How to get started as a first-time job hunter
Getting started as a first-time jobseeker can be hard, and many people at the opening chapter of their careers don’t know where to begin. Looking for work can be difficult even for those with plenty of experience, but it’s harder still when you’re fresh out of school or university.
If you’ve recently graduated or are leaving school or college for the world of work, here are just a few tips to set you on the right path to finding your first job.
Where should you be looking?
As with most things, your first port of call will probably be the internet. There are now countless job sites curating all the new vacancies which arise, so check out a few online job boards to see what’s out there. Most companies will have their ads uploaded to the main sites but if you have a particular company in mind, you might do well to visit their own website.
Agencies can be a great stop-gap between finishing your education and getting your first full-time job.
If you’ve set your heart on the BBC, for instance, signing up to their careers section means you’ll be alerted to new positions when they become available. You could sign up to alerts from other major companies or national organisations in your chosen industry. Sometimes new roles are only advertised ‘in-house’, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the company’s own jobs pages.
You might also want to think about signing up to a local agency. Some agencies will place people in general temping jobs, while others are more specialist. Agencies can be a great stop-gap between finishing your education and getting your first full-time job, meaning you gain experience and use the time productively.
Creating a great CV and portfolio
Your CV and portfolio will ‘sell’ you to potential employers, so you need to ensure they stand out. As a newcomer to the jobs market you’re at a disadvantage in that you probably don’t have as much experience as some older candidates. But that doesn’t mean you’re out the running.
Your portfolio should show employers what they’re getting at a glance.
Your CV should be headed with a well-written personal statement. Keep it short and sweet but make sure you mention anything relevant to the position you’re applying for. Remember that it’s always best to show rather than tell - if you can lay out some brief facts and figures to illustrate your skills, then make sure they’re in there!
Your portfolio should show employers what they’re getting at a glance. The work you include doesn’t have to have been published anywhere, so you could just include practice pieces.
If you want to write for a living, setting up a blog is a great way to showcase your skills. The same goes for graphic designers – having a website where you can upload your best work is always worth the effort. Remember that you don’t have to show them everything you’ve ever written or designed. Less really can be more when recruiters have so little time.
Never underestimate the power of social media. Before you start job-hunting, check the privacy settings on all your social media pages and make sure there’s nothing out there which you wouldn’t want a prospective boss to see.
Social media can, however, be a jobseeker’s best friend. Many recruiters will check you out on LinkedIn fairly early on in the recruitment process, so get a LinkedIn profile and keep it up to date. This can be a great way of finding connections, spotting new jobs and chatting with the contacts you’ve already made.
Engage with them before you apply and they may even flag up new job opportunities you might otherwise miss.
Most companies will also have Twitter or a Facebook page, and following an organisation you’re interested in could help you get a foot in the door. Engage with them before you apply and they may even flag up new job opportunities you might otherwise miss.
Should you try going it alone?
You might be thinking about striking out on your own, particularly if you’ve been job-hunting for a while with no joy. Not everyone is cut out for freelancing - you will need top-notch time-management skills and be willing to work round the clock if you want it to work out.
There are plenty of websites where people can advertise for freelancers, but remember that most of them will want a cut of your take-home fee. You may have to charge a fair bit above the hourly minimum wage if you want to make ends meet.
You could also try making direct approaches to companies you’re interested in. If you’re a freelance writer, try approaching a company which either doesn’t yet have a blog or regularly takes on guest contributors. Offer your services and you might be able to negotiate a reasonable rate, or at least give them some freebies they’re happy for you to add to your portfolio.