12 top tips to land your dream first job
When I leave school, I want to be a… did you ever really know what you wanted to be when you left school? It seems easy when you’re very young – children seem to have a never-ending list of future professions – mermaid, footballer, pop star, princess…
As you get older, you realise that perhaps these ambitions are a little difficult to achieve and so you start becoming more realistic. Thoughts of what you really might want to do start to come to the fore – a teacher, a doctor, a plumber. You study hard at school and then before you know it, you need to decide what you are actually going to do. Should you go to Uni? What about the army? An apprenticeship… oh – HELP!!!
Most of you reading this have made the brave step to go to University – and hopefully you’re enjoying the student experience. But – what next? Where will your degree take you? Do you want a job that is really relevant to what you have been studying for the past 3 years?
So the day arrives, you graduate, a proud moment indeed. But, help – do you know what job you want to do now???
I didn’t plan to start my career in Human Resources. To be honest I’d never even heard of it as a career choice. I also didn’t plan to work in a company specialising in student accommodation. It really doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you want to do.
However, what’s important is that you sell yourself to any future employer! So, here are my top tips for landing your dream first job.
Before you start...
- Write your CV! Your CV is your marketing tool and your opening to a future employer. Using a standard font, you should always type your CV. Start off with a profile that tells the employer a little bit about yourself. Then list any jobs in chronological order (paid or unpaid that you have done through Uni). List any positions of responsibility – if you’re a scout leader or volunteer – an employer will want to know that! Then list your school, qualifications and finally your hobbies. Keep your CV to 2 pages long and always use the spell and grammar check! Make sure you‘ve included your email address and a phone number. However beware using humorous email addresses – ‘dippychick@’ may seem amusing to your friends but what would a future employer think?
- Upload your CV to relevant job sites like Indeed, Total Jobs, Reed, Monster, CV Library. Register with a relevant agency if appropriate.
- Apply for relevant and interesting job roles by writing a good cover letter highlighting your skills against the job role and don’t forget to attach your CV. Never send a CV on its own unless specifically asked – that’s lazy!
- Practice, practice and more practice. If you look online you can find a whole host of interview questions that you might be asked. Ask your friends and family to help you out with a mock interview, especially if this will be your first one!
So, you have got the interview – what’s next?
- Make sure you have review your CV and the job description – and think about how your qualifications or experience fit the role that’s being filled.
- Make sure you have researched the company’s background. There’s nothing worse than interviewing someone that doesn’t have a clue about the company that you want to work for.
- Dress to impress. Make sure you know the dress code for the company you’re applying to. You don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. Make sure you don’t overdo the perfume or aftershave!
- Always arrive promptly. Lateness is unforgiveable! If you’re not sure of the journey, then do a dummy run first. Consider any potential delays to your journey – get an earlier train. And if disaster does strike – make sure you phone them!
- Greet your interviewer with firm handshake and a smile. Limp handshakes are not good – but don’t break their hand!
- It’s fine to accept a drink if asked – but you might want to stick to water rather than tea or coffee if you’re nervous!
- Remember body language. Don’t cross your arms. Try to match the interviewer’s body language. Maintain eye contact, use your hands and lean forward when making a point.
- Answer the questions asked of you. If you’re not sure about something it’s fine to ask and come back to that question later. It’s better to collect your thoughts rather than waffle on and regret it afterwards!
- Why should they hire you? Have at least three strong points about yourself that you can relate to the company and the job on offer. The job advert will usually list the qualities that they’re looking for so think of examples of how you demonstrate those skills.
- Be positive – the interviewer will be thinking what it might be like to work with you. Show energy and enthusiasm.
- Always keep a couple of questions at the end for the interviewer. They WILL ask you!
- At the end of the interview, ask if you have covered everything for them. Tell the interviewer why you are interested in the company and the job opportunity. Thank the interviewer for their time and ask for a business card so that you can follow up with an email to reinforce your interest. End the interview with another firm handshake and a smile!
Remember – first impressions count. Most interviewers decide on a candidate in the first thirty seconds of meeting them – Good luck!
Jackie Hudson is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development and has a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management. She is currently HR Director at Liberty Living Limited, where she has worked for 14 years.