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How to make your job search more productive

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Job hunting can seem like a nightmare, but it doesn't have to be so difficult. 

“Congratulations! How does it feel to be done with education? I bet you're glad to finally be free”. The parade of questions post-education rarely changes from one social group to the next.

“What are you going to do next?” is often the question which stumbles fresh-faced graduates and educational leavers, and it is certainly one which still hits a core in myself today, even with years of work experience under my belt.

When I left college unsure of my long-term path I decided to delay further education to discover my passions and drives, it was here where ‘next’ felt optimistic, new, and challenging. It is where many graduates are currently finding themselves placed – anxious about the future, yet excited for new opportunities.

However, it was not long until the sugar high of freedom wore off, and the overwhelming nature of job hunting took its place. After years of the structured routine which education provided, the safety of its timetables and tutored lessons were torn away, reality kicked in and the world became vast and unstructured. 

I quickly learned that while education attempts to prepare you for the world beyond, it fell short of providing the beneficial tools and insights required for survival. Of course, I had my CV and cover letter, however, my map was only partially complete. I was unsure how to conduct myself in this vast landscape, questioning my decisions and whether I was engaged enough in the search after mindlessly applying to every job which met my skill-set.

It took months of interviews, phone calls and rejections before a tribe finally accepted me as their own. During this time, I learned how to survive in the job-hunting environment, where productivity was the key to success and happiness.   

Tips for creating a productive job search:

1. Make yourself a professional job hunter

*Disclaimer* this is not a prerequisite for you to put that title on your CV. 

Becoming a professional job hunter will give you a sense of purpose during the drudgery, however, it does have rules attached. For one, you will need to create yourself a routine (I recommend working 9 am until 5 pm), get out of those pyjamas and into something relatively sound to leave the house in and create work for yourself.

You might be wondering how you can create work if you're not working? Well, the answer is...

2. Set yourself goals

It is easy to mindlessly scroll through job boards, bored out of your mind, clicking away until you find something vaguely like your skill set and then abandoning the search because you applied for a couple of positions which interest you. However, just because you have left education it does not mean those target and goal setting procedures you are used to need to go down the toilet.

Dependent upon the abundance of vacancies in your desired field, set yourself a goal to apply to a specific amount of jobs each day or week.

Bonus points if you create a copy of job descriptions to which you apply! These will come in useful when preparing for an interview and provide you with a little extra work to keep your mind pre-occupied.

3. Tailor applications

When your experience is limited, or your field is generic, it is easy to fall victim to sending out the same copy of your CV and cover letter repeatedly. Honestly, no wonder job seeking becomes so mundane! To add a little flare and extra work to your day to ensure you make yourself more appealing to potential employers, tailor your CV and cover letter specifically to the job description at hand.

That does not mean taking things out which may hold relevancy but ensuring elements the employer is looking for are easily found within your application.

For instance, if the employer hints they may want you to work weekends, (assuming your willing to) put that at the top of your cover letter, if you have WordPress experience put that at the top of your skill list. Doing so will not only make you more productive in your search but will increase your odds of getting noticed by the employer.  

4. Personal projects

Just because you are out of work does not mean you should put all those vital skills learned during your time in education on a shelf to collect dust. Remember all those fictitious projects you had in your studies, where you created a marketing strategy or examined accounts? Keep your skills and passion in your degree alive by creating your own scenario’s. Granted this is more applicable for some fields than others (I would not advise you start practising medical examinations on your family), but it can be a productive way to pass time and add to your portfolio.

We’ve all heard stories of those people who get jobs with corporations after sending them revelatory work, why can’t that be you!?

5. Don’t limit your prospects

Don’t make my early mistake of sifting through job boards day after day. While they hold an abundance of vacancies, previous research implies up to 60% of available jobs are unadvertised, meaning there is a whole hidden market out there waiting for you to increase your productivity and enter.

There are the obvious ways to enter this market; canvasing companies, networking and employment fairs. Then there are the less obvious methods which require a bolder approach. Don’t limit yourself to graduate schemes and large corporations, instead, keep an eye open for small start-up firms. Consider contacting employers who advertised a larger role, which would be perfect for you if only you had the experience, this may lead to a meeting or a junior role previously unadvertised.

This approach may not work 100% of the time, however, from personal experience, it can be effective. I once gained a meeting and a potential paid internship (yes you read that right) from contacting a small firm who I saw were advertising for PR executives, because I figured ‘hey these guys may need an extra hand or two’.

While these are just a few tips I have learned along the way, it is vital to recognise no two job hunting journeys will be the same. Try not to compare yourself with friends who are taking alternative paths, learn from them instead, and you will be able to develop your own productive system to ensure you get the perfect role for you.

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