“Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for it”, said British journalist Katharine Whitehorn. Whether this is construed as ingeniously insightful or idiotically simple might be dependent on your own employment status. This advice relies on the presence of two inseparable realities: 1) You know/are able to work out what you want to do and 2) There are enough people in today’s economy willing to pay you for it.
The University of Leeds invited Search Laboratory to take part in their most recent employability initiative. Students arrived poised and ready to “mingle” in the University Careers Centre, perhaps with just an ounce of trepidation. The “Prepare for the Fair” event provided an opportunity for students to meet prospective employers and unleash their networking abilities.
It occurred to me as I shuffled from student to student that these conversations were far harder for those who genuinely had no idea about what they wanted to do. There’s the perception that you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job. Compounded further when you have to ponder, how can I get either if I don’t have a clue what I want to do?
As HR Manager for Search Laboratory, I frequently speak to candidates who fall into this category. With digital marketing being a relatively new industry, many students simply are not aware of the opportunities available to them. Approaching graduates on recruitment site Monster.co.uk, I am able to open new avenues and outline the relevant transferable skills.
Maths graduates, for example, often presume that all roads lead to accountancy or teaching. English graduates I spoke to were shocked to hear there was an open and brightly-coloured door (figuratively speaking) beckoning them in.
As young people take their first few precarious steps towards the world of work, undoubtedly they face increasing hurdles to secure gainful employment and meaningful career opportunities. In the UK today, over a million 16 to 24 year-olds are looking for work. My advice to any of these hopefuls is don’t let this become a self-fulfilling prophecy. One in every five new graduates may be unemployed but that leaves four in every five who are probably feeling pretty pleased with themselves.
What do I need to remember?
- If you think you won’t find work, you wont. You have the power to be your greatest ally or your own worst enemy. Make it happen!
- You might not end up doing what you thought you would. There’s nothing wrong with this! After all, how feasible is it that the decisions we made at 16 for our A-Levels (and even degrees) will stand us in good stead for the next 45 years?
- Extend your research to careers you have never considered or know nothing about.
- Think about the longevity/prospects of the career you are considering. Is it an industry in decline or one in demand like search marketing?
- Speak to as many different people from as many sources as you can. This will help you to work out what you will find interesting and enjoyable.
- If you don’t know – just give it a go! You’ll soon work out what aspects of work you enjoy and those you do not.
- Volunteering for work experience will not only help you work out what you want to do but it may also help you get your “foot in the door”.
How do I stand out from the crowd?
- Research the industry you are targeting in as much depth as possible. Knowledge really is power.
- Tailor your CV for each new application so it is as relevant and focused as possible. Yes it is time-consuming, but essential.Think about your strengths and how these are transferrable to a wide variety of roles. Articulate this in your personal profile.
- Always write a covering letter – this is your opportunity to demonstrate the passion and enthusiasm that your CV cannot.
- Having the right attitude and behaviour will take you much further than some skills you may be missing. Skills can be taught far easier and you have already demonstrated through years of education that you are able and willing to learn.
- Attend university events and careers fairs – they are an excellent way of finding out information and exposing yourself to employers.
- Finding employment while you’re in employment is always easier.
For more information on Search Laboratory careers, please visit our website or Speak to Renae Jackson, HR Manager, 0113 2121211.