a Salford graduate, you can also still access all the vacancies we advertise via our careers portal so make sure you do that, as employers come to us because they are targeting students and graduates.
Remember that looking for advertised vacancies is only one way people find jobs. Are there recruitment agencies that operate in the field of work you are interested in? Check our web pages for advice on using an agency, and browse Agency Central which is an umbrella search site for agencies where you can search by specialism and location. You should never pay for registering for an agency. There are loads of agencies so working out who does what is important.
Word of mouth
But it’s also possible to find jobs through the hidden job market, i.e., through your connections. It’s always worth letting people you know you are looking and to ask them to alert you to opportunities. Some people also get jobs through an internal move too, so getting a job in the kind of organisation you want to work for, even if it not doing what you want to do, may allow you to move into other positions later. We cover this further in the Grit your Teeth and Get Networking post.
Beware of fake job ads
The internet has also spawned a variety of scams that seek to trick innocent job seekers out of money and/or personal data. So be alert to this. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. As a university Careers team, we occasionally hear of specific scams, some of which are pretty plausible. The website SaferJobs is a good resource for getting information or seeking advice if you are suspicious. General good rules include never parting with money as part of an application, don’t ring premium rate telephone numbers for an interview, be sceptical of hiring agents or go-betweens that rely completely on technology for interacting with you and don’t appear to have proper contact details and a real address.
Consider the following points and questions and make some notes.
- Do you have a job-hunting strategy?
- How would you describe your approach to job-hunting?
- Reflecting back on the jobs and work you have done (career-related as well as just to earn money), how did you secure these opportunities? What worked best?
If you have not done this already, make sure your account in our University careers portal is set up. This means you can browse job opportunities that the University has been sent by employers. Ensure your preferences are accurate so we know what work you are looking for.
Salford Careers job vacancies page
Information page about job-hunting from your careers team
Information about using recruitment agencies
Agency Central – umbrella site for searching recruitment agencies
Review job vacancy sources for the careers you are interested within the Graduate Prospects job profiles. Are you looking in the right places for job ads.
In the post about Who’s on Your Bench, we focused on those that are close to you that are so important to us in life. However, it’s good to think wider, as very often, it may be your weaker connections that can be the source of new opportunities (e.g., someone you once met who works for the company you would love to work for).
Networking for your career.
So what is networking for job-hunting?
Networking in principle – ‘In essence when you network you make a conscious decision to make the most of every contact (new and existing) you have and treat very single encounter as a job lead.’ (source Brilliant Graduate Career Handbook)
‘You are between 50 and 70 per cent likely to create your next career opportunity through your network, i.e., via people you know through University, work, family and socially.’ (source Brilliant Career Coach)
Networking can be a way to ask for help, information & advice and as a way of developing further contacts. We do it all the time in our lives but sometimes don’t really think about it or consider how it can be applied to the career context. It can sometimes make you cringe. This comedy sketch captures some of the stereotyped ideas about networking events, which I’m including for your amusement.
Why bother with networking?
Did you know that many jobs don’t get advertised? If they do, knowing someone in an organisation can help you find out about opportunities you may overlook. Networking isn’t just about landing a job though, it’s a life skill, growing and nurturing your network will help you as you develop your career.
Networking is always two-way. Never think of it as just how can I use my contacts to help me. A very clever networking tip is offering to help people you admire first, knowing that they might be willing to reciprocate in the future. Reciprocity is key.
Steps for networking
Mapping your network – Create a mind map of your network. Draw it out. Reflect on who you know – your family, friends, former lecturers, colleagues and former colleagues, friends on social media. There are some apps connected to social media sites which can actually allow you to map your network and visualise how your connections relate to each other.
Be clear on your purpose – When thinking about networking, consider what your purpose is. Who do you want to target? Do you want to get information for your career, the job market, about sources of vacancies, potential opportunities? Do you want to get advice about your chances of getting certain jobs, the strength of, and any gaps on your CV, feedback on your portfolio? Or do you want to get further contacts?
Get out of your comfort zone – Depending on how confident you are – for many of us networking means getting out of our comfort zone. If the whole idea of networking makes you want to run to the hills, you won’t be alone, but you may need to face your fears! One way to build your confidence generally, is to aim to go somewhere once a week where you are likely to meet people you don’t know, so you can practise your ability to introduce yourself to others (there’s a challenge for you).
‘Warm’ versus ‘cold’ networking – It’s always easier to approach networking through warm contacts rather than speculatively. Prioritise warm contacts, and seek out ways to grow these. This means being proactive and maximising the number of people you know professionally. You can aim to seek out your next opportunity via contacts, with a view to make referred but speculative applications.
Be organised in your approach – Always keep a note of who you have contacted and when. If you do manage to set up a meeting or a phone conversation with a possible contact, prepare some questions beforehand. Always pay attention to detail, and thank people for their help. If a contact puts you in touch with somebody else, always follow this up. If you don’t, let your contact know that you chose not to due to a change in circumstances. Build a reputation of respect and reliability.
Virtual and face-to-face networking – Getting the balance right between face-to-face and virtual networking is tricky. Both have their place and it’s good to get them working together. Social media may allow you to make connections with people you don’t actually know in person but over time, you may well meet. The virtual world can also allow you to keep in touch with people who you know in person but perhaps live in different cities or countries. Scope for networking is enormous, but virtual communication also notoriously gives lots of scope for tripping up and annoying people, so be careful! Don’t be someone that continually self-promotes what you are doing and doesn’t seem interested in others. Be persistent but refrain from cyber-stalking!
So I’d definitely recommend making use of social media but be clear on your goals, and which platform would suit you best for the field you are in. LinkedIn is more business-orientated, whereas Instagram and Facebook may work best for creative types. Be strategic and review what you are doing regularly. You just never know where it could lead.
OK – so where to start?
Everyone is at a different stage with networking but let’s focus here on doing it online.
Reflect on the following questions and make a few notes.
- What is your attitude to social media for networking?
- How effectively are you using it for online networking that supports your career? Give yourself a score out of 10 (0 for ‘you’re not even off the starting blocks’, to 10 ‘you’ve got it nailed’).
- Think of someone you know and/or admire or has a job you would like. Check out what they are doing online to network and promote their career. What can you learn from what they are doing (or not doing)?
- Think of at least one person that is in your wider network that you know could be a useful contact for you. Compose an email that you can send them which politely asks for their advice in a non-pushy way, proposing a potential phone call or meet up. Before you send it, ask someone you trust to read it to check you have got the tone right.
Creating a LinkedIn profile careers guide
Career player video on using social media
Career player video on networking
Meet up groups – these are networking groups you can sign up for to meet people who share your interests
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Fiona Christie, careers consultant
Careers matter to people. Your career will occupy half of your waking hours; it will impact on your finances, your status, what you contribute to society, your happiness, your own fulfilment and others’ opinion of you. Your career will interweave with your home, your family and your leisure interests. And careers, certainly for those of us living in the UK today, mean choices about the kind of life you want to lead and being able to make decisions about those choices.
This is certainly a subject that deserves to be talked about, don’t you agree?
The power of career conversations came out of recent research I have been doing into graduate careers. One of my findings has been that individuals who had found suitable people to talk to about their hopes, fears and ambitions were much more positive about their career prospects. Ironically, although the ‘what’s your career plan?’ question may be one that graduates dread to hear, and would possibly shy away from, it is also one that most people would like to be able to have a stab at answering, especially if they know the person asking is genuinely interested and not just making small-talk.
Who the graduates in my research spoke to about their career varied – people they mentioned included careers advisers, lecturers, family members, friends, and work colleagues. Whoever that person might be, having people who they trusted to talk to, appeared to have significance in supporting individuals to have belief in themselves. It didn’t have to be someone who knew the ins and outs of the industry or occupation a graduate was interested in (though it might be), but somebody who was genuinely interested in that graduate.
Who do you talk to about your career?
So, where am I heading with this?
We have already posted about career planning and decision-making elsewhere, but I’d suggest that seeking out people to talk ‘out loud’ to about your career is a wise move. For some of you this may be already something you do, and if so, foster this and continue it. But if you are someone who doesn’t have anybody to talk to your career about, I’d suggest this is something to take action about. If you are not sure who to go to, arrange to talk to a careers adviser at the university.
What relationships and connections can help your career?
Over time, I’ve actually come to think that for some people, there is a taboo about talking about careers; perhaps it’s a British thing, or a fear of people disparaging you or not understanding, and it could be related to how sometimes the most important things in life don’t get talked about, while we can all chatter away about trivia (I know I certainly can).
I know people vary in terms of how much they like to talk in general, but my research indicates that whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, having quality career conversations matter – ‘it’s good to talk’.
Make a note of your answers to the following questions:
Who do you talk to about your career? Which of these people do you find most useful to talk to?
If you don’t talk to anyone about your career, why is this?
If you don’t talk to anyone about your career, and you would like to, who do you think it would be useful to do so with?
There are different perspectives on careers advice. Watch this short video in which employers share their favourite bits of careers advice. Make a note of any points you think are useful.
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The Tweenies are on my side.
Well, I’ve got Bella and Milo on my bench so I am doing OK. But seriously, there is a cliché that it’s ‘who you know’ that matters in careers. These 3 simple words hide the variation this may mean depending on who you are and where you come from. Sociologists call this social capital, a phrase that is now used widely.
Who’s on your supporters’ bench?
But whether you are fortunate to be well-connected or not, everyone needs people on their bench and it’s important to appreciate those people. The sporting metaphor is a good one, as this could include people who can cheer you when you do well, can get out the stretcher when there’s an emergency and provide you with coaching and direction. Your bench may well include family and friends who are your cheerleaders, even if you feel they can’t really help your career, they may well be able to help maintain your morale. And we know that staying positive is important when getting a job and developing your career.
It’s often someone on the sidelines cheering us on that can help us keep going. Nurture your bench of cheerleaders, and think about reciprocity too. The people on your bench will very likely need your help too.
Peter Hawkins in his book No Regrets on Sunday recommends building back-up on your bench. He talks about people who can help boost your confidence, enable you to be creative, encourage you to invest time in the things that really matter, help you explore your skills, and inspire you, as well as celebrate your achievements.
Zella King is a business academic who has studied social networks in order to understand how they work. In this TedX talk, she focuses on the ideas of the core, clique, camp and crowd. I’d argue that if you don’t get the core right then it will be more difficult to develop the rest. Your bench is your core. Social media can tempt us into collecting more and more contacts which can sometimes distract you from properly valuing your core.
Watch Zella King’s talk between 2.18 and 9.52. Do you agree with what she says? It’s an 11 minute video in total.
If you had to name 3-5 people who are your core supporters, who are they? Do these people know they are in your core? When is the last time you spoke to them?
Send them all a message, telling them that you are working on some career planning activities, and you have been told to ask some key people in your life, ‘What are my 3 greatest qualities?’ and ‘What piece of advice would you most like to give me?’ Go on, be brave, and make sure to thank them when they reply and offer to reciprocate if they would like this.
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