Preparing for Employment
Before you start applying for jobs, there are some things you can do to aid your chances.
Pitfalls to avoid:
- Employers aren’t looking for someone who doesn’t fit the job. Look at the description, research the business/role and ask yourself: do you think it is right for you? Are you willing to undertake those duties? Does the culture and practices behind the company fit with your own values and beliefs?
This doesn’t mean if you don’t have direct experience, you shouldn’t apply. Unless it is stated in the job description that they are looking for someone who has proven experience in direct skills (such as a senior hair stylist or a practice nurse with five years experience) you can demonstrate through the application process how your experiences and skills will fit the role the employer is offering.
- Employers are looking for individuals who are motivated and eager to acquire new skills. They want employees who are interested in learning and want to learn how to do things the way the business does them.
You need to be open to change and learning new skills, even if you don’t see this role as a long-term career. By learning new skills you can gain valuable experience that can be transferred to future roles. You can demonstrate a willingness to learn through how you word your application letter and CV, and how you behave in the job interview.
- Employers are looking for workers who take pride in themselves and are willing to put in an effort to make a good first impression. You don’t need to completely change the way you dress or buy a suit and tie, unless you feel that is required of the job. Just focus on being neat and tidy and dressing for the occasion. E.g. if it is a corporate job you are after dress to a corporate standard, or if it was a retail store position, see what kind of clothes they sell in the store and wear something similar.
Strategies for succeeding and preparing:
- Have a look at your social media profile. Facebook allows you the option to see what your profile looks like to the public. Do you think you are presenting a good first impression to employers if they were to look? Think about how your profile picture looks (is it relatively innocent or are you drunk as a skunk?) and edit your privacy settings so that your profile is as private as possible. Try Google-ing yourself to see what comes up so you are prepared to talk about it if the employer brings it up. The internet is not a private domain!
- Create a professional email to contact employers with and place on your C.V. Try and use an email server like Gmail or Windowslive as often international servers, Hotmail and Yahoo are ignored or come in as spam. With your email address choose a professional sounding username, such as your name. While it’s absolutely fine to have a personal email address such as firstname.lastname@example.org, it is not going to look very professional or serious to future employers.
- Make sure your CV is up to date: Free of errors, professional and relevant to the work you are applying for. If you don’t yet have one then create one that builds on your strongest attributes. You can get CV templates from websites such as http://www.careers.govt.nz. The University of Auckland website (www.auckland.ac.nz) has a great help section for both CV’s and cover letters, just search ‘applying for jobs and starting work’.
- It is vital that your cover letter reflects and comments on the specific role you are applying for. Practice writing cover letters for various types of jobs, that way if a job does come up that you want to apply for and you need a cover letter, you already have a template that is specific to your attributes. Just remember to alter it for different jobs.
- Practice answering your phone in a professional way: Get into the habit – just a simple ‘hello Jane speaking’. That way when you are applying for jobs and if an employer were to call you for an interview you wouldn’t even think about having to answer in a certain way. If you’re current voicemail message is a joke one where employers may think you have answered the phone already or something similar it would be a good idea to remove it - it creates an unprofessional impression.
- Be prepared to apply for multiple jobs. There is a lot of competition between jobs so try not to get down if you don’t get an interview for the first few jobs you apply for. In today's job market it’s not uncommon for someone to apply for over a hundred positions before they get a hit. Just think of it all as practice.
Developing skills and strengths:
It is important to recognise what skills and strengths you have to offer. This is because your skills and strengths are one of the main components of your CV and something that employers will be looking at and asking about in your interviews. In order to better prepare yourself for the employment process, develop a list of what you think are your core skills and strengths. It doesn’t hurt to identify a couple of areas that you would like to develop more too. Employers also ask about weaknesses in order to assess your honesty and potential for development. You can take some control here by thinking about what your weaknesses are and what you could do to turn them into positives.
- Think about how you developed your skills and strengths. Remember situations and create stories or examples around them to demonstrate your skills and strengths to the employer. This will help you recognise your skills as well as prepare you for the interview process.
- Identify your weaknesses and think about how you can turn those weaknesses into positives. Saying you have no weaknesses sends red flags to an employer - be honest about what you struggle with. For example, a weakness could be that you do not have the best time management, however you can say this is something you are actively improving by doing things like keeping a calendar or allocating time to tasks in your everyday life and sticking to them.
- If you don’t have any employment history, consider volunteering - it is a fantastic way to build experience and display commitment. Think about what you have done that you have developed skills through. Things you have done around the house, for neighbors, at school or through extracurricular activities can all develop skills such as time management, commitment, accountability and reliability.