What employers really want
The first step is to make sure you understand what employers are looking for.
Each job you apply for will ask for certain qualities but there are also several general factors which can be applied to almost any job.
These include skills such as honesty and integrity, basic literacy, numeracy and oral communication skills, reliability and being hardworking and having a good work ethic. Other personal skills include having a positive, 'can do' attitude and being on time.
Working with other people and co-operation skills are also a must for most jobs along with being able to meet deadlines and punctuality.
These skills aren’t enough to land you a job but they’re a good starting point which most employers value above specific technical knowledge and skills associated with previous work experience.
What do you have to offer to an employee?
The second most important thing is to work out what you have to offer, and what you need to improve.
Your CV should list the main skills and qualifications you’ve achieved but you’ll also need to be able to recognise any weaknesses.
Job adverts will list specific requirements, so you'll need to explain how you meet them in your application and in an interview. These are also a good tool for working out where your skillset might be lacking. There is no point applying for something you’re not qualified for but you could consider some extra training.
Vision2Learn and Learndirect both offer a host of courses and Toastmasters is a non-profit organisation designed to help you hone your communication and leadership skills and improve your job prospects.
Improve your online reputation
The majority of employers will check your online reputation by Googling your name. They may also scan Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media profiles to find out more about you.
This is an area where many potential employees let themselves down. Go through every online profile you have and make sure there’s nothing there which will portray you in a negative light.
A rule of thumb is never to post anything you wouldn’t be happy with your Mum seeing.
It’s also important to have an up-to-date online presence and websites such as LinkedIn are a good way to find new jobs. Check your profile regularly and keep your CV updated so potential employers can see it.
In the increasingly competitive fight for jobs, it's important you can show a commitment to the career of your choice, and self-motivation.
Work experience is a great way to do this as it not only gives you an inside view of your chosen sector, it should also provide you with some useful contacts.
It’s also not just for new graduates asthose looking for a career change may benefit.
To make the experience work, you need to be motivated, confident and willing to do any job you’re given – quickly and efficiently.
But you shouldn't be exploited for your time. Our article Your rights in an unpaid internship has more information.
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