Graduates and younger job seekers often remark, with a tone of dismay and frustration, “how do I get experience if employers won’t give me a go?” This is an excellent question which has been asked for decades and is not just a feature of the current employment market.
We also often hear, mainly from concerned parents, about their son or daughter applying for multitudes of jobs and not getting a single interview or, for that matter, any feedback at all. The resulting Job Seekers’ frustration is palpable. While frustration is understandable it is a fruitless waste of energy, particularly when this energy could be redirected to gain better outcomes. There has also been considerable commentary in the media recently about the value of university degrees versus experience and whether one is more important than the other. Debating these points, unfortunately, does nothing for enhancing employment prospects. The reality is that both education and experience will always have their place and value in gaining employment.
You cannot control the market but you can control your response to it
So how can we realistically refocus and reframe the negative self talk that can feed feelings of self doubt and lower self esteem into something more useful? There is no one easy answer however, below are 6 useful and practical guidelines we feel may assist in making the pathway to employment more productive:
1.Know where you are going – having clear career goals is a crucial first step. It may seem unlikely that an extract from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland could provide insights into job search, but it does in a powerful way:
Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”
This may seem simple, but simple does not mean easy! You may need help from a careers professional or mentor to shape your thinking and this might require some introspection and exploration of the obvious, as well as the not so obvious.
2. Be curious – having a strong sense of curiosity provides a good platform to find out what’s out there. It doesn’t have to be the perfect job as long as it builds on your experience to get you to where you want to go. Talk to friends, family and associates to find what they do and how they got to where they did and adopt what feels right for you.
3. Application and persistence pays – have a plan to drive your job search activity and stay disciplined and focused. Above all be persistent. Your local Job Services Australia providers, as well as private careers practitioners and mentors can be useful to your job search.
4. Voluntary work is more than good for the soul – many voluntary organisations offer opportunities to gain valuable work experience and can be a potential referee. Seek out organisations that suit your career interests and offer your services to them. Before you contact them, do your homework and research their engagement protocols before offering up your services.
5. Create the value – employers may create roles if they can see the value in doing so. Try making the implicit explicit by demonstrating the value you could bring to a role or their organisation. Help potential employers to see the value in hiring you even if they don’t have an existing unfilled role.
6. Use your ‘silent army’ wisely – social media and online job boards are excellent ways to stay in touch and network effortlessly. But this is a red alert to be cautious about what you put on social media sites as what will be visible to your network may very well be visible to potential employers!
You cannot control the market but you can control your response to it. A clear goal and solution focus combined with highly directed and targeted energy, persistence and enthusiasm will drive results. Focusing on value creation for employers will help them see you through another lens and, in doing so, differentiate you from other job seekers vying for the same positions as you.