Your job search is a process and it begins the moment you start thinking about life after the NWU and continues until you have accepted a job offer. Start your job search on a solid foundation by understanding how the process works and successfully work your way through each step towards your ultimate goal – your new job. Finding a job and finding the right job are two very different things. If you want to be successful in your job search, you should focus on finding the right job. An important key to accomplishing that goal will be to spend the time necessary to properly prepare yourself for your job search.
Step 1 - Self-assessement (Who am I and what do I have to offer?)
The first step in your job search is self-assessment. In order to market yourself properly, you need to take time to discover yourself. The better you know yourself, the better you will be able to establish what you are looking for in a job, and what an employer is looking for in you. Successful job seekers will take time to identify their specific skills, talents, abilities, interests, values, needs and goals. Take a personal inventory of your:
- Education: favourite subjects, best subjects and academic achievements. What have you learned from your academic, paid and volunteer experiences?
- Abilities: interpersonal, artistic, creative and organisational. List the jobs, tasks or activities that you have enjoyed the most. List things that you truly disliked about the work you have done. What are your work-related skills, and which skills do you enjoy using? Identify your strongest skills. Knowing who you are and what you have to offer will increase your job search success, since you will be able to clearly communicate how your skills, strengths, and abilities match up with the job description and requirements.
- Interests and hobbies: recreational activities and involvement in the community. What interests you about the type of organisation you prefer: small, medium, or large, flexible or tightly structured? Think about working conditions – do you mind travelling, are long hours okay, how much time do you need for non-working activities?
- Goals: what you want to accomplish, type of lifestyle and your ideal future. Consider your goals in life as well as your goals at work. What kind of position are you seeking, where do you want to live? If you had no constraints, what would you like to be doing five years from now? What would help you to get there? Define your career goals. If you are not clear about what you want, you may wind up with a job you do not want.
You must know yourself to the extent that you can look a prospective employer in the eye and tell them what professional and personal skills and characteristics you have that qualify you for the position for which you are applying. Self-awareness helps you to conduct a more focused job search and seek out the best-fitting job opportunities. This step in the job searching process is the foundation of your job search.
Step 2 - Identify employers
After self-assessment, you should be able to research and explore career options that match your skills, interests, values and personality. Having a clear idea of who you are, what you can do, what you want to do, and in what environment you want to do it, will enable you to develop your career objective. You need a plan of action for your job search. You need to identify employers and know specific details about each employer. How will you develop a list of potential employers and how will you contact them?
Try the following methods to gather information:
- Online assistance: visit the websites of the organisations that interest you, online recruitment agencies, career-related sites, job-listing sites, employer directories and résumé databases.
- Have a look at career books to see what kinds of jobs are available.
- Read annual reports of different organisations that interest you.
- Speak to as many people as you can to find out what they do or have done in the job areas that interest you.
- Visit all career-related events: information sessions, workshops, career fairs to learn about the types of positions that are available in your field. If the company is very small, call them and ask them to send you additional information.
- Networking is an important part of your career development: make contacts, create alliances, build a support group and befriend people with similar career interests. Questions to ask people working in your field of interest might include: What do you like, or dislike, about working in this field? Could you describe an “average” day in your profession? Do you have any recommendations for someone interested in this field?
- Check the NWU Career Centre events and calendar frequently – use the Career Centre’s resources and advisers.
Looking for a job proactively is not easy. It requires commitment and a lot of discipline. However, those who continue to try will eventually reap the benefits. The keys to a successful career choice are knowing yourself and what you want from your career, knowing what is available in the market place and being able to market yourself accordingly.
Step 3 - Market yourself
The crucial element to securing a job is preparation. In today’s competitive job market, you are judged from the outset. In order to get an interview, make sure that your CV and cover letter stand out. Your curriculum vitae and your cover letter are the two basic marketing tools in your job search. Developing an effective CV and a good targeted cover letter is therefore essential. Getting the interview is the ultimate goal of your marketing tools.
- Your curriculum vitae: Your first impression should be on the mark. You will not get a second chance at making a great first impression. The idea of a CV is to get you an interview and to get your foot in the door. Your CV should reflect your occupational and educational highlights, as well as important personal information, key skills and qualifications. Your CV is your own personal advertisement in which you showcase the skills you have that are relevant to the type of work you are seeking. Use your CV as a marketing tool to sell yourself to a prospective employer.
- Your cover letter: A great cover letter can differentiate your CV from the other ones on an employer’s desk. Make sure yours stands out. The cover letter is your opportunity to personalise your CV – it conveys your personality and your enthusiasm.
- Your interview: Getting the interview is the goal of your marketing tools (CV and cover letter). It is easy to be so focused on getting an interview that you fail to prepare appropriately for the interview. Regardless of the skills, qualifications and experience you have, your personality and personal presentation will still count when your prospective employer sizes you up.
Step 4 - Apply for the job and make the decision
As a job seeker you should be aware of the different hiring methods of employers and advertising agencies.
How do you know about job vacancies?
- Advertisements in newspapers, journals, newsletters and trade magazines.
- Employment agencies also advertise in newspapers – check the phone directories for names of employment agencies.
- Internet resources – search online job banks and company websites to find vacancies.
- Targeted mailing – try to find out who is in charge of the area in which you are interested and send your cover letter and CV to that person.
- Direct contact – visit the company in person. Research your options and ask for a specific person to whom you can present yourself.
- Professional associations – join while you are a student. Professional associations often have websites that include resources and events.
- Networking – a lot of vacancies remain hidden in the job market because not all jobs are advertised. For this reason, networking remains the number one job search strategy.
- Recruiting on campus – your Career Centre, employer presentations and career fairs.
“You’ve got the job!” You have been hoping to hear these words. You still need to decide if this is the job that you want. You have to evaluate the offer to see if it matches your expectations.
- Compare the job with your career objectives.
- Look out for warning signs – negative interviewers, complaining employees, work environment.
- Compare the benefits with your needs identified in the first step of your job search.
To find a job is hard work, it takes time and may be frustrating. It is important to let as many employers as possible know who you are, what you can do, and why you want to work at their organisation. Some rejection is a normal part of your job search. Do not allow rejections to discourage you – learn from each instance and improve your skills for the next application. The staff of the Career Centre are available to assist you with every step of your job search, but you are the one who has to get out there and make things happen – no one can do it for you.
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