This week marks exactly one year since the UK went into the first lockdown. The anniversary undoubtedly leads us to reflect on the challenges of the past year, both in our personal and professional lives, and how we can begin to make positive steps to move forward. But after a year of living through a global pandemic, it’s easy to question – where do I start?
With this in mind, we wanted to offer you some support in taking the next step in your life and career, whether it be your first job, that senior position or a total change in career direction.
We have spoken to experts in our careers team, as well as members of our alumni community, to gather the best tips and advice for you to get your foot in the door, expand your networks and find that dream position.
- IDENTIFY YOUR SKILLS
A starting point for anyone looking to position themselves in the job market is to examine the key skills and qualities you bring to the table.
Paula Courchene, careers consultant at the University said: “Understanding your skills is the first step of career planning and management, though self-reflection isn’t always an easy process. It is, however, a crucial step, as it allows you to reflect on what values are important to you, what you could bring to a role and ultimately what type of person you are.”
Salford graduate and recruitment expert, Caroline McKee has 15 years of experience working in recruitment and has recently started her own business, Vox Recruitment. She said: “This is your opportunity to identify your unique selling points (USPs). Try to avoid the ‘copy and paste’ cliches, like ‘I can work well in a team but can work equally well alone.’ Try to be individual. What is it that makes YOU stand out? Were you the captain of a sports team, excelled in a part time role whilst at Uni, built up a small boutique business, raised money for charity, achieved something amazing?”
One way to find out what your key strengths are is to ask someone you trust. Adrian Roscoe from our careers team added: “Ask a colleague or a friend to tell you what they think you’re good at. The answer may surprise you… in a really good way. Other people see strengths in us that we don’t always see and this can help you gain a better understanding of your skills and what you bring to situations.“
2. BROADEN YOUR NETWORK AND DEVELOP SKILLS
According to LinkedIn’s global survey from 2017, almost 80 percent of professionals consider networking to be important to career success. But if the idea of reaching out to people pushes you outside your comfort zone, our experts have some tips on how to make it manageable and work for you.
Salford graduate Michelle Williamson Draper, Business Development & Project Manager at innovation.tank in Zurich said: “You may ask yourself why networking is so important for you. The answer is that networking can help you find a job, or to advance professionally because through the exchange with like-minded people you receive valuable inspiration, information and ideas for your career and career progression, as well as access to a larger networking circle.”
Recruitment expert, Caroline, recommends going straight to the organisations you are interested in: “Identify the businesses you are keen to explore opportunities with and research their websites and LinkedIn profiles. Follow their social media pages and contact them directly and introduce yourself. If you can do this over the phone, all the better as it gives you an opportunity to ‘sell yourself’ beyond your CV and sets you apart from the competition. Whilst they may not be recruiting at the current time, ask if you can be considered for opportunities in the future.”
Salford graduate Daren Whitaker, Managing Director at Renaker Build Limited, agrees with Caroline: “Do your research – take the time to write a letter to the right person. Demonstrate in the letter that you have researched the business, what they do, their values and aspirations. Then clearly communicate your aspirations and what you have done in pursuit of this and your desire to work hard and learn. Then follow up with a call.”
Networking can be daunting, but Paula from our careers team thinks the advantages far outweigh the risks: “The benefits of networking are often overlooked, yet it is one of the simplest ways of securing opportunities and growing your career. Think about it as a reciprocal process, where you can share ideas, gain industry knowledge and you never know, that contact might develop into a job opportunity in the future!”
3. REACH OUT FOR SPECIALIST SUPPORT
If you have a specific industry or role in mind, the next step for you might be to find a mentor. Mentors can work with you to provide that specialist support and give you the benefit of their experience and expertise. They can tell you what worked for them, what you should avoid and any insider tips of the trade that will help you along the way.
Careers consultant Paula said: “At times it is difficult to navigate the jobs market, being able to talk through your plans and receive feedback is immensely valuable. Mentors will no doubt have been through similar experiences and can support you to problem solve any challenges you are facing.”
According to survey conducted by Olivet Nazarene University in 2019, 76% of people think mentors are important, however, only 37% of people currently have one. Perhaps this is because people just don’t know where to start. Caroline from Vox Recruitment recommends social media: “Utilise social media, interact with and follow respected business mentors – LinkedIn is especially useful for this. Don’t be afraid to engage with people online from a professional perspective.”
The University’s alumni mentoring hub, From Salford, is also a great place to start. With thousands of Salford graduates indicating they are ‘happy to help’ you can send them a question and see where the conversation goes.
Adrian from our career teams adds: “There are few more flattering things than being asked by a colleague to mentor them. Look for people that you trust and respect and at the right time ask the question.”
4. EXPLORE THE HIDDEN JOB MARKET
One way to get your foot in the door is to access the hidden job market. Not all jobs are advertised in the traditional way, and it may be via your contacts or a referral that you snag the perfect role.
Paula said: “Often job seekers approach the job market in the same way, starting with scouring and exhausting online job advertisements – what happens when they run out? Rather than wait for this to happen, expand the avenues you are using.”
Salford graduate Michelle Williamson Draper said: “Networking and getting yourself out there may give you access to the hidden job market. Word of mouth and employee referrals open doors to companies with no active advertised job vacancies.”
Caroline recommends perfecting your social media presence “Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and treat it like a ‘shop window’. It is effectively your online CV and if done correctly will enable recruiters or employers to find you and contact you directly about opportunities.”
When you think of the hidden job market, our careers consultant, Adrian, suggests that you think about what the word ‘hidden’ really means: “It doesn’t mean it’s unattainable. Instead, it’s hidden and can be revealed. It isn’t as big and scary as it seems.”
Looking for new opportunities is always a challenge, and that’s before you throw in the added complication of a global pandemic! We are dedicated to helping you as you develop your career.
As a Salford graduate you can take advantage of the University’s careers service. You can speak to Paula or Adrian or any member of the team and they can support you in identifying an action plan in career development or starting your own business.
The University’s online alumni hub, From Salford, is also a valuable resource for you to connect with fellow Salford graduates, like Caroline, Michelle and Daren, and to seek out advice and support from a wealth of experience and expertise.
We are here to help you as much as we can, after all, we only want the best for you and to see you succeed.