How to get and keep a job
People have unnecessary fears about whether they'll get a job, and whether they'll be fired before they can prove themselves! Read why you worry needlessly.
With many school, college and university leavers starting to think about what they're going to do for work, and the threat of redundancy a concern for the rest of us, I thought that I'd share what I've learned from moving between eight enjoyable, 'proper' jobs during my career.
In How to write the perfect CV and How to succeed at interview, you can read various practical tips on job hunting, CV writing, and interview techniques. So I shan't cover them again here. What I'll concern myself with is the biggest concern of new entrants to the job market, which is that they don't know anything!
The following also applies to people who've been in the same job so long they fear what'll happen if they move, even though they really want to! And of course it applies to anyone who has been made redundant and is looking for a career change.
The secret to getting and keeping a job
The secret to getting and keeping a job is:
Getting a job: persistence and patience.
Keeping it: hard work.
That's it. That is all you need. It's all about your attitude and effort.
Now let me tell you what doesn't matter: it doesn't matter that you don't know what you're doing.
Getting a job
Let me put it another way: when you go for interviews, IT IS OK TO NOT KNOW THINGS! It is expected. If this will be your first proper job after finishing your education, you'll be expected to know even less.
So, my tip to you is don't worry about it. You should, of course, read up on any job you're going for before the interview, and do your research on the company and industry. However, the employer will know, in most cases, that you have a lot to learn or indeed everything to learn.
You won't be offered a job every time you try, but this is where persistence and patience comes in. (During a recession it is harder because there are fewer jobs, but that just means those who are the most persistent get the jobs.) Continue applying and you'll get one.
Keeping your job
Also, it's still OK not to know things when you start the job! This is expected as well. Not knowing this fact is a big cause of unnecessary stress for many new workers.
But think: during the interview, you will have admitted that you have no experience (although you will have shown your enthusiasm for gaining it!). Your employer won't, now you've started, think you've magically learned everything and expect you to start building houses unsupervised, or to set up a new, company-wide network on your first day in IT support.
Whenever we start a new job, we have new things to learn. We have to learn about the company and its products. We have to learn how the department and team works. We have to learn what everyone else does in the company. We have to learn how the software we will use works, or how to fill in any paperwork.
If it's your first job, or if you've never done the same job before, you will have a whole load more new skills to learn, and knowledge to acquire. It takes weeks to get a feel for it and months to become competent. Employers know this.
So all you can do is work hard. By doing this, you will learn at a reasonable pace. No employer can ask for more.
But you should ask more! Ask lots of questions when you start working. It doesn't matter how silly the questions sound. It doesn't matter to the employer, who is glad you're asking, believe me! If the following week you've forgotten the answer, ask the question again. This always happens, because you have a lot to take in when you start a new job.
I'm aware that this article reads like communist propaganda: 'work hard and you shall be rewarded' etc. But I have found that doing this has lead me from one interesting job to the next, with good references each time. You really do enjoy working more when you put the effort in. And you'll get a lot further, too.
Hopefully, you now won't feel quite so stressed about your first job!
This article was first published in March 2008 and has since been updated.