Whether you're a student, have recently graduated or are employed and considering moving on, looking for a job can take time - so focus on these essential steps to landing a suitable role

Graduating in 2021 will certainly be tough, as the UK labour market is still focused on recovering from the coronavirus pandemic - with those aged 16 to 24 having been particularly affected.

While the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that the unemployment rate for December 2020 to February 2021 is still high at 4.9%, the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) give young jobseekers cause for optimism in the months ahead, as revealed through its Student Development Survey 2021.

The ISE survey showed how many of the UK's top graduate employers are either hiring the same number of new recruits as last year or are even taking on more.

This means that a range of roles are available for talented graduates, but it's also likely that you'll face a highly competitive application process. Therefore, being well-prepared could be your key to success.

Read on to discover the steps you'll need to take to get a job.

Do this by making good use of the following resources:

  • careers fairs and events
  • GOV.UK's Find a Job service
  • jobs boards
  • local and national press
  • recruitment agencies
  • sector-specific websites
  • social media
  • university careers and employment services.

2. Gain experience

Once you've decided on the type of role you're aiming for, gaining some relevant experience will not only introduce you to the skills you'll need and help you to develop them, you'll also be proving your commitment to working in the area and making contacts as you go.

This experience can take a number of forms, including:

  • Internships - lasting anywhere from a few weeks up to 12 months, an internship is a fixed period of work experience aimed at giving students and graduates relevant experience in their field. Interns are classed as workers and are paid at least the National Living Wage - see GOV.UK - National Minimum Wage rates.
  • Volunteering - if you've got the time to spare, you could give your time to a worthy cause to develop your skills and learn more about working as part of a team.
  • Work placements - if a work placement is a compulsory element of your degree, it's likely that it'll be formally assessed through completing tasks and projects. If it's not compulsory, you can arrange your own by contacting employers to enquire about your options.
  • Work shadowing - by observing a professional in their role for just a day or two, you'll gain a valuable insight into what their work involves.

During the pandemic, virtual work experience replaced many of these traditional methods, but work experience and internship opportunities are becoming available again now.

For some more ideas, explore how to get a job with no experience.

3. Network

The saying 'it's not what you know, it's who you know' may spring to mind here. By making yourself and your ambitions known to those already in the industry, you'll be considered for future job vacancies or work experience opportunities.

You'll need confidence and a proactive attitude to approach employers, but try not to feel intimidated - they've all been in your position before and know how it feels.

You can start networking from home - your first point of call should be your friends, family and colleagues, before attending relevant events - discover how to make the most of careers fairs. You can also connect with professionals and organisations through platforms such as LinkedIn, if you're using social media in your job hunt.

This webinar featured in the Prospects Future You: Live event in November 2020.

4. Tailor your CV

Once you've found the role you'd like to apply for, prove you're the best candidate for the job by tailoring your CV to the role.

Be sure to include examples from your past experience that match the skills and experience listed in the job description. By doing so, you'll stand out from the crowd of candidates submitting generic applications. Consider the top skills employers are looking for.

You may also be asked to provide a cover letter, which acts as a more personal introduction. Go the extra mile by discussing why you want to work for the company - evidence of research and passion will go a long way.

Learn how to write a CV, and the top 7 CV mistakes to avoid.

5. Prepare for the interview

Receiving an invitation to interview may at first sound daunting, but taking the time to prepare beforehand will help you speak clearly and confidently, and leave the interviewer with a great first impression.

You can prepare in a number of ways. It's important to research the company and its achievements, as well as current affairs within the wider sector, but you could also plan answers to typical interview questions, and think about the questions you'd like to ask the employer.

For more advice on how best to prepare, whether you're attending a video, phone or face-to-face interview, see our interview tips.

Alternative routes

Although these are the steps you're likely to take in your search, this isn't the only way to find a job.

For instance, if you'd like to work for a specific company that isn't currently advertising a vacancy, you could contact them directly with a speculative application. This shows confidence and initiative, and even if there are no positions available you may be signposted to opportunities elsewhere.

If you've got the initiative, knowledge and passion to drive your ideas forward, you could consider starting your own business or becoming an entrepreneur.

Discover how COVID-19 has impacted on the self-employed and get a full overview of self-employment in general.

Another route to consider, if you're still studying, is to apply for a graduate scheme - many of the UK's largest companies offer them, in a range of specialisms such as finance, HR, healthcare, engineering and IT.

Top tips on how to get a job

  • Don't feel disheartened if you're turned down for a position, either at the initial application stage or after an interview. You'll likely be competing against a large volume of applicants. Get in touch with the interviewer or company for feedback to find out how you can improve for future interviews. Learn more about how to respond to job rejection.
  • Signing up for job alerts will save you time and introduce you to opportunities you may not have previously considered. The more detail you give as to what job you're looking for, the more likely you are to receive vacancy alerts which excite and motivate you. Sign up for job alerts with Prospects.
  • Register with recruitment agencies - they're well-connected and will put you forward for positions requiring your skillset. Building a good relationship with your job agency will help you land a role which is appropriate and satisfying.

Find out more

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