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Jobs & Careers

10 smarter ways to find a job

Whether you're a fresh graduate or someone who's been in the job market for years – job hunting is tough. Have you tried rethinking your approach to finding a job?

hand picking up shirt and tie made of paper

Credit: Adragan – Shutterstock

There's no denying it – searching for jobs really is a full-time job in itself and, alas, it doesn't get much easier as you get older.

Feeling a bit like you're going round in circles and getting nowhere with it? Sometimes, it can be helpful to take a step back and really think about your approach before bashing out the job applications.

Taking a different angle can give you a fresh boost of confidence if you're feeling in a rut, and hopefully find you that job opportunity you've been searching for.

This guide is a part of our Jobs & Careers section where you'll find loads of career advice, as well as our student job search.

Job competition is tough

Our main word of advice to job searchers is this: don't just think in terms of ticking the boxes and meeting the criteria that an employer is looking for.

Applying for jobs is about really selling yourself to a potential employer – why should they pick you over other applicants? Think about how you can stand out from the crowd.

This is often overlooked by students who search for jobs by dropping impersonal CVs and cover letters into high street retail stores and bars.

How you handle the application process is a reflection of the kind of employee you are: come across like you're not putting the effort in at this stage of the game, and it won't impress anyone.

Also, try not to let failed applications knock your confidence too much. Remember the theory of 'survival of the fittest' in secondary school? Well, this applies to the job market too.

Those who are willing to mutate (in approach) and take each rejection letter like water off a duck's back are likely to succeed. Keep reminding yourself of this!

10 steps for finding a job

To get you started on your whole new, smarter approach to job hunting, here are 10 tips that you may never have thought of when attempting to nail that student or graduate job application.

  1. Try online networking

    Get plugged into career networking sites like LinkedIn. You might think this is a step ahead of yourself if you're still studying, but it actually looks great to employers if you're already keen to know what's going on in the job market before you've even graduated.

    Join discussion groups for industries you're interested in and start building your social network to keep in the loop for the latest job offers.

    Following companies that you like and commenting on their posts is also a great way to get noticed, although remember to keep your comments professional.

    Note that it's also bad etiquette to add anyone on LinkedIn who you don't already know, so going on a mad connection-adding spree won't work in your favour. Check out our guide to using LinkedIn to find a job and you'll nail this bit.

  2. Talk to friends and family

    Two friends on a bus looking at phone

    Credit: Dusan Petkovic – Shutterstock

    Staff referral is one of the most popular methods used for recruitment by employers, as companies often prefer to hire someone who their trusted employees can vouch for.

    Take advantage of this by asking around friends and family who work in industries you'd like to explore. This can often result in you finding out about vacancies before the competition does, and instantly puts you at an advantage if someone can recommend you.

  3. Go beyond job listings

    Sometimes sticking to job listings isn't the best way to move forward.

    Focusing on specific companies rather than vacancies can work in your favour, as when you move on to the application process, you'll already have an interest in the company. That should shine through in what you say, as opposed to just submitting an application because there's a job up for grabs.

    Keep an eye on job listings, of course, but if you see a few positions going at a great company and none of the roles are suitable for you, send them a CV and cover letter anyway (remember: sell yourself!).

    If a company is posting more than one vacancy at once, it's a sign that they're expanding. This means it's the perfect time to make yourself known to them and show them what you've got.

  4. Expand your search (and your mind)

    Particularly thanks to technology, the job market is constantly evolving at such a pace that there are heaps of jobs out there that you've probably never even heard of – and that didn't exist back when you were speaking to your careers counsellor at school.

    For example, do you know what a UX designer is? How about a Content Marketer, a Backend Developer or a Growth Hacker? It's worth putting some research into this, as you might find that once you get past the unfamiliar names, these are roles you'd be interested in trying out.

    Choosing to go down a less traditional career path can also mean less competition, and you might find there are more opportunities available if you expand your horizons and start looking at more niche positions.

  5. Be confident and personable

    thumbs up

    As we mentioned earlier, how you handle the application process will give potential employers an idea of the kind of worker you are.

    For example, someone who takes initiative by emailing a senior member of staff to ask for a coffee will give off a much more positive, go-getter impression than someone who just sends in a flat CV and copy/pasted cover letter.

    However, make sure that if you go for this option, you do some serious research about the company before you make your move. You don't want to be caught out as not really understanding who the company are and what they do, as it would make all your effort go to nothing.

    Of course, we're not suggesting you barge into an office asking for work, but just asking to speak to someone from HR so you can tell them how amazing you think the company is will get you some serious gold stars next to your CV.

    The chances are, you'll stand out in their memory when they reach the decision-making stage.

  6. Work for your university

    There are hundreds of part-time jobs on campus for students, including bar work, events work, admin jobs and giving guided tours to prospective students.

    With decent pay and hours (as well as usually being quite close to your dorm room and your lecture theatres), these jobs are gold dust.

    It also helps that the university already knows you, so are likely to be able to provide a glowing reference when you look for work after uni. Our advice would be to apply early, as these jobs tend to disappear quickly.

  7. Try an internship

    This is a particularly good option if you're taking our suggestion from tip number four on board and trying out some unchartered territory within the job market.

    If a position is unfamiliar, it's important you get a chance to try it out before you decide if it's for you.

    At Save the Student, we're against unpaid internships as we're of the belief that no one should have to work for free, but use your own judgement on this one.

    If you think you'd benefit from getting a bit of work experience before deciding if a certain career is right for you, maybe offering to do a month unpaid at a nice company would work well. Should you go for a position without a salary, check out our guide to surviving an unpaid internship.

    However, know your rights when it comes to internships. Unfortunately, some companies will take advantage of young people looking to kick-start their careers by making them work a full-time position without paying up.

    Paid internships are really common these days. Although they don't pay much, you'll pick up invaluable skills, experience, and contacts relating directly to your preferred business and industry that will be extremely useful later.

    Either that, or if the position goes particularly well, you might even get a job out of it!

  8. Try a recruitment agency

    Man at work using post it notes

    Credit: GaudiLab – Shutterstock

    Finding work through a recruitment agency can be a good choice, particularly if you find the whole idea of selling yourself particularly tough – recruiters are paid to do that bit for you.

    Recruitment agencies regularly and actively search for work on your behalf. This, of course, can lighten the burden a bit if you're finding trawling for jobs particularly tiresome, and it can bag you a job quicker than expected.

    However, while there are big positives, do be aware that temp work sourced by recruitment agencies can often involve a whole lot of licking envelopes for minimum wage, and nothing more inspiring.

    Agency work for students tends to be poorly paid, often pretty boring and (depending on the job) lacking in long-term security and prospects.

  9. Check out careers fairs

    Careers and graduate fairs aren't just about the freebies (although these are always a welcome perk!).

    These fairs are a fantastic opportunity to meet and talk directly to big-time employers and recruiters. Remember, they've paid for the stall they're standing at for the sole purpose of speaking to job-seekers like you, so take advantage of being in this rare position.

    Make the most of the opportunity to network and be informed about application processes and chances.

    Also, don't forget to bring a notepad. Write down the names, positions and email addresses of the people you talk to and send them a follow-up email afterwards (just a quick 'hello' to say how nice it was to meet them and get you on their radar).

  10. Become your own boss

    Many students and graduates often feel discouraged from starting their own business due to risk or the lack of security it offers.

    Although becoming your own boss can seem like a scary move, if you have a big idea and the motivation to push it then this could be the smartest move you ever make.

    Our Head Honcho, Owen, began Save the Student as his own business venture while he was still studying for his Geography degree and never looked back (you can read more about Save the Student's story if you're interested).

    There are a growing number of organisations and websites designed specifically to help young entrepreneurs succeed in business. Check out our guide to raising capital for your startup for tips on getting a business off the ground.

    If after the first year you decide it's not for you, then that's something valuable you've learned for life and (hopefully) you'll have no regrets in having tried. It will also look amazing on your CV.

Freelancing might be more your speed. Get the lowdown on how to get started as a freelancer.

What about job websites?

Of course, you should keep up your assault on more traditional methods of finding a job: you never know where an opportunity might come from. The point of this article is to get you thinking deeper and wider in your job search.

There's no harm in submitting your details to job sites with specifics about the kind of positions you're interested in. The sites will then send you email notifications when something that meets your criteria comes up.

It's worth signing up for a few of these so you don't miss any great opportunities, but do be aware that this can then result in your inbox taking a serious hit.

For more information on which job sites to hit up, check out our article on student job websites. Also, try to stay away from unregulated websites like Gumtree, which often list a host of misleading and sometimes dangerous job 'opportunities' (especially for women).

Always be on your guard against scam opportunities and remember that your safety is way more important than finding a job. If it sounds too good to be true...

Why not boost your CV with one of these free courses with qualifications to make you the shiniest candidate out there.


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