There is a wealth of job-finding advice on the internet, but much of it is highly impractical: suggestions like ‘networking’ and ‘putting yourself out there’ are incredibly vague, and sometimes reading such advice will actually discourage you. Networking is for people who read magazines that tell us about things like LBDs (little black dresses), it isn’t for those of us who just want a quiet life with a normal job that pays enough to do the things we have to do and maybe even some of the things we want to do.
Luckily I’m here to help. Because I find myself reading a lot of job-hunting advice as part of my own job, I have become pretty sharp when it comes to filtering out the filler stuff from the true wisdom. Here is a popular filler item that often crops up on job-hunting pages:
Think about things you’re good at
This is absolutely terrible advice. Personally, you might be good at painting or martial arts, but this doesn’t mean you’re going to get a job that even marginally resembles either of these talents. In reality, few of us have the luxury of doing something we love, or are even remarkably good at. It is much more practical to think about the things you can prove you can do instead of thinking about the things you excel at. Plus, advice givers who dish this out tend to inquire about your communication abilities or time-management abilities. Now honestly, who of us isn’t good at communication? If you can speak English you’re good at communication. Who isn’t good at time-management when it’s essential to be so? I find I’m excellent at time-management the day before a deadline: I might be terrible at it the rest of the time, but who cares? Enough of the jargon: we are all able to manage time when it is required of us, and unless you’re struggling to speak basic English you’re adept at communication skills.
Time for Practicality
Because I hate advice like that, and it doesn’t tangibly do anyone any good, here is real advice for finding a job that is practical, and will actually help you get one if you persevere:
This can be a real pain to do, especially since nearly everyone advertises their job online these days. However, there is no substitute for face-to-contact. In order to do this, you need to spend one day driving or walking around your nearby town and taking note of all the shops you wouldn’t mind working in. There might be some clothes shops, some take-aways, some newsagents: whatever. Make sure you take notes of what’s what, like ‘3 take-aways, 2 newsagents’ etc.
Next: go home and type out (or maybe you already have one) a CV. If you don’t have a computer there is no excuse: go to your local library and book one, or ask a friend or family member if you can use theirs. True job-hunting is about swallowing your pride. Make sure that the experience and details outlined on each CV correspond with the job you’re applying for. In other words, customize your CV according to the industry: for the take-away job, you want to focus more on skills to do with cooking, hygiene, and working well under pressure. For the newsagents, experience in using a till and merchandising stock will be more relevant. Modify your CV in accordance with the notes you took while looking around the town.
Finally, go up town looking neat, well-shaved, dressed nicely but not in formal-wear (!) and go into every single shop that you pointed out on your initial journey. Every time you go inside each shop, ask to speak to the manager, and tell them you’re looking for a job. Hand them the CV, and even if they say they don’t have anything at the minute, make sure you express your enthusiasm about being contacted if anything comes up.
I guarantee you, do this often enough and someone will hire you. If you’re really industrious, you might even journey to the next closest town and do the very same thing. I have known many people who are struggling to find work, and yet I don’t know of anyone who has done this: except me. Going up the town like this was how I got my very first job, and the only reason I only did this once is because I never needed to again. This is because the universal law is that jobs seem much easier to come by when you’re already employed: bah! The universe!
Good luck, and no more excuses.
by Gillian Rixey
(Gillian is a PhD qualified freelance writer and scholar born in Ireland but currently residing in the United States.)