Now that you know what position you are interested in, it's time to look for work. If it's your first time, or if you've not had to look for a job in a while, it can be a highly confusing process. It involves a multitude of setbacks, many unreplied emails, and much frustration and misery. Good luck!
Here is a brief overview of the steps you need to look for work. Here we’ll cover steps one and five, whilst we’ve separate information on CVs, cover letters and interviews, as they are integral to the process.
1. Find vacancies that fit your criteria to apply for.
2. Send the company your CV & cover letter
3. Attend an interview
4. Accept an offer
5. If you’ve failed to make it through steps 1-4 the process has to be repeated and refined until you gain that elusive offer!
How to Find Work
There are two main ways of finding vacancies, through what’s known as the visible and invisible jobs market and we’ll look at both in more detail here.
The Visible Jobs Market
The visible jobs market refers to all the vacancies that you can find yourself. This will primarily be through online job boards such as Monster, Reed or CVLibrary and can also include more specific boards, such as those that focus on an industry or those that focus on graduates and new starters.
By searching for jobs through them, you’ll gain a greater understanding of what’s required for a role and the level of experience needed, so you can position yourself accordingly. However, ads can often be poorly worded or use generic, off-the-shelf job descriptions, so you might find yourself applying for jobs that you aren’t necessarily suited to, and that the response rate you receive is pretty low.
The Invisible Jobs Market
Most vacancies aren’t filled as a result of advertising, and instead employers use range recruitment methods which collectively make up what is known as the "invisible market". The invisible market includes:
- recruitment agencies - employers recruit staff by asking agencies to search their files for suitable candidates
- files of previous applicants - employers look back through their files previous applicants including people who have sent unsolicited CVs
- LinkedIn - suitable candidates might be on LinkedIn.
Tackling the invisible market is a better way to get your foot on the ladder, as there is less competition, however it does take time and effort and we'll dedicate this blog to ways in which you can access the invisible jobs market.
Before you tackle the invisible jobs market, you’ll need to decide on the companies you wish to work for. This involves getting a better understanding of the industry you are in, the key players and the job role you would like within that industry. However you can target a lot of companies (even as many as a hundred) as it’s unlikely that very many will have the specific opening you are looking for.
Systematic cold calling
Phoning up selected employers to see if they have anything suitable for you is one easy proactive method of accessing the invisible jobs market. You'll need to:
- Identify the right organisations - those that are likely to have jobs in your area.
- Speak to the right person - this means getting hold of a decision maker
- Keep the call brief - explain quickly who you are, where you’re coming from and what you are seeking to achieve. Ask if there is anything suitable at the moment. If yes, ask them what to do next, if no, thank them in a way enables you to ring them another time.
- Keep record of your calls. This includes the name of the person you spoke to, date and anything interesting you picked up along the way.
- Work out a call cycle of who you are going to call frequently and who less often.
- Score your calls between 0 and 5. 5s are employers who are worth keeping in touch with regularly, whilst 0s are employers who gave you a hard time. Identify organisations that are worth ringing every 3 months or so against these may warrant calls only occasionally.
If you keep doing this you'll get a snapshot of what the companies you are looking at are doing and eventually a detailed picture of your target organisations. Over time you'll hopefully have to make fewer, more targeted calls, and sooner or later start connecting with good opportunities.
Another way to access the invisible jobs market is to send a copy of your CV as a mailshot to selected employers to see what opportunities they have. Here’s the way go about it:
1. Identify the right organisations - those that are likely to have jobs in your area.
2. Phone first - to find out the name of the person who needs to be sent the mailshot.
3. Compose a cover letter.
4. Mark it as ‘confidential’ - best way to ensure that right person opens it.
The aim of a mailshot is to connect you with the right opportunity, or if one is not available, to get your CV filed in a place where it will be revisited when an opportunity comes up next.
Getting your name on the books of the right agencies is another excellent way to access the invisible market. Good agencies can use their know-how and contacts to help you access the right opportunities. Here's a few things you need to know:
1. Pick the right ones - those that have opportunities in your field.
2. Make sure they understand you. Tell them you are seeking to make a career change and not just jobs in your current career.
3. Keep in contact - ring chosen agencies from time to time, especially when you have not heard from them. Not only will you remind them you are still there, but you might also pick up some interesting feedback on why you are having no luck finding the right opening for you. Is it that what you are looking for is unrealistic or is the agency not very good?
By far the best way accessing career-change opportunities is through networking and there are numerous ways to go about this. Networking can help you:
- Access the invisible jobs market perhaps via jobs that haven't been advertised yet.
- Contacts can vouch for you and let people know that you are a good employee.
- You can help friends/colleagues out and they'll also help you out.
Volunteering and/or work experience
As companies will often reach out to internal applicants before or as well as interviewing external applicants, it’s often the case that being in work in the company already can give you a major advantage. One way of becoming part of their team is through voluntary work, work shadowing or temping. This way, you’ll be aware of when all new roles come up within the company, and you’ll also have known colleagues who can vouch for your working personality and fit.
News alerts & social media
By following companies that you are interested in on LinkedIn, Facebook or via Google Alerts, you’ll be the first to know about their news. This might specifically include that they are hiring, but also other information of interest, such as mergers, or the opening of a new office, which could help you to be the first in line for a job.
Continuing the Job Search
With an entry-level paralegal job receiving 4,228 applications this summer (August 2020), you’re not the only one whose job search is failing to move forward. However, there are a few ways to improve your chances of gaining that interview and ultimately that position.
After you’ve applied for a job, note it down on a spreadsheet which should include the position, company, date you applied, how you applied, any specifics you included in your CV/covering letter, whether you’ve heard back (tick box), when to contact them to ask about next steps (date) and verdict.
Once you’ve received interviews you can then do the same, noting in a spreadsheet the names of the hiring team, company, position, date you went for your interview, whether you’ve heard back (tick box), when to contact them to ask about next steps (date) and verdict.
In this way, you’ll be able to keep track of who you’ve applied for and get a better understanding of where you are falling short.
1. If you are failing to gain interviews
Look at your CV and cover letter, do they really relate to the career you are applying for? Are you using the same words in them as are in the job description? (Some companies filter out applications using software which goes through a CV and looks at matches between the two. The more matches, the more likely your CV is to stay in the yes pile).
Look at the jobs you are applying for. Are they feasible for your skills and qualifications? How much similarity is there between what they are asking for and what you have got? Do you have too much experience or too little? And if you do, is there a way of explaining this in your cover letter so that you’ll have a better chance of an interview?
2. If you are making it to interview stage
Every time you go for an interview, as for feedback. This will help you gain a better understanding of why they are picking another candidate over you.
Do the others have better experiences? If so, are you applying for the right role?
Are you a good fit for the company? Get a better understanding of the company before the interview. Look at their website and social media feeds - what are their employees wearing? How does the company present itself in the language it uses? To become a better fit, you’ll want to match these so a potential employer will easily see how you will be an asset to one of their teams. Look at the mission and vision - does it align with yours and is there a way you can mention this in the interview?
Is the role really what you are looking for and does this show? Are you attending the interview just because you made it to this stage and at this point in time would take any offer available.
Are you getting too nervous and not explaining yourself well enough? Look at ways you can practice your interview techniques before the big day. You could firstly do this with friends and family, and then reach out to people you know less well. If you have the resources you could even pay for a coach to improve your technique.