An application form is your opportunity to market yourself to a recruiter and convince them you have the skills and experience they are looking for. In order for your application to be effective, make your answers specific to the organisation you are applying to (known as targeting). Remember to save a copy of your form, as this will be useful reference if you get invited to interview and can help when making future applications.
Get it right:
- Read the job description carefully. You won’t be able to sell yourself effectively if you are not sure what the recruiter is looking for and what the specifics of the job are. You will then need to address each of these points in your answers. If it is an unadvertised role, read job descriptions for similar positions and use the Prospects job profiles to get a sense of what the recruiter is likely to be looking for.
- Use examples from when you have successfully used a skill in the past as evidence to prove you have the skills required for the role. (See the STAR technique below for information on how to structure your answers). Think about what you have been involved in over the past few years where you have used and developed your skills (your CV can be a useful starting point) to identify the most appropriate situation to use for your answer.
- Part time jobs, volunteering and involvement in clubs / societies can also be used as evidence of skills e.g. working in a team or taking the initiative. Examples from work, study and extra-curricular activities show you have a range of experience.
- Find out about the organisation you are applying to. What makes them different to their competitors? What are their biggest achievements? Look beyond just the department you are applying to. Knowing more about them will allow you to sound confident and informed when answering why you want to work for them.
- What are the key issues affecting the industry? Understanding this will mean you can show your interest in the industry and your ability to contribute to the organisation.
Sometimes it feels as though there is just not enough time in the day to get everything done, so it’s easy to put things off and find distractions. Particularly if they seem, let’s be honest, a little bit daunting or feel like hard work.
Job hunting can often fall into this category, which can feel overwhelming and can be tough to know where or how to start. It’s also especially easy to put off if you are not sure what you want to do / are nervous about interviews / are fearful about the job market or leaving university….
Break it down
You wouldn’t expect to run a marathon without any preparation and the same can be applied to job hunting. Whilst securing a job might be your end goal, breaking down how you are going to get there will allow you to focus on one area at a time. This could be to update your CV, explore different job areas, fill out an application form, book a careers appointment etc….
Achieving small goals will help you feel like you are making progress and will keep you motivated. Having a plan will also help avoid wasting time deciding what to do, which often leads into a downward spiral of more procrastination…
According to a survey published by Investors in People, 60% of workers in the UK are not happy in their current jobs. Another survey revealed that nearly 80% of Londoners and unhappy in their jobs. And a Gallop poll shows that 23% of workers worldwide hate their jobs, with only 15% who feel engaged by their jobs, meaning they are passionate about, and deeply connected to, their work.
So there is no denying that huge numbers of people all over the world dislike what they’re doing for most of the day, five days a week.
We pay a serious price when we do a job we dislike, especially a job that lacks meaning and autonomy. Research shows that doing a job you hate is actually worse for your mental health than unemployment.
The writer Johann Hari argues in his new book Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions, there are nine causes of depression and anxiety: two biological, and seven that relate to the world we live in. And one that falls into the latter category is meaningless work.
In light of this finding, it’s important in your job search and career path to think about the kind of work you would find meaningful.
The Mental Health Impact of Meaningless Work
In an article for the Huffington Post about his new book, Hari writes:
“If you find your work meaningless and you feel you have no control over it, you are far more likely to become depressed.”
Making decisions about your future career can seem like an arduous and research-intensive process. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great ways to spend 10 minutes of your time that can ultimately help you to make the right choices.
Coffee break coming up? Then consider the following short sharp exercises:
One of our go-to resources can be a great way of broadening your knowledge of the options out there while, simultaneously, finding out more about the career areas that interest you. A few minutes on the Prospects Career Planner will help to match your skills and motivations to suitable roles and allow you to explore these further using their own database of detailed job profiles.
Are you a ‘logician’ or a ‘campaigner’? Answer 100 questions about yourself to find out which of the 16 personality types most closely matches to you, and which careers are likely to suit. The 16 personalities quiz works with the same basic fundamentals as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and, aside from the results, can be a useful exercise in self-reflection and awareness.
Sometime we can struggle to see the skills that we have and how they can be applied to the working world. The solution can be to ask those around us who know us well. So, pick up the phone to friends and family – ask them what strengths they think you can bring to an employer and what roles and industries they could see you working in. This approach may bring fresh ideas.
Time for a bit of blue-sky thinking. If anything was an option, write a list of the careers you think you would most enjoy. Then spend some time reflecting on what it is about them that is appealing to you. Which of them are realistically accessible to you? For those that aren’t, are there any related careers you can think of that draw on the same skills and activities?
Hannah, Careers Consultant
Ever though about being a crisp inspector?! Believe it or not, this is a real job. Along with many others, like professional tea tasters and bed warmers. Or how about being paid to line up in queues for people?!
These might sound daft, but the message to take away is that there’s a whole world of opportunities out there that we just don’t know about. So think outside the box, and beyond the big employers and you could find some great roles that you never knew existed.
See this list of 24 unusual jobs, including pet food taster and eel ecologist: www.careerexperts.co.uk/graduate-careers/weird-jobs-never-knew-existed
Imagine the jobs that might not yet even exist – 10 years ago, there would have been few roles dedicated to social media, and 20 years ago the internet was barely off the ground. In fact according to AGCAS (Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services), students now will work in industries that don’t yet exist with people that they may never meet, using skills that don’t yet exist.
If you’re not sure of your next move:
December has been and gone and the cold, hard reality of January is now upon us all. It is rarely an easy time of year, but throw in the added pressures of a graduate job hunt and it can be particularly hard to get motivated, to stay motivated and to remain positive.
Of course, everyone’s situation is going to be a little different – some of you be dealing with the results of pre-Christmas applications that you made, others may be starting to think seriously about applying for jobs for the first time – but your optimism may well be challenged. What, therefore, can you be doing to ensure that you remain upbeat through the months ahead?
Formulate a plan (and stick to it!)
Before anything else, take the time to work out the steps you need to take and plan them. Goals are much easier to achieve if you have a methodical way of working towards them and ticking items off the plan will help you feel that you are making progress. A Careers Consultant can help you identify your next steps and put together a plan if you are unsure how to get started.
In difficult economic times such as these, UK graduates could find themselves struggling to find a job. Consequently, working abroad might seem like a more attractive and viable option.
But before you get applying, there are a few things you might want to consider.
Choosing a country
From a casual browse of the internet, you will find that there is no shortage of opportunities for employment abroad. Therefore, the onus will be on you to try and narrow down the results to find the jobs that best suit your preferences.
Are you looking for a long-term position that would see you living in another country permanently, or at least for an extended period? Maybe you might want something a little more casual, something that could be incorporated into your travel plans? If this is the case, it might be worth focusing on the region you most want to visit.
Whatever you decide, be sure to always check the visa requirements before you travel. While some countries are relatively relaxed on employing tourists, others are not quite so forthcoming. In such instances, applying for a visa can be a tricky process, without any definite guarantees.