BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING?
Whether you’re unemployed and have a bit of time on your hands, or are incredibly busy and trying to switch or upgrade careers, the way you should approach searching out opportunity should always be strategic.
For many of us, being in a tricky situation means that our judgment is immediately clouded. If you’ve just been made involuntarily redundant, you’re probably upset; if you’ve been unemployed for a while, frustration or despair register high on the arc of emotions. For some people wanting to switch or take a step forward, confusion reigns supreme: where to start? Who to impress? How to impress them?
If you’re not part of an institution with a dedicated, quality careers service, or you want to keep your ambitions on the quiet, then the internet is probably the first port of call. But as the repository of all things, good and bad, it can be hard to sort the wheat from the chaff – especially when you haven’t got much time, or much money. Googling terms like ‘careers help’ or ‘careers service’ dredges up literally hundreds of millions of results in seconds. Search engines can be both helpful, and unhelpful.
So if you’re without a careers bureau, where do you go for the same kind of personalised advice? Well, the list is actually pretty short – and we’ve helpfully included our favourite three here!
The Guardian has a vast number of jobs on its site, with plenty of options to filter out the kind you’re not into. But the sheer number of roles hosted by the newspaper isn’t the main draw. Their live Q&As are a clever way of allowing the inquisitive to anonymously ask questions of experts – and they keep both the article and the Q&A session up online, so even if you miss the date, you can still browse the outcomes. They have CV tools too, run events and advertise courses, as well as offering a free sign-up newsletter full of advice.
The Guardian careers blogs offer a fresh perspective on a range of topics, such as women in leadership roles, must-have skills and more outré advisory pieces, such as mindfulness at work. They run a regular industry top-tips article, with an interview from someone in the sector. The latest was on screenwriting – so their range remains pretty wide, and they encourage ambition and true interest, even in these straitened times.
The increasingly prominent Reed, run a Career Advice and Guidance site, along with their regular jobs listings. Reed are pleasingly aware that your work affects the rest of your life too, and offer regular tips on how to save money, how to calculate your tax and advice on whether your salary truly reflects your skills.
The careers page allows you to build a CV, target the salary range you’re interested in, run over some common interview questions (including the classic, and always tricky “tell us about yourself”) and runs a similar range of blogs to the Guardian.
For our money, the National Careers Service offers the broadest range of services, without missing the depth part. The admin part of job-hunting or career changing can be one of the most stressful pressure points – the National Careers Service Lifelong Learning Account allows you to keep all your information about jobs in one place, making applications and updates simple. They also have a plethora of tools to help you make a step change in your employment – from skills health checks to whether you’re eligible for funding.
However, by far the best part of their offering happens in real-time. The National Careers Service offers a helpline (with a callback function), webchat, forums, emails and face-to-face meetings to get you on track. As part of the European Social Fund, they’re not driven by targets and the well-reviewed advisers can spend as long as they need on the phone with you – as many times as they need.
NCS know that getting a job or improving your job isn’t as simple as sending off a good CV – it’s about identifying your strengths, making realistic aims, refining your communication and feeling confident. Their reviews suggest that they understand that things can be tough because of out-of-office pressure, and they work to help you organise an action plan that takes day-to-day difficulties into account.
So: be strategic, be confident. Choose a jobs site that offers more than a listing – choose advice, choose tools and reading material that helps you organise your approach and choose well-reviewed services that have a proven track record of not just informing, but providing bespoke help. You’ve got to go to work five days a week, after all – why not make it a job you like?
- Good news on the jobs front, but why is the Youth Contract not working? (newstatesman.com)
- Crisis? What Crisis? (jobseekerforum.wordpress.com)
- Making Your CV Stand Out (jobseekerforum.wordpress.com)