Category Archives: jobs

How to apply for your dream job…when your skills don’t meet the job spec

How to apply for your dream job…when your skills don’t meet the job spec

By Kirstie Brewer

Skills and job spec

You see your dream job being advertised but you don’t quite match the job specifications listed: should you still apply?

Eighteen-year-old Georgia Goodman faced this scenario last year when she applied for a digital marketing graduate scheme, despite having no university degree. Instead she had three months’ experience in marketing via an apprenticeship.

“I was pleased to be offered an interview and told that, although I wasn’t a graduate, my passion and experience working within the B2B sector is what made my employer change his mind about the position they were advertising,” she explains. Georgia is now a digital marketing assistant at the Nottingham-based company and has been funded to complete a vocational qualification.

“You have to be in it to win it,” says Becky Mossman, a HR director at HireRight. Ambition like Georgia’s is one of the key things that employers look for and as long as it isn’t a wild pipe dream, it’s commendable. “A lot of the time candidates have more skills and experience than they even realise, the struggle is often when it comes to articulating those skills in a meaningful way,” she adds.

“No one candidate is ever actually perfect,” points out Jon Gregory, editor of Any shortlist will therefore represent a spread of skills, qualifications and experiences and you could aim to fit on one end of that spread.

Highlight your transferable skills
If you’re short on specifically required qualifications, show that a combination of your other qualifications and experience are at least as good, if not actually better, says Gregory. What else have you done that brings along sufficient relevant experience? Where do you bring something unexpected and potentially very valuable with you to the organisation? It could be a relevant foreign language, or an extra qualification, for example.

Draw from your academic experience as well as your work experience and think about your transferrable skills, says Mohammed Rahman, business development and placements executive at London School of Business and Finance. He says: “As an example, customer service skills are needed in every profession and are important skills to have.”
He adds: “A lot of companies promote opportunities with requirements and would be willing to consider and take on people who do not meet all the criteria but have an open mind regarding how far they are willing to go to train and learn on the job.”

Make a strong case at the start – and don’t be negative
Make a clear, strong case in the introductory summary about your overall suitability, and at all costs, avoid drawing attention to your shortfalls, says Gregory. “One sight of those will switch the reviewer to a negative mindset, reading on only in search of further justification to drop your application into the shredder.” Don’t be deceptive, just selective.

Demonstrate that this is your dream job
“This is the application that has to hit the back of the net, nothing can be standard,” says Mossman. For example, if it’s a creative role, do something big that sets you apart from the field and makes the recruiter question whether the pure job description match is what they really need.

“If it’s really your dream job, then you should be able to make a clear case for why that is, and still come across as completely genuine”, she says. Think carefully about what skills you can bring to the table – they might be from a job you had five years ago, they might be from a sports team or hobby. If they apply, make it clear what you’ve gained from that experience, and why that’s as valuable as the tick box achievements that are on the job description.

Do your research – and remember they will do theirs too
Gregory advises that candidates research deeply into the company before compiling an application or tailoring your CV. “You need to show that you really do understand the role, the challenges, why this role is important to the organisation as a whole and what it is about you that makes you viable to shortlist for interview,” he explains. If you can, speak to the HR people organising the selection process and your potential line manager. The more you can engage in a dialogue with people inside the organisation and breed familiarity, the better.

While you do your research on the company, remember that the company might do research on you too. Perhaps most importantly of all, check your entire online presence to make sure the image you paint in the application is consistent across LinkedIn and your references, warns Mossman. “Otherwise, the hard work of wowing them will all be for nothing. “Employers don’t all admit to checking up on applicants via external channels, but it’s not uncommon for decision makers to use every means available to reassure themselves of their choice,” she explains.

And finally, remember: there are upsides to applying even if you don’t get shortlisted. Rahman says: “Remember, you have nothing to lose. If it is a dream job then it is worth the time invested in applying. It will act as a good testing ground for future opportunities.” Recognise that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, even if that’s only a list of what you need to work at for next time a role like that comes up.

Resilience: how to pick yourself up when you don’t get the job

Resilience: how to pick yourself up when you don’t get the job

By Kirstie Brewer


You’ve been applying for dozens of jobs with no success and have just got your third rejection email of the week. Picking yourself back up and ploughing on with the job hunt can be tough for even the steeliest of people. Here are some tips from resilience coaches on how to restore confidence after such setbacks, and ultimately prepare yourself for job success.

Remember, stress is caused by how we perceive a situation not the situation itself, says psychotherapist Rebecca Howard.  “We could choose to look at the fact that we haven’t got a job yet and it’s our third rejection as a negative – but all that would happen is our mindset would shift into a negative gear and take our resourcefulness and confidence down an unhelpful dead end.”

She advocates the NAC approach – Notice, Accept, Choose – a way of thinking which means we don’t get stuck with negative ruminating thoughts about how good, or not, we think we are.

Notice that you are experiencing thoughts of being fed up, down, angry or whatever it is that you are feeling as a result of the rejections. “In times of stress our thinking tends to polarise in rigid, ‘all or nothing’ positions, seeing everything in black and white,” explains Howard.

“The process of noticing its impact allows you to begin to step outside of it, almost as an observer, and acknowledge what is happening, which in turn releases you from the mind spending endless energy.”

Accept what has happened. Many of us will think, “Why is this happening to me?” but asking a negative question leads to a negative answer, Howard explains. “Acceptance is recognising that as human beings we experience emotions, such as disappointment, and it is pointless fighting them.”

Choose to use the negative energy or stress you are feeling as a result of your setback. Having connected with the motivation behind the stress, you can channel that energy in a positive way by asking, “What can I do right now?” and “How do I do it?”

Andy Cope, author of The Little Book of Emotional Intelligence, suggests that we come equipped with “ordinary magic” – an in-built ability to bounce back from adversity. It all comes down to your “explanatory style”, which is psychology speak for the way you explain to yourself why you’ve experienced an event – be it positive or negative.

If your reaction to a job rejection is, “It’s only a rejection letter, nobody died, let’s learn the lesson and move forward,” you’ve got an optimistic explanatory style. But if your response is to think, “Oh my gosh, rejection. It’s a disaster. I’m so rubbish. There’s no point applying for any more,” your explanatory style is negative. Clearly, the belief generated by your explanatory style directly affects your actions.

But as Cope explains, it’s possible to train your inner voice towards something more positive. He says: “It helps if you can learn to be your own best friend. On job rejections (we’ve all had them) I always tell myself, ‘Crikey, they’ve missed out.’”. Be your own cheerleader and champion and remember that all emotions have positive intent, according to Cope, even negative ones. “Despondency (feeling sorry for yourself) is temporary downtime while you renew your energy for whatever comes next. Which brings me full circle to your inner reserves of ‘ordinary magic’,” he says.

Geetu Bharwaney, author of Emotional Resilience advises speaking to your main supporters and champions in life and asking them what they would do in your shoes, after this job rejection, and follow their advice. “Know the difference between the people in your life who can provide you with intelligent input from those who are likely to impose unrealistic assumptions on you,” she says. Approach the people you respect and whose opinions matter to you. “Some people will tell you it was either the wrong job or the wrong employer, so this action helps you to keep things in perspective.”

Finally, take the time to review your life experiences and achievements so far and make a list of positive “I” statements – things you can do, your strengths and what you are good at. Bharwaney explains: “When you are going to speak to anyone about your challenges, including your close colleagues, remind yourself of at least three of these affirmations, so that you can stay grounded in what you are good at during the dialogue. This will enable you to be your best self despite the current set-back.”


10 Post-Brexit Signs that you need to dust off your CV

10 Post-Brexit Signs that you need to dust off your CV


10 Post-Brexit Signs that you need to dust off your CV

Nobody knows what the post-Brexit world is going to look like.  What we do know is that it’s probably going to be a bumpy ride.  While your career prospects may be sky-high if you happen to be a much needed international trade deal negotiator, career opportunities may be poorer if you are in one of the sectors affected by the European market uncertainty.

How can you judge whether your job is likely to be affected by the post-Brexit business climate?

Here are some early warning signs to help from Career Coach, Corinne Mills:

1. Watch the money

A pessimistic financial forecast for the business is often the first warning sign. The loss of a major customer or source of funding is another. If you start dealing with irate suppliers who haven’t been paid or your salary is late, then expect the worst.

2. The new project management team

When a new project management team is tasked to prepare for the post-Brexit business world, then make no mistake, your job is up for review and unless you can justify your worth, you may be heading for the door.  Be as helpful as you can while making sure that they know the invaluable contribution you make

3. Rhetoric alert

When corporate communications seem to be teeming with rhetoric about “organisational transformation” and “future visioning” be prepared for wholesale change and decisions on who is considered essential to the new “vision”

4. Investment decisions are halted

If that planned new call centre is halted, or technology developments are put on hold, then it’s a sure sign that your company is focused on being lean and protecting cash flow rather than growth and that may well mean shedding staff too

5. Side-lining

You start to find that you are not invited to meetings that you or your team would normally attend or there have been secret pre-meetings where everything seems to have been agreed in advance.  Classic side-lining!

6. You’ve been merged

If the plan is to merge roles and departments, to rationalise several sites into one or to integrate the UK operations more closely with their European counterparts then it’s likely to mean job losses

7. Boss suddenly becomes distant

If they seem increasingly reluctant to talk with you and get a funny look in their eye when you talk about longer-term plans, there may be something afoot. If they start wearing a new suit and disappearing in the afternoons (probably for a job interview), then maybe they’re worried about their own job too.

8. Justifying your role

You’re asked to write a report on what you do and your boss, who has been previously supportive, now seems to increasingly find fault. Are they trying to justify your exit?

9. The “ringer” recruit

A new member of staff joins your team. Your manager seems curiously vague about what they will be doing but wants you to show them around and shadow you for a while. A helpful addition to the team – or your replacement?

10. Handover procedures

You are asked to write a procedures manual so that while you are on holiday or “just in case you fall under a bus”, someone else will be able to take over. If this happens alongside the “ringer recruit”, they have your replacement ready.

Your post-Brexit Career Action Plan

Your post-Brexit Career Action Plan

Your post-Brexit Career Action Plan

Everyone is waiting to see what the post-Brexit job market might look like and how it might affect the economy, businesses and career prospects.  While the temptation may be for individuals to sit tight, hunker down and hope for the best, it’s more important than ever that you proactively look after your career interests so that you can make the most of any opportunities that present themselves and mitigate any risks.

Here are some tips to help from Career Coach, Corinne Mills:


  1. Be prepared to sing your own praises

Many people find it difficult to talk about their achievements and the contribution they have made but in a post-Brexit world where many organisations may be reviewing their staffing needs, it’s essential that you can articulate clearly how useful you are to the organisation.  Find opportunities to subtly slip in reminders about the successful projects you have run, the problems you have solved, the indispensable relationships you have built, so that it’s very clear what an asset to the organisation you are

  1. Position yourself as future-focused

Most organisations are having to deal with the changed economic and political landscape and the current uncertainty it brings.  They will need staff who can rise to the challenge, manage their anxiety and those of others including staff and customers, and show real leadership and composure for the way ahead.  Make sure you present yourself as someone who is equal to the complex challenges ahead rather than bemoaning the difficulties otherwise you could find yourself side-lined and on your way out

  1. Update your skills and knowledge

You need to be bang-up to date with developments in your field so that your organisation has complete confidence in your expertise and credibility rather than looking further afield.  Take advantage of any training and development at work, attend conferences and sector training events.  You might even want to brush up your foreign language skills

  1. Dust off your CV

Yes, dig out that old version of your CV you wrote before getting your last job and give it a revamp.  Chances are that you have a whole heap of new achievements that you can include to make your CV look more impressive.  Use a book like “You’re Hired! How to write a brilliant CV” to show how you can match your CV to prospective employers needs and ensure that it doesn’t get mangled in the new digital software used by most recruiters and large companies

  1. Complete your LinkedIn profile

If you increase your visibility to potential recruiters, then more opportunities will come your way and then you can consider whether they are worth jumping ship for.  Remember that your LinkedIn profile like your CV is meant to be a very positive portrayal of your capabilities, not just a copy of your job description.  Include a nice business appropriate photo and then start building those LinkedIn connections with ex-colleagues and business contacts because this increases the chances of you hearing about other roles

  1. Talk to people

Get out and about and start talking to people outside of your immediate business circle.  Go for coffee, accept the invitation to that trade forum meeting or Chamber of commerce event so that you can build and refresh business relationships.  You need to spread your net far and wide and make sure that people know you and your professional capabilities so that you are in their minds when they hear about a suitable opportunity

  1. Research your options

It’s still very early days but some sectors are likely to be harder hit than others post-Brexit for instance certain financial services roles and construction projects.   If this is the case in your sector, then you may need to think about your options.  Organisations where its customers are predominantly non-EU are likely to be less affected by the uncertainty.  The Civil Service, many trade bodies and organisations are going to need to build their internal capabilities to deal with and advise on the post-Brexit scenario so there may be growth there.  It’s projected that with a weak pound the UK holiday market may grow also.  If you can also demonstrate that you have skills and experience in areas such as international business, change management, business restructuring, dealing with expats, international recruitment, project management etc then you are more likely to be hireable in a fast-change, internationally focused business environment

  1.  Have a strategy for different scenarios

You need to think tactically about how you are going to position yourself at work to take advantage of any potential opportunities and dampen the risks.  Equally, it’s essential that you are ready to go to the job market if needed and that you can present yourself as an attractive a candidate as possible in what is going to be a tightly competitive field

  1. Help needed

You will need a sounding board to help you in this, whether this is a specialist career coach who can help you navigate your way through this potential minefield, or a mentor or trusted colleague whose advice you respect.  If your role is unfortunately made redundant, then definitely ask for some outplacement help from your company where they will pay for a career coaching firm to help you.  It’s very useful in a buoyant market but essential in a difficult one

  1. You can do it!

This is understandably an anxious time for many people and the lack of clarity is unsettling.  The best antidote is to take action where you can, following some of the suggestions in this article, and do everything possible to shore up your self-esteem so you are in good shape for the challenges ahead.  Remind yourself of your achievements at work and in life, the difficulties you have overcome and the resilience you have shown in the past. We may not yet know what the new post-Brexit future holds, but we have survived a number of recessions in the not so recent past and emerged the other end.   I’m sure we will all survive this one too!

How to make turbulent times work for your career

How to make turbulent times work for your career

 By Lawrence Wakefield

Melting ice caps

The world in 2016 is an uncertain one. Britain is leaving the EU, and no one seems to know what that will mean. A bonkers billionaire is about to become president of the United States, and no one seems to know what that will mean either. In the news there’s talk about a climate apocalypse, robots of the future stealing all our jobs, and as if that wasn’t enough, the dependably brilliant John Lewis Christmas advert isn’t even that good this year.

As a job hunter or career ladder climber, you might worry about what all this means for you (other than a few less tears in the commercial breaks over the festive season). The signs don’t look great: job adverts fell by 700,000 following the Brexit vote, nearly half of all jobs are at risk of automation in the not too distant future, and Trump’s victory has brought instability to the UK’s financial position. But some evidence shows there may be reason to be optimistic, and the good news is that there are steps you can take to help weatherproof your career against any brewing storm.

“It’s true that political volatility can unfortunately translate into job market chaos,” says Cheryl Simpson, a career and job search coach. While noting that  “it’s too soon to tell at present” how recent events will affect the job market, she believes it’s becoming increasingly clear that workers need to do a more proactive job of managing their careers — whether they are currently looking for work or not.

But how do you go about job searching, nurturing your career, or even holding onto the position you’ve got in such unpredictable times? Here are some ideas:

Specialise — but generalise too
When it comes to staying employable in a precarious jobs market, should you go all in on becoming a specialist in your field, or keep your field of opportunity as wide as possible by becoming a jack of all trades? The answer may lay in doing a bit of both.

“It really depends on the job,” says Dr Harry Freedman of the “In a technical job, you should try to specialise around core tech skills and keep up to date with new technologies in your specialist field. In a people-facing job, you should try to broaden your skills to make them as valuable as possible to the widest possible audience.”

Sofie Lundberg, content executive at graduate job site Milkround, agrees that it’s important to consider the kind of work you want to do, but adds that a well rounded range of ‘soft skills’ will stand you in good stead, whatever your career goals may be.

“A well-developed skill base has become a key requirement for many top UK employers,” she says. “Candidates should look into which skills are requested the most by their preferred employers and then strive to add them to their skill-set.”

Become indispensable
Once you’ve dazzled a potential employer with your spread of soft and technical skills, how do you go about making sure your position is safe when the going gets tough? Redundancies may sometimes be unavoidable, but, according to Lundberg, there are things you can do to ensure your name is at the bottom of the list when it comes to making cuts.

“Be reliable. Ensure that your employer knows that you keep time, that you attend meetings prepared, that you will complete a task you have been given,” she says, adding that you should also not be afraid to suggest ways things could be done differently. “Don’t just highlight what should be changed, offer solutions. This shows that you not only have a sharp eye, but that you take charge and strive to improve both yourself and the company.”
For Freedman, it’s about realising what you bring to the company that no-one else does — and building on it. “Understand what you uniquely offer the employer and play to your skills,” he says. “And make sure that your achievements are recognised — without bragging!”

Be ready for robots
Political uncertainty aside, there is also the ever looming threat of fast-improving tech that could pave the way for automation to replace all of our jobs in years to come. According to Oxford university economists Dr Carl Frey and Dr Michael Osborne, 40% of all jobs are at risk of being lost to computers over the next 20 years. But according to Freeman, it might not be time to panic just yet. “Computers were supposed to usher in an age of leisure but we are all working harder. Robots are likely to do the same,” he says.

However, Simpson is more cautious, and suggests taking steps to robot-proof your career. “Workers who take the time to invest in the right credentials, develop superior people skills, and broaden their skills base are much less likely to be displaced by a robot, no matter how sophisticated it might be,” she says.  Lundberg adds that some sectors are more at risk of automation than others. “I don’t think we will be seeing a robot lawyer any time soon!” she says.

Keep calm and carry on
Ultimately, uncertain times don’t have to mean armageddon for your career, but as Simpson suggests, it pays to keep an eye out for trouble and expect the unexpected. “Monitor your employer’s financial health and your industry’s overall well-being so you can see the writing on the wall that unwanted change lies ahead,” she says, adding that by consistently networking and working on your skills you’ll be ready to find a job before you’re even thinking of looking for one.

While everyone will face potential challenges over the course of their working life, Lundberg says you shouldn’t worry too much about hypothetical dangers. “It is impossible to protect yourself against every circumstance that may or may not come true,” she says. “The job market will always swing up and down – a career can last 50 years!”

Is Career Coaching worth the cost?

Is Career Coaching worth the cost?

The voice on the phone wants me to draw a picture of Where I’m At. I’m baffled. Where I’m at, at that moment, is in the kitchen trying to extract a tissue that’s just been through a hot cycle with the children’s school uniforms. “No, where you’re at in life,” explains the voice. “In your life Right Now.”

That’s the point when I begin, briefly, to panic. I’d volunteered to submit myself to one of the UK’s leading career advisers, Corinne Mills of Personal Career Management, partly because the idea of talking lengthily about oneself to a captive stranger is always agreeable, and partly because jobs in newsprint are looking increasingly precarious. Flexible work that permits you to appear twice a day at the school gate is elusive, and recently I’ve found myself assuming my professional future will be bound up with a Tesco checkout.

Mills tells me, helpfully, that where she is, Right Now, is juggling her career with housekeeping and her picture shows herself waving a duster like somebody drowning. I realise, surprised, that I’m perfectly contented with my life as it is now; it’s the fear of unbidden change that alarms me. I ponder a composition involving me dangling smugly in a well-cushioned hammock, a precipice yawning below. Then I start to fret about vanishing points and chiaroscuro. Mills, evidently clocking deep-seated neuroses before we’ve even met, suggests I concentrate on identifying my skills from an alphabetical checklist.

I’ve never had much time for counselling. Skilfully done, it can be an essential prop and motivator, I don’t doubt it, but giving myself a good talking to in front of my husband’s shaving mirror should, I feel, be enough to align slewed perspectives in my own privileged life. Nevertheless, I’m slightly excited as I arrive at the Buckinghamshire mansion that PCM shares with a commercial insurance broker. I have hopes that Mills will delve into my moribund CV and extract unperceived treasures that will open vistas and ease me through calamity.

“Love Monday Mornings” it says on the doorplate and on the walls inside. The receptionist leaps from her chair with a firm handshake and well-trained eye contact. There is a forest of buffed and polished foliage in the waiting area. This place is all about affirmation.

In a bright meeting room Mills begins with a glance at the homework she’s set me. This is not a good beginning. The A-Z of skills, from conceptualising to quantifying, adapting to winning, has unnerved me. I discover I do not know myself. It’s far easier to define the skills of one’s colleagues than one’s own and I’ve agonised over whether, if push came to shove, I could “assemble” or “certify” or “finalise”. Almost randomly I’ve ticked “articulating”, “sorting” and, with memories of that shredded tissue, “coping”. And, of course, “writing”, the only concrete skill I feel I possess to earn my keep.

I feel the need to apologise for the fact that I’ve ticked any skills at all. It seems presumptuous, un-British. “Don’t be self-effacing – this is all about playing to your strengths because recruitment isn’t about who is the most talented, but who appears to an interviewer to be most talented,” says Mills. “People tend to focus on the negatives and take the positives for granted.”

This is surprising because a large part of her clientele are lawyers and financiers who are weary of wealth without the leisure to spend it in. But even they, it seems, are vulnerable to self-doubt when it comes to leaving the familiar and marketing their assets elsewhere. “People don’t come to us because they want any job, but because they want the right job,” says Mills. “What we offer is a confidence-building process.”

The gift of self-confidence is a pricey one. A full face-to-face course, which identifies desires and options, details job search strategies and hand-holds through the process of applying and interviewing, costs up to £4,500, although Skype sessions and a programme for new graduates are cheaper alternatives. The investment seems sound, since PCM’s statistics show that 83% of clients find jobs that appeal to them and 11% set up their own businesses. “A lot of career advice companies look at your CV,” says Mills, “but don’t analyse who you are as a person, your needs and aspirations.”

Who I am as a person remains nebulous, for my career has never required a written CV and I have left the sheets on Identifying Your Achievements largely blank. A memory surfaces about saving a couple’s wedding day through my consumer help column, but mostly my 20 years in journalism have melded into a pleasant blur. It’s now that Mills’ skills are unleashed. She asks me to recount my job history and pounces when I start with leaving university. “Which university?” “Cambridge”. “So why didn’t you say so?”

I sketch my early years on the now defunct European newspaper, explaining that I edited a wine column when I never drink wine and took charge of the Arts section when I knew nothing about Arts. I’m about to add how this miraculous deception ended in redundancy, when Mills pounces again. “Evidently,” she says, “you are used to having varied niche things flung at you. You’re adaptable.” We write down “adaptable”. Even the redundancy is turned into an asset. Mills considers my adrenalin-powered overtures to rival newspapers proof of Rising to the Occasion and we write it down.

Over the next two hours Mills tells me nothing that I didn’t know – I just didn’t know I knew it. It’s the act of describing one’s career history to an attentive listener, with the skills to decode it, that is so unexpectedly illuminating. I’m happiest listing my defects; she seizes them, inverts them and turns them into saleable virtues. I tell her that my career is largely down to luck. “There’s no such thing as luck,” she retorts. “It’s what you make of opportunities.” It’s delightful to think that all those random openings I’ve attributed to good fortune could be down to my own skills in disguise.

With more time she would have helped build these skills into a seductive CV and schooled me in self-marketing. As it is, she instructs me to establish a website to showcase my newly identified wares and to nibble cocktail sausages with influential people. I explain that the latter is impossible. I’m no good at networking. How then, she asks, have I managed a seamless succession of media jobs? I confess that my secret lies in tea bags. I’ve always kept colleagues well irrigated and they remember my efficient waitressing when I’m needy.

Mills snorts. “Willingness, caring, empathy, good personal relations …” We write them all down and ring them with marker pens so that my career history dances inspiringly before me in a pattern of rainbow coloured circles.

Heading home I feel freshly invented and equipped to embrace the adventures of middle age. The session might, or might not, secure me a fulfilling professional future, but it’s made me evaluate the past in an encouragingly different light. I’m even tempted to pay a few grand to hear more. But, right now, I’m off to a mirror to see if my newly translated self is visible to the naked eye.

How to approach a career change… and secure your next job

How to approach a career change… and secure your next job

By Holly O’Mahony

Taking a leap of faith into a new career

According to career change statistics, the average person will change career five to seven times during their working life. Whether your career goals have shifted, your values have changed or you’re just ready to try something new, navigating a career change can be a daunting prospect. Here are some expert tips on what to consider when embarking on a career change, and how to secure your first job in your chosen profession.

Understand your motives

The first things to consider when planning a career change is why you want to make it and why now’s the best time to do it. “Timing is everything, because it takes commitment, energy, focus and dedication to make a successful move and you need to be 100% ready to commit yourself to this process,” explains Evelyn Cotter, founder of career coaching company SEVEN.

Andy Mountney, founder of Aspen In-house recruitment agency, agrees. He believes it’s also worth reflecting on what you may be giving up. Cautioning against pursuing a career change in order to escape from your current situation, he adds: “Consider what you are getting out of [the move]…will it fulfill you in terms of job, life and earnings?”

John Lees, a careers expert and the author of Knockout Interview adds that it’s important to be positive about your reason for change. “No employer wants to hear that you want a new role because you hate your old one,” he says.

Build up a network of contacts in the field

Perhaps you’ve been applying for umpteen roles in the sector you’re looking to break into, without hearing so much as a peep back. According to Lees, written applications are often not the doorway into a new career. In fact, you’re likely to have more luck networking. “Talk to people about the work they do,” advises Lees. “This helps you find out whether you’d like it, but also gives you the right terminology,” he adds. Mountney agrees, pointing out that meeting people face-to-face puts you in a much stronger position to ask for advice. “You might just find a mentor or sponsor for your new career,” he says.

“Reach out to people in your network… set up coffees, go to meet-ups and networking dinners, and get in front of people,” advises Cotter, suggesting adding any courses you go on or networks you come across to your LinkedIn profile, to help make you more visible.

Cotter also recommends sending a follow-up thank you note after meeting a new contact. “Include a thoughtful link or something you spoke about and know they’ll find of interest,” she suggests, while Lees recommends having a short upbeat statement to hand about why the career you’re aspiring towards fascinates you. “If you want to make a career change people need to remember you and recommend you,” he adds.

Weigh up the pros and cons of unpaid work experience

Perhaps you’re a journalist, looking to land your first job on a national title. Whether or not you’ve been paid for your writing, having a piece published on the title you’re hoping to write for will not only boost your byline, but could prove a great asset to show an editor, if you apply for a paid position there in the future.

Cotter recommends initially trialling your career move as a side hustle or parallel career – whereby you have more than one profession on the go – to test it. “It’s the level of research needed before making a life-changing decision,” she explains.

Assess your transferable skills, then highlight them on your application

“Make sure your CV and covering letter show [your] skills which match the role, even if your background is unconventional,” advises Lees. Cotter also recommends this: “Pull apart the job spec and highlight the keywords, competencies, traits, skills and language being used,” she says. “Then pull apart your experience and achievements and match them up.”

Mountney recommends writing a short profile at the top of your CV outlining your experience and why you plan to change career. Your cover letter, he says, should complement your CV and focus on why you want this particular opportunity you’re applying for as part of your career change. “If you have anything relevant to the career change such as training or academic qualifications, make sure they are visible early in your CV,” he says.

Over-prepare for interviews

Conducting some thorough research on the company you’re interviewing with could be the crucial factor that sets you apart from other candidates with more experience in the field, explains Mountney. Once in the hot seat, “focus on the questions you are asked rather than saying what you want to say,” he adds, recommending candidates prepare questions to ask in their interview that are relevant and show a genuine inquisitiveness about the role.

Cotter suggests focusing on how you would go above and beyond to improve or add value to the business. “Show your passion for the industry, passion for the organisation, and find connections between what you’ve done in the past and what you can do here,” she adds.

“If you’ve got an interview, you are doing well,” points out Lees. “Emphasise that you’re really eager to move into the new sector, you’re informed about it, and add that you’re a fast learner,” he adds.

Celebrate your unconventional background

“Rather than apologising for your unconventional background, celebrate it,” advises Lees. “Talk about the ways your experience and skills are not only different but add something unusual to the mix,” he adds.

“Come up with a compelling elevator pitch around what it is you want to do and how you feel you could add value,” advises Cotter, pointing out that showing commitment and being a good cultural fit for the organisation are often more important than having prior experience in a similar role.

Be persistent and give yourself time 

“Set yourself a research project to find organisations that fascinate you and people that work in them,” advises Lees. Once these are  identified, work out who’s approachable and allow conversations to develop from there.

Whether you’re just beginning to think about changing career, or you’re already in the throes of looking for work in your new field, Cotter recommends working with a career coach. “You will learn so much about yourself in the process and gain practical tools, techniques and mindsets that will benefit you for the rest of your career,” she says.

Finally, try not to lose hope that your career change will happen. “It may take a lot longer and a lot more applications than you had ever imagined just to get that first shot,” points out Mountney. “So start building your network today.”

Should you pay someone to write your CV?

Should you pay someone to write your CV?


In a recent live Q&A, on switching between the public and private sectors, one of the panellists said: “Getting someone else to write your CV for you, especially a CV writing business, is a mistake. I would always want to see how you describe yourself, rather than someone else do it for you. Professionally-written CVs look generic and sterile and do not create a good impression with the reader.”

In my view, the belief that the individual is the best person to write their own CV is not always true. Although many people can write their own CVs, and do it well, others struggle with a variety of problems; such as incorrect English, not knowing how to structure a CV and not knowing how to best highlight their most relevant strengths.

Through in-depth consultation, a professional CV writer can help identify the key achievements and skills necessary for a particular role or sector, cut out unnecessary or irrelevant details, and pinpoint what makes the individual stand out. This level of objectivity is one of the major benefits in working with a professional writer. It’s often difficult to be able to stand back from your own career history to assess what’s relevant or not, or to choose the most appropriate qualities.

If you do choose to work with a professional, here are some tips for working with a CV writer:

Be prepared to invest your time

You’ll probably need to answer an in-depth email questionnaire or be interviewed before any writing actually starts. The more information you can give your CV writer to work with, the better, so the promise of a quick turnaround time isn’t always going to result in the best possible CV. Take the time to think about your career aims, your past achievements, and the value you bring, before you start the whole process.

Your CV will probably be used as a springboard for questions at interview, so you need to make sure you feel happy with the way it’s written and with the choice of words. Being involved in the writing process means your CV sounds authentic.

Look for experience in your field

Ask for a CV writer who has industry experience in your sector. HR professionals and recruiters with relevant experience can also have valuable insights into what companies are looking for.

Choose a professional writer

The UK CV-writing market is not regulated as in the USA, where the letters CPRW (Certified Professional Resume Writer) indicate that the writer is a trained professional. This means you’ll need to do some research and shop around to find someone with the appropriate writing skills. Look for someone who’s prepared to take the time to unearth your core accomplishments, choose exactly the right words for maximum impact and who understands what and where to edit. Ask to see before and after samples of their work or use personal recommendations before you choose a CV writing service.

Keep an eye on the extras

Most professional CV writers will happily make edits to your CV, although often within a specific time-frame. Some offer other benefits too, such as ongoing support or follow-ups and interview coaching, so always ask.

How to get your job application shortlisted

How to get your job application shortlisted

Have you ever applied for a job which you thought you were perfect for, only to find you’ve not been called for an interview? Perhaps you dealt with your disappointment by rationalising that the competition was simply too great, or by fuming at the employer’s failure to recognise your capabilities.

It’s certainly true that it’s an exceptionally tough recruitment market and that recruitment processes are rarely faultless. However, when I talk to individuals in this situation, I usually find that there are two other reasons which explain why they have been rejected.

Either their application simply failed to demonstrate sufficiently why they were such a great candidate. Or they misunderstood the job, and they weren’t as good a fit as they thought they were.

Here are some tips on how to avoid this by uncovering what an employer is really looking for when they post that vacancy — and how to prove you are their ideal candidate.

Matching the job requirements

First, print off the advert and use a highlighter pen to underline all the candidate selection criteria. This forces you to consider whether you meet every requirement rather than ignoring any gaps.

Once you are sure you meet the main criteria, drill down into the detail of the job. Most employers will supply a job description and a list of essential skills and competences for the role. Go through each selection criteria to check if you have good examples to show how you match their requirements. For instance, if they are looking for someone with people management experience, you will need to be able to show how many staff you have line-managed in different roles, the different teams you have worked with, performance management activities, and other issues.

Your examples should detail not simply that you did these things, but that as a result of doing them there were benefits for the organisation. It’s not enough to assume that just because your job title has the word manager in it that this will be considered sufficient evidence of your people management skills.

Uncovering the hidden requirements

Occasionally, employers offer a named contact you can talk to in order to find out more about the job before you apply. Always take this opportunity if it is offered. If it’s not, try to find someone you know who works in your target organisation, or is one of their suppliers or competitors. You need to find out more about what it is like to work there and how it operates.

Look closely at any information you have been sent by the company as well as their website and marketing material. How does the organisation talk about itself? Does it see itself as traditional, creative, entrepreneurial, ethical or as a centre of excellence? Is the language it uses very formal, relaxed or full of jargon?

If you can pick up clues about the culture and self-perception of the organisation, then you can use language that is reflective of this within your application, making you seem more of a natural fit. For instance, if the organisation seems very dynamic and fast-paced, then describing achievements that talk about multi-tasking against tight deadlines or which showcase your initiative and energy may be particularly helpful.

What if you don’t meet all criteria?

If you meet the majority of the criteria but not all – but you’re convinced you could do a great job for them, then it may still be worth sending an application in. However, don’t try to ignore any obvious gaps. You could try some of the following strategies instead.

• Identify ways in which you could easily bridge any gaps: “Although I do not currently have Sage experience, I have extensive payroll database experience and have enrolled on a Sage course for next month.”

• Highlight transferable skills: “Although I have not worked in account management before, I have always worked in customer-facing environments where relationship management was essential.”

• Use extracurricular experience and show your keen interest: “Although I do not have direct experience of working for a charity, I am actively involved in volunteering for a large environmental charity.”

Corinne Mills is Managing Director of Personal Career Management, an outplacement and career coaching company who are the official Career Management partners for Guardian Jobs.

How to use social media in your job search

How to use social media in your job search

How to use social media in your job search

Most employers and recruitment agencies today are using social media to source the right candidates, which means it should be a big part of your job search strategy.

On-line social network sites have become an essential forum to advertise your skills

and allow you to establish your social brand, network with people online, identify job opportunities, and turn those leads into real-life job opportunities.

Your CV is normally only seen by those to whom you have either sent it directly, or by recruiters who have paid for access to the candidate database of a recruitment website, so

by using social media sites in your job search you can increase the visibility of your professional profile and be seen by the wider world. It puts your skills and experience into the public domain and provides opportunities to network online with professionals from all kinds of different employment sectors.


LinkedIn can be a valuable tool in your job search as businesses, recruiters and head-hunters will use LinkedIn to search for candidates for particular jobs and then approach them directly.

If you are actively job searching it is essential that you have an up to date LinkedIn profile.  Your LinkedIn profile is pretty similar to writing an online CV. However, the digital technology aspects of LinkedIn, offers some other useful features including Endorsements. Companies often use positive feedback from customers to persuade other potential buyers. LinkedIn takes this idea and allows you to include personal testimonials. Ask people you know, whether it is your manager, colleagues, customers, suppliers or friends to write a few positive words about your work capabilities on your LinkedIn page. You can make suggestions for the kind of thing you would like them to write. But the fact that another individual has taken the time to write positive things for and about you will be viewed by others as an indication of credibility and authenticity.

LinkedIn is not a replacement for a conventional CV but it has become a very useful, if not essential, complement to it. If you are, or aspire to be, in a professional role then you must join, as recruiters who receive your CV will check to see if you are also on LinkedIn. If you are not, they will assume that you are either technologically outdated or perhaps have got something to hide.


Twitter is a public platform for people to post and exchange short messages. People use it to interact with other people or organisations they find interesting or useful, including attaching links or photos that they want to share with their Twitter community.

Businesses use it to promote their services, expertise and entice people to visit their website.  When using Twitter in your job search, be professional! Twitter is a very informal medium but do remember that if you are trying to attract the attention of recruiters and others in your field, then you must represent yourself in an attractive and professional light.

You don’t have to tweet yourself – you can just follow companies or topics and retweet. You can use your own tweets to show your interest in a particular career and tweet about current affairs in the sector you wish to work in.

Your Twitter profile should include a professional looking photo, an appropriate bio and a link to your CV, LinkedIn profile or website. Twitter is much more informal than LinkedIn or conventional CVs, but you should not underplay your skills and expertise.


In April 2016, Facebook reported that they had 1.59 billion active users. This astonishingly successful social networking website allows users to create a personal profile, add other users as friends, and exchange messages within its community framework. You can also join groups, organise events and share photos and videos.

Although it’s a very informal medium and largely used by people for connecting with friends and family, it is increasingly being used by organisations for more commercial reasons. Many organisations use it to communicate with staff, customers and the wider public sometimes to get their comments and views. Some companies are also using it to recruit and vet potential candidates. On Facebook the boundaries between the personal and the professional can be very blurred, so make sure that you are always aware of what information about you can be accessed and by whom.

From a career perspective Facebook can be useful as it’s an easy way to ask your personal connections for information and advice about your career or job search and can also provide a resource of information on both individuals and companies. The informal nature of the site, and its interactivity, means that you can often obtain information and communicate with employers in a way that may not be possible elsewhere.

A word of warning though!  While social networking sites present excellent opportunities for recruitment, it also means that employers, both current and prospective, have become extremely sensitive to their employees’ web-presence.

Before you post any information in your own name on the web, consider whether you would be happy to have this information published in a national newspaper where your family, friends, current and future employers could see it. If not, then change it.

Here are some of the benefits of using social media in your job search

  • You can apply for advertised roles easily and quickly
  • You are more visible to recruiters who are using social media to advertise their jobs and source candidates
  • You can build your network and engage with a wider audience across multiple social channels
  • You can create positive PR by presenting testimonials, endorsements and presentations of your work onto your social media accounts, blog and/or website
  • You can speak to recruiters, head-hunters and prospective employers throughout your job search by engaging with them across all channels in real time

Here is a summary of our top tips:

  • Ensure your social media profiles state that you are actively job seeking and the type of role you are interested in, make sure you use keywords so recruiters can find you
  • Follow relevant companies and individuals in your industry or network
  • Get involved in LinkedIn Groups related to your industry and let me know the type of role you are looking for
  • Initiate conversations with individuals and companies on any interesting topics related to your industry
  • Keep your personal updates and professional updates on separate social media accounts