Your Job Search – Who you know matters but who knows you matters even more!

Looking for a job can be challenging and an arduous process. It is easy to feel discouraged when things are not working out but please hang in there! In today’s post,  Dr Genevieve Regan, Laboratory Coordinator at the University of the Sciences, Philadelphia,USA shares some strategies for job seekers focusing on the importance of networking.

I should start this with the disclaimer that ‘I am no expert in job searching, career planning, or ladder climbing.’ I am just a person who, after a year of serious searching, has successfully gotten a new position that is better than my previous position and will hopefully lead to better and better things. I can also say that prior to getting my new job,  those qualifications would be all I needed in an author because job searching is gruelling and having gotten a job means something went right for the writer so I would love to hear what they had to say.

In the last 4 months, I applied to 26 jobs, followed up on my application when I could, went to 4 interviews, and got 0 of the jobs I had applied for. My current job came from being in the right person’s mind when a good opportunity became available. Hence my title, “Who you know matters, and who knows you matters even more”.

There are three main points to my networking strategy that I think worked to my advantage. The first is to have a network. You have to think about who you know. I know I lamented, “But I don’t know anyone” but it wasn’t true. I had former classmates and professors, co-workers, and family.

The second point is to have real relationships with these people. I needed to know them but they also needed to know me. Don’t just cold call people and announce you need a job, connect with them. If they are doing the kind of work you are interested in, find out how they got there, find out what interests them about the work, and find out what you can do to help them. Let them know you are looking for work but don’t be demanding about it, give a good picture of your interests and what is going on with yourself. A good relationship needs sharing between both parties.

This leads to the last point; be memorable. People remember people who help them. It doesn’t have to be helping them out with big things, just be a friend or good colleague. Things like sharing an article you think they would like, volunteering to help out on a project or event, or being a sounding board when they need one all can help your relationships.The overriding theme to the strategy would be not to treat it like strategy.  Be the kind of person you would legitimately help to find a job and people will want to help you find a job. They will think of you when they hear of an opportunity the same way you might think of someone else you know when you hear of one. There is an added benefit to my non-strategy strategy. You are connecting with people, and that should be fun. Going for coffee, meeting up at a happy hour, having discussions about topics you both are interested in, these should be fun. In all the job search stress you need fun, so consider it to be part of the process.

If you find networking challenging, you are not alone. Please check out our articles on Networking here and here. If you would like to share an article in The Hub, feel free to contact us @ aspiringprofessionalshub@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter @AspProfHub.

#UniAdvice – 5 Things you never get told about graduate employment!

5-job-applicationA common theme that arises in our conversations with ‘soon to graduate’ students is that of employment. Whilst graduation is undoubtedly something worth celebrating, that thought of ‘what happens next’ can evoke a range of emotions from excitement to panic! Things are beginning to look up after the global recession in 2008, however, a large proportion of graduates ‘churned’ out every year are now finding that the hardest job for a recent graduate is actually getting that first job. One of the many reasons we started this blog was to empower graduates with knowledge to navigate the often murky waters of graduate employment.

This article is for all graduates, regardless of level of education (A Levels, BTECs, Bachelors, Masters and PhD). In our experience, the more advanced your education, the more challenging it could be when job hunting. This is because while you are becoming more specialist in your knowledge base, you tend to be focusing in one particular area. It’s not all doom and gloom though, before you think of throwing in the towel, we hope this article will be able to provide some advice to help in your job search. These are things while seemingly obvious, we wish someone had told us at some point while studying.

Start early! – While you don’t need to start job hunting in Fresher’s week, how many of us actually thought about how our CV needed to look at graduation whilst undertaking our degree? How many opportunities to enhance our CVs do we miss because it seems like too much work at the time. Activities such as volunteering, being a student representative, starting or running a student society, joining a Learned Society, undertaking an internship, learning a new language, being a peer mentor, writing a blog or research article etc. Begin to stand out from the crowd!

Graduating is only the beginning! – Achieving your degree should be the beginning of your journey as an aspiring professional. As a friend got told after completing his doctoral studies ‘Well done, now it is time to go prove yourself’. I bet many who have gone through this stage would echo the same sentiments following their experiences. So, if you are coming to the end of your bachelors degree, masters, or even PhD, remember this is only just the beginning. So you’ve got a degree? Welcome to a club that includes millions of others…start thinking about what your unique selling points (USP) are!

How hard can it be? – Well, don’t get me wrong, some new graduates succeed in their first attempt at applying for a graduate job. This is not the norm though as most people apply for an incredible number of jobs before they get a reply or are considered for interview.  A point to mention here is that application for and seeking graduate job opportunities is very time consuming. This is something that takes many by surprise. To get a good job, you’ll have to invest a great amount of time and pay a great deal of attention to the job specification and requirements. Future posts will cover techniques to approach job applications such as filling in forms, preparing personal statements and conquering the interview.

But I don’t have a 2:1! – To many graduates, the degree classification is the end point. Well, sorry to burst your bubble. Some graduates believe their chances of a job are limited because they lack the ‘first class’ degrees or ‘distinctions’ at postgraduate level. We’ll do a post (so many things to write…) on ‘Success after a third class degree.’  Whilst educational qualifications are very important; depending on your discipline; they may not be the most important thing.  As a graduate, it is important you identify your unique selling point (USP) as this will determine how you approach prospective employers and job opportunities. Employers are looking for skills, not just what you know but what you can do. This is why getting experience in your field whilst studying is one of the best things that can boost your chances of getting a job when you finish.

 Your inability to articulate your ability can make you a liability

The scatter-gun approach to job application – For anyone reading this article, you might recognise this as your style of job hunting. If you are confused by what we mean by the scatter-gun approach then I’ll explain. Many graduates get frustrated applying for jobs and make the mistake of sending the same CV and covering letter to every job under the sun. It’s like chatting up every guy or girl at a bar using the same chat-up line. You wouldn’t do that would you?  If that is your approach, well, its 2015 so it’s a new year and we won’t judge you this time! On a serious note, it is lazy practice to use the scattergun approach hence the key advice here is to be innovative and adapt your CV, covering letter and profile to suit the specific job(s) you are applying for.

Yes, yes, it’s tough out there and we won’t attempt to suggest otherwise. However, not knowing what one is able to do is more limiting than the paucity of the job market. For example, a lot of biological or medical science graduates generally assume the only jobs available to them are laboratory or hospital based roles, teaching or lecturing or if fortunate within the scientific or pharmaceutical industry. As we addressed in our last article, the skills you have developed are key to your success in the job market and “your job market is only as big as the skills you possess” thus, as a science graduate, you could work in several environments such as media, financial institutions, politics, communications and so on (we will address these specific core areas in subsequent articles). When you identify your transferable skills, you realise that the world can really be your oyster.

It is important that whatever your field of employment, that you start making good contacts as early as possible and Networking. We’ve found that many opportunities come through recommendations, individual and group networks so whatever your current situation, start connecting with others using various media such as LinkedIn, Twitter to develop your professional network.

The time to plan your career is NOW. It is important that you always think about what you can offer rather than what can be offered to you

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