When you have never had a job before, or you want a job that’s in a completely different industry to where you are now, it can seem impossible to get to the career path that you want. I was once in this position; I always thought I was too young or too inexperienced. I have only had a few jobs in my short lifetime. I started from being a waitress at a couple of places to working as a solutions engineer, which is my current position. Here are some things from my experience that have helped me, or that I wish I had done earlier on.
Make a good CV / resume.
The first step to getting a job is to stop making excuses and just start writing. Try to make everything relevant to whatever positions you are planning to apply for. The employer likely won’t be impressed if you put something about doing well at school if it’s a customer service position. Make sure there are no typos, and try not to make grammatical errors. Include what you have been doing recently. If you have been out of work for more than a couple of months, be prepared to explain what you have been doing in that time.
There are plenty of sites out there that will help you create a good CV – I think it’s good to look at them for reference, but if you write everything down straight from your head, it will look a lot more authentic and less like a copy/paste from the Internet.
Tip: if you have no referees, write that you will supply them on demand. You can also ask tutors/teachers/lecturers who know what you are like in class.
Take every opportunity.
Okay, so you have started writing your CV, but you haven’t had a job before. What do you write?
Employers want to know one question: can you do what they need you to do?
If you have no skills whatsoever in the field that you want to apply for, it’s time to start developing yourself. At my high school they provided a few courses for students, which I never took and wish I had taken – barista, hairdressing, first aid… They even helped the students to create CVs. No wonder I felt like I couldn’t get a job! I wasn’t even trying to improve myself at the time.
It’s also a plus if you know how to drive. Many jobs require that you have a driver’s license, or at least a stable way to commute to work. Get your license early on.
The easiest way to get a job during or after university/college is to take on an internship – that’s what I did (getting good grades will be a big bonus here, aim for B’s at the least). If your employer likes your work, they may extend your contract, or keep you on full time.
How did I get my internship? Part of it was my friends. One person linked me to the application form, and told me to apply. I didn’t think I would get hired, but I thought, what the heck, and I went for it.
Opportunities can be created by your friends. If they know that you have certain skills, they will be more likely to tell you when there is a position opening up at their workplace.
In the short run, making connections and maintaining them may seem like a waste of time. If you’re an introvert, hang in there. You don’t have to go partying every weekend to make friends. Join clubs, or take a sport – make sure that you meet people somehow. Even if you’re out of university, you can take courses in your career of interest and you’re bound to find like-minded people. In the long run you will thank yourself for going out of your way to socialize with others.
Apply, apply, apply.
Start looking for jobs as soon as possible. Don’t be swayed by the fact that you have not have had many jobs before, or that you don’t have many referees, or that you feel like you do not even fully qualify for the job. Sometimes that’s just imposter syndrome, and you actually are capable of doing what is required. If not, you can learn when you’re there.
At the interview.
Depending on the role, you may have up to three interviews. The first ones will most likely be based on your skills – what did you say you could do in your CV that you can actually do? Are you actually at the level that you described? If it’s a technical job, make sure to brush up on everything you think someone in that position will need to know. Know what the position is about, and what the company does. If this is not an entry level application and your prospective boss thinks you just want it for the sake of having a job, they’ll be likely to rank you lower than others that have also applied for the position.
It’s not only about what you can do – it’s about whether the employer likes you. Do they think you will fit with the rest of the company? Be friendly, polite, confident, and most of all, positive. No one wants to work with a whiny or depressed person – if you are asked about challenges, you need to avoid complaining. Show the employer that you aren’t bothered by challenges and that you can get over things. If the employer likes you and your attitude, you’re more likely to get hired.
If you need a job straight away – no time nor money for taking courses or getting a degree – and you have no skills in anything, you may have to settle for an entry level job. Your best bet will be job search websites. Trawl through everything and make an application. Once you get that job, you can develop yourself in your spare time to get the career that you truly want.