Leaving the structure and routine of education can be extremely daunting. Suddenly, we have to make our lives for ourselves. Finding a job and figuring out next steps can be overwhelming and a seemingly impossible task; where do I start? How do I make myself stand out against the next person? But there are actually a number of practices and exercises you can do to give yourself the best chance of success in entering the world of work. That is the focus of this article. Whether you have just left University, or you are still currently in school, this article will equip you with a range of ways to improve your employability.
By employability, I mean those aptitudes and capabilities which make you appealing to employers. Those qualities that give you the edge and serve you up as the ideal candidate for a given role.
Work through the checklist provided here and you will enhance your employability and ensure your job search and working life is successful.
1. Construct and refine your CV
Having a strong CV will be hugely beneficial in your job search. It serves as the first impression that a potential employer will have of you. Their initial opinion of you will be based on these 1 or 2 pages, so it is vital that you build your CV to present you in the best possible way. Make sure your CV is up to date with all your qualifications, work experience, skills etc, as well as being strongly written and appropriately structured.
If you would like further guidance on building a strong CV then check out our CV Job Guide: https://www.careerguidancecharts.com/store/p222/Job_Guide_-_Writing_a_CV.html
2. Gain work experience in your chosen sector
If you can acquire some practical experience in your desired industry then this will immediately give you an upper hand with potential employers. By seeing that you have already actively sought out work shows, not only that you will have skills and knowledge of the role, but also that you are genuinely interested and will work hard. There are many ways to find work experience. You can apply for an apprenticeship or a traineeship in your field, or you can directly contact businesses that you are interested in and see if they have any work experience available.
For more information on apprenticeships you can read our Apprenticeship Job Guide: https://www.careerguidancecharts.com/store/p251/Apprenticeship_Job_Guide.html
Similar to work experience, volunteering also helps show a desire to work as well as allowing you to develop valuable skills. Evidence of past voluntary work will appeal to prospective employers as it shows you are not purely driven by monetary reward but rather by an interest in the role. Having a more ethical backbone to your working motivation will help you stand out against other applicants and reassure employers that you have a good work ethic. There are many places and websites to find volunteering opportunities in your local area. Check out sites such as do-it.org, charityjob.co.uk and reachvolunteering.org.uk.
4. Build a good social media presence
Increasingly employers are sourcing and hiring new talent on social media platforms. Therefore, it is essential that you ensure your accounts are secure and professional. Check all your personal profiles across various platforms and remove any images or content that could harm your job search. After you have cleansed your profiles you can then start networking and following organisations or business profiles that are relevant to your career interests.
Use our Job Guides on Facebook and LinkedIn to help support you during your job search: https://www.careerguidancecharts.com/store/c38/Job_Guides.html
5. Grow your network
Use LinkedIn to grow and develop your network. Make connections with people already in your desired sector, follow relevant pages and accounts, and keep up to date with what’s happening in your market. There are around 50 million businesses active on LinkedIn, and 3 people are hired through the platform every minute. Therefore, it is worthwhile for you to try and be consistently active on LinkedIn because you will likely come across a range of businesses and opportunities.
For more information on how to use LinkedIn in your job search, buy our LinkedIn Job Guide: https://www.careerguidancecharts.com/store/p216/Guide_to_Jobseeking_on_Linkedin.html
6. Build your skill set
Having a range of relevant skills and competencies will make your application far more appealing to employers. You can develop such aptitudes in a variety of ways. For instance, by taking part in extracurricular activities at school or University you will build leadership and teamworking abilities. Similarly, if you have any hobbies or interests these might display certain skills or a drive for learning. Playing violin for 8 years to grade 5 level, for example, shows a high level of discipline and dedication. You can use your interests to boost your profile and show employers that you have what it takes. Another way to build your skill set is to actually take a related course. For instance, you could take an online course in marketing if you are wanting to enter into that industry. This tells employers that you are driven and hardworking as you have sought out and completed training yourself.
7. Assess your skills
Once you have developed and built up your skill set you can then reflect on these and identify your core strengths. By understanding where you excel you will be able to find jobs that are better suited to you and your personality. This will mean you have a higher likelihood of success in acquiring such jobs as they are well-matched to you and you will come across as a good fit. But you need to make sure you show employers that you are the best candidate for them. You can do this by using concrete examples during the application process where you have showcased these strengths. Furthermore, if you are struggling to identify your strengths you can take our short free Career Values Quiz which assess your core principles and personality: https://www.careerguidancecharts.com/career-values-test.html
8. Know how to learn
This might sound strange but it is crucial. Knowing how to learn means displaying resilience. Markets and businesses are constantly changing and evolving, so if you can show an ability to learn and evolve too then employers will see you as a good fit for them. Improving our capacity to learn and cope with shifting circumstances can be done in a number of easy ways:
9. Be open and alert to opportunities
This may sound vague but consciously making an effort to be aware of opportunities can make a huge difference to your job hunt. This can be in the form of small changes such as browsing through job alerts on LinkedIn for half an hour every day, or regularly reading and keeping up to date with news in your industry. This will increase your chances of coming across an opportunity that is applicable to you. Such opportunities may seem out of your depth but you can always learn something and gain valuable experience. Even from failure. We learn and develop by doing. So if you do come across an opportunity; it could be work experience or volunteering for instance, then go for it! Apply or send in your information and see where it takes you.
Another important thing to remember is to be proactive. Some opportunities may land at your feet but often you will have to seek them out yourself. This could be inquiring with local businesses to see if they have any work available, or directly messaging any experts on LinkedIn to see if they know of any available openings.
10. Find out as much as possible about your chosen field
Get clued up on what your future job might entail, and how the industry works and is structured. Basically, just research and find out as much as you can about your chosen field. Not only will this mean you can display expertise during your application and interview, but also so that you can reflect and assess whether it is actually the right career for you.
Ways to research your chosen field:
11. Be prepared for interviews
Interviews are possible the most significant part of the application process. Here your employer will decide whether or not you are right for the job. Whilst this might seem daunting, with the right technique you will be able to perform highly at any interview. It all comes down to the preparation.
Tips for interview preparation:
If you want a more thorough guide on how to prepare for interviews then check out our Interview Success Job Guide: https://www.careerguidancecharts.com/store/p227/Interview_Success_Guide.html
12. Prepare your STAR stories
Your STAR stories are real-life examples where you have showcased key qualities and aptitudes which make you the ideal candidate for the job. It is essentially a way for you to highlight your unique selling points to potential employers. They should all follow the STAR method:
These stories don’t have to be directly related to the job or work that you will be doing, but rather need to display your strengths and competencies. They are responses to behavioural questions, depicting your ability to react and behave in certain situations. For example, one could be about hosting a party, and you could talk about your organisational skills and ability to juggle various tasks at once. Try creating 3 to 4 STAR stories which you can keep at the forefront of your mind and use during interviews or in cover letters. These will show your employer that you don’t just look good on paper, you also have the practical skills and aptitudes to back it up. Moreover, once you have created your set of STAR stories, you should practice talking about them regularly. This will make you come across as more compelling and confident in interviews, which goes a long way.
13. Be honest
Although it may be tempting to claim that you are proficient with certain software systems, for example, if this is actually untrue it will likely end up doing more damage than good in the long run. Throughout the entire job searching process, make sure you are being authentic and creating a true depiction of yourself. You can still show an enhanced version of yourself, for instance highlighting your strengths, but don’t state anything that is actually untrue. If a potential employer were to find out that you have not been honest they are unlikely to hire you as you will come across as deceptive and manipulative. Therefore, whilst it may seem obvious, be extra careful that you are telling the complete truth during the application process.
14. Be organised
Being organised will greatly help your employability. Use schedules and calendars to make sure you are using your time efficiently. For instance, allocate a 30 min slot every day at 5:30 to networking on LinkedIn. You can also use this to keep on track of any other job searching activities, such as interviews, application deadlines etc. This will greatly reduce your stress levels and also show prospective employers that you are an efficient and organised individual.
15. Maintain a positive outlook
Lastly, maintain a positive outlook. This sounds obvious but it is extremely important for increasing your employability. Having a bright and positive attitude will improve how recruiters and employers perceive you. Positive people are more likely to be problem-solvers and increase productivity in the workplace. Also, all businesses experience shifts and fluctuations, and having an optimistic and confident personality will assure employers that you are the sort of person who can continue to thrive despite changing circumstances. This will make you a valuable asset to the team.
Moreover, maintaining a positive attitude will help you when dealing with the job searching process. You will likely experience rejection and disappointment, but by consciously trying to remain optimistic you will learn to use rejection as constructive criticism. This will then help you to develop and be more likely to find success in the next application.
For more resources on the areas covered in this article please take a look at our range of Job guides here:
To access a variety of posters and infographics see our Career and Employment series here:
I have 10 years experience of working in careers guidance and am director of CGC. We publish career infographics for schools and colleges