Saturday, 18 January 2014
How to...Find a Job in London
Those of you that have followed me might remember that my history with job hunting has been both long and painful. Since I have now found a full-time job (yay!) I thought I'd share the few things I've picked up along the way - inside info from the battlefield might be useful to those planning to take on the adventure of trying to find a London job. As you keep reading, remember this Pinterest-worthy and somewhat cliché yet oh so true little quote: "I didn't say it was going to be easy. I said it was going to be worth it".
Lesson number one: if you're trying and trying for ages, really feel like you're doing your best, have tried lots of different options but can't seem to secure a job for a long time (although you've come close), chances are it's not you, it's them. It's incredibly difficult to find a good job in London, not because there aren't any, but because it's more competitive than anything you've ever imagined. Competition is a good thing - it brings out the best in you - but it can be demotivating and depressing to face it every day. Which brings us to lesson two.
Lesson number two: you will find a job. Maybe not right away (it took me a year and three months!) and maybe it won't be the job of your dreams - although chances are it will be pretty good anyway - but you WILL find it! And it's likely to be the stepping-stone to other things. So don't give up (and don't go home!) because the best is yet to come.
Now that we've covered the basics, let's get into the "how to" section of this, eh, how-to. Bear in mind that I'm no expert - I'm just someone who's managed to find a job. So here's what I've learned:
Make sure everyone has your CV. Recruiters, agencies, EVERY company you want to work for - even if they're currently not hiring - and every one of your contacts. I didn't apply for my current job - a recruiter that already had my CV sent me in for the interviews.
Point out achievements on your CV. Don't just put in a list of your tasks and duties - explain what you actually accomplished. They're big on results here.
DO NOT send out those God-awful "European" CVs. No one knows what the "European format" is here. Just write your CV in a clear, easy-to-read manner - and don't pay anyone to write your CV! You can easily do it yourself. If you're having problems, email me and I'll help you for free.
Write a very good cover letter. I mean a really awesome one. And yes - you have to adapt it to every job you apply for. Make sure you're not just repeating what's on your CV but really go into the details of why you're the perfect person for this job. As London is so competitive, recruiters tend to be very specific with skills and experience - highlight anything that might be relevant.
Go that extra mile. When I look for magazine jobs, I always include content ideas, even if no one asked for them. Being proactive in your applications shows that you'll be proactive on the job as well.
Always follow up. Always email the person you met with after the interview and thank them. It makes you come off as interested and enthusiastic.
Get good references. Make sure you have someone who will be a reference - when I first got my contract, the terms of employment were "subject to satisfactory references". In other words, if my references weren't to their liking, my employment was to go up in smoke. I don't know if companies generally stick to that rule, but make sure you have at least two references.
Keep it up. So you got rejected. I got about twenty rejections before I got a yes - that's 20 phone calls to my mobile or emails in my inbox saying WE DON'T WANT YOU, you're not good enough - all in that apologetic, "we're saying this nicely so you can't be mad at us" voice. The thing is, in the wonderful world of the UK job market, people tend to be...how do I put this nicely...overly professional. Meaning they will hide the truth from you and come up with a generic, trite excuse just to avoid conflict and come off as "nice". When they reject you, they always garnish it with "what a pity!" and "we're so sorry!". I call BS - if you really were sorry and if it really was such a pity, you'd have hired me. And guess what - there isn't always a "more experienced candidate" - I've seen "my" jobs go to people that were interns just yesterday. It's often a matter of personalities and personal preferences - so don't sweat the rejections. Get back on the horse right away and fire off a few applications...and then some more. And then? You guessed it - a couple more.
Dress a bit more formally then you normally would have. When you show up for your interview, the interviewer might be quite casually dressed (I've been interviewed by a female manager in a suit and pink trainers, one male manager wearing a floral-print shirt and one woman in UGG-like hairy boots) but that doesn't mean you are authorized to look like it's just another day on Old McDonald's farm. Dress quite formally to make a well put-together first impression. This is a case where it's definitely better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Please know what you want. I often get emails from people saying they want to come to London and find a job - then, when I ask them what they want to do, they're vague. The first step to getting what you want is to actually know what that is! One of the reasons you would be better off with a clear desired career path in mind is because you'll often get the famous "where do you see yourself in five years" question at interviews. And mumbling something about "being happy" isn't going to cut it. Neither will sending your CV out to random jobs that you have no experience in but they "sound cool" and "I could do that". It will just make you seem clueless.
Reach out. I cold-called GLAMOUR UK's Features Editor for advice and she was really nice and helpful. I have also contacted numerous other editors and writers asking for tips on how to get a job - and when I started my own magazine, I contacted lots of people that ran magazines and websites and asked for advice. They're all glad to help and usually give really good pointers. It's not intrusive or "weird" (unless you show up at their doorstep) - it's networking and making connections.
...and when all else fails, remember lesson two! No giving up and going home. Unless you really miss your mother. Then it's okay.
If you have questions, email me - like I said I'm no expert, but I'll do my best!