The other day I took part in an exchange on Twitter about bloggers, authenticity and how easy it is for bloggers to lose their ‘voice’ and uniqueness. It got me thinking about what the topics I blog about, and those that I don’t. I realised that one of the biggest and most important things in my life and that shapes me as a person is my job. For various reasons though I won’t talk too much about it on here, but it is my dream job (still) and one I’ve worked for since I was twelve. As so many people are just finishing up with their schooling and university courses, I thought that now might be an appropriate time to share the things I’ve learnt over the past 16 years and my advice on how to get your dream job.
I don’t profess to be an expert or to know anything about the more creative professions, but here is my advice:
1. Work out what you want to do
Easier said than done, right? Especially coming from someone who decided at the age of 12 what she wanted to do and pursued it relentlessly since then.
It may be that you know what it is you want to do (in which case, great, step 2 for you Glen Coco), it may be that you don’t, in which case there’s some work to be done and this may not be quick and it may not be easy. If you really have no idea then start by answering these questions:
- What do you enjoy? Dealing with people? Working with children or animals? Do you like writing? Solving problems? Designing things?
- How do you work best? In a team? On your own? Outdoors? Under pressure?
- What are you good at? Numbers? Words? Science? Physical activity? Listening? Languages? Art?
- What is important to you in a career? Helping others? Prestige? Flexibility? Challenges? Money? Work/life balance? Travel?
Once you have the answers to the above (and ideally after prioritising them), you then need to start considering what jobs would allow you to meet as many of the above as possible. Don’t limit yourself just yet. You might not have considered something before, but be open-minded. Cast your net wide by using google as your new best friend and try searches like ‘alternative jobs to ______’.
2. Consider what qualifications, skills or experience you need
There is a certain amount of blagging and learning on the job in the vast majority of lines of work but while having knowledge of a specific kind of software might be something a company can train you on, some requirements will be set in stone, like having studied for a specific degree, being able to speak another language or having a certain amount of real life experience. Requirements will vary from job to job and company to company, but make sure you understand what is negotiable and what isn’t. If you haven’t got what you need, then do something about it
3. Do your research
Once you know what it is you want to do and you know that you can do it, then there is still a lot of research to do. Assuming you don’t want to go self-employed, the things to consider include things like which companies do what you want to do, which of them might have vacancies and how you would apply to them. Some companies will want a CV and covering letter, some will have very formal processes and some may only recruit at specific times in the year.
Also, companies can vary massively in terms of culture. For example, large companies are often much more hierarchical and structured, whereas a smaller company is likely to offer more flexible career progression.
Although I am not a fan of nepotism (having never been able to be the beneficiary of it myself), if you know someone in your chosen profession then exploit that as much as possible. Ask questions, get help and even see if they can help you with some work experience. Which brings me on to my next point…
4. Get some experience
Not only does experience help you to confirm that your chosen job is in fact the ‘dream’ job, but it also demonstrates commitment when you apply for a vacancy.
If you can’t get direct experience in your job of choice then think about other experience you can get that will help. For example if you want to be a teacher or work with children in another job, then maybe consider volunteering at your local rainbow/brownie/guide/scout group.
5. Perfect your CV/portfolio and covering letter
What your CV looks like will depend very much on what sort of job you’re applying for. I imagine creative CVs are very different to the type of CV I’m used to writing (very boring, very black and white). But a few keys things apply to all CVs:
- Make sure it is easy to read – use a nice clear font in a legible size
- Make sure it is visually appealing – even if it’s a very formal traditional CV, the use of bullet points, white space, font and alignment can make a big difference
- Highlight your skills – make sure the most important bits are easy to see (preferably on the front page), emphasise the transferable skills you have gained from everything you do and have done
- PDF it – there’s nothing worse than opening up a CV to see red squiggles underlining words that Word doesn’t recognise as being words (even though they are), there are lots of online pdf converters that are free
- Get a second pair of eyes on it – you can check it over a million times and use spellcheck but I can guarantee that it will only be after you send it off that you’ll notice that you typed ‘form’ instead of ‘from’
Although everyone approaches covering letters differently, mine always address my interest in the job vacancy, why I am applying to the company and why I think that I would be suitable for the job in question and what I have to offer. A good rule of thumb when either drafting a covering letter or application form is to look the company’s website, consider their values and what they say they want and address each of those things. So if they say that team working is important to them and that they want all-rounders, then tell them about how you have worked in a team to achieve a goal and emphasise how you balance work and extra-curricular interests.
Then all you have to do is sit back and wait and hope you get called for an interview.
- Always be professional and polite – even if someone can’t help you right now, you never know what opportunities will come up in the future and people will remember you. First impressions count
- Know your worth
- Never give up – if you really want it, go for it. My employer rejected me the first time I applied, I went away and worked to improve my CV and to make myself more attractive, the second time around they let me in for work experience and then kept me on, so don’t take rejection too hard, get feedback and use it as a learning experience
I hope that helps, do let me know if there’s anything from your experience that you would add to the above.