Sometimes, in the job market, going backwards to go forwards can benefit your career in the long run, says Clare Whitmell
If getting the job of your dreams (or even one that offers clear and structured development opportunities) seems impossible, adopt a more strategic approach instead. You’ll need patience and dedication, but it can pay off in the long run.
Don’t hold out for the perfect job
If you only apply for your “ideal” roles, you run the risk of repeated rejections, which in turn, will knock your self-confidence. Instead, work out incremental ways you can get closer to your goal. For example, if you’re desperate to be a journalist, blogging could be one means of fulfilling your need to write, while still holding down an alternative job. (And don’t forget, the blogging experience – even if not your main source of income – can take centre stage on your CV over other “dayjobs“.)
Very often, it’s a lack of experience that’s cited as a reason for rejecting a candidate. Unfortunately, in a squeezed job market, graduates and career changers are up against tough competition from applicants who exceed the experience requirements.
Job hunting when you’re already employed puts you in a much stronger position than if you’re currently unemployed. Take on all opportunities to develop skills, experience and contacts. Look for ways that even humble roles will enable you to shine, through demonstrating initiative, leadership, team work, financial acumen, attention to detail, and so on. Make the most of these in your application materials and at interviews.
Be prepared to take a step backwards
A degree or high-flying position in a different sector won’t necessarily bounce you straight into your ideal role. For many competitive industries, you’ll be expected to work your way up – and take a corresponding drop in salary. Runner type jobs for TV work, stuffing envelopes for charity roles – these “rites of passage” might sound demoralising, but showing enthusiasm, being helpful and making contacts along the way can get you further up the ladder. Ideally, find ways to fit these entry-level roles in around other paid work, so you can ease yourself into the industry.
Go where the jobs are
Don’t just apply for advertised vacancies. This is what most people do when job hunting, and it therefore makes it much harder for you to stand out in the pile of other applications. You also run the risk of being filtered out by CV-screening software before you’ve even met your potential line manager.
In many cases, landing a job comes through referrals, internal promotions, or through people you know who tip you off about a vacancy. This is why it’s crucial to get to know people in companies where you want to work, and by knocking on doors with speculative, but targeted applications. Let people know what you’re looking for, and search out opportunities to build your network, discover inside information, and get involved in events or projects. You’re far more likely to make a good impression with the people who have hiring authority than if you only go the advertised vacancy route.