When you’re starting your career, you need to take the first basic steps towards getting a job. It may be a daunting task for some people, but it doesn’t need to be. There are many things you could do, but the most important thing is to prioritise what you need to do first. For example, at some stage you should build a LinkedIn profile, undertake some professional development courses, start networking etc, but they’re not at the top of the ‘to do’ list just yet. So, what are the top priorities? Here are the top 5 things to do when starting out on your career:
Write a winning CV
There are many pages online offering advice for writing the best Curriculum Vitae possible, but let’s start by getting the simple things right. Make sure that you have good quality content, a clear layout/design, relevant information, and the correct length. In terms of writing a CV, you can use your own personal style as long as you stick to a few standard rules. Generally speaking:
- The content and the layout should include personal details, professional experience, education, skills, (interests - if you have space) and personal references.
- CVs are no more than two pages in length, unless they’re academic CVs, in which case they may be longer. In either case, sentences should be detailed but concise.
- The content should be made relevant to the specific job that you are applying for.
- Grammar, punctuation and spelling must all be correct and also consistent.
- You should use a font that’s clear and easy to read, such as Arial or Helvetica.
My personal preference is to add a section with bullet points at the top of the CV just after your personal details, noting your achievements, competencies or anything else that you’d like to highlight. That way, an employer can see the best things about you instantly - and that’s what you want.
Make a compelling cover letter
Similar to your CV, the cover letter should be specific to the job you’re applying for; have the date; the name of the person you’re writing to; and express clear reasons why you want to work for the company in question. In other words, anyone reading the letter should know that you really want the job on offer and that you are a suitable candidate.
Focus on 2 or 3 types of jobs
For those who know exactly what they want to do and have a plan for doing it, they may only need to focus on one type of position and pursue it relentlessly. If you’re not one of those people, identifying 2 or 3 types of position that interest you will help expand the possibilities of getting the right job. Also, make sure to look at the job specifications in detail before applying because companies want to know that you are genuinely interested in working for them. Remember that generic CVs, or cover letters that aren’t specific to the job in question are a big “no, no”. Next, identify specific companies where you would like to work and start applying to them!
Practice your personal pitch
Being able to talk about yourself, what you’ve accomplished to date and why you want to work for the company are essential parts of your preparation. Remember that in an interview, the interviewer can only get an impression of you based on your CV and what you tell them. Furthermore, it’s not the interviewer’s job to discover why you are the perfect candidate for the position/company - it’s your job to tell them! So make sure that you can speak about your competencies, skills and personal achievements, along with the reasons why you’d be a perfect fit for the company.
Use your personal connections
The chances are that you already have a good network of contacts through your friends or family. But it’s important to remember that a good network is only useful if you use it! Who do you know that already works in the industry or company that you would like to work for? Get in contact with them and see if they can help you out. It’s a good idea to specifically ask them to put you in contact with someone of influence within the organisation. Then, you can send in your CV - making sure that it gets to the right person.
Get out and start meeting people!
Go to career fairs and networking events. You have to keep in mind that you want to be wherever your potential employers are so that you can get in contact with them and make a good first impression. Why? It’s well known that networking is one of the most effective ways to get employed, so you have to make sure that you do it as much as possible. The usual rules apply - dress to impress!
To sum up, prepare your personal profile (CV, cover letter and personal pitch), identify your goals (individual companies and specific jobs), start using your current contacts and make some new contacts. Of course, often there are a lot more aspects to finding and doing satisfying work, but following these simple steps will certainly give you a great start.