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Dublin: 10°C Wednesday 23 June 2021

Careers clinic: What are you actually doing to get a job?

Jobs may be scarce on the ground – but they still exist. Here’s how to do everything you possibly can to find the job you want.

Image: Job post-it image via Shutterstock

A FEW WEEKS in and already talk about New Year’s resolutions is showing a certain lack of, well, resolve, if not being avoided altogether.

However, if I might be so bold, I’d like to suggest a final resolution to any job-seekers who believe there are no jobs in Ireland: Get your finger out! Just because you can’t find one doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They do. In good times or bad there are always employers with vacancies to fill.

There. That got your attention, didn’t it? But before skidding off to spit bullets at me in the comments section, hold fire a moment, would you? I’m not saying job-hunting is easy. Clearly it isn’t these days.

But then again neither is unemployment. It’s debilitating, tedious, and boring. It’s also a situation without hope if one pays too much attention to the doom and gloom merchants wittering variations of: “Man the lifeboats! 15 per cent of the workforce is unemployed!”

Yes, there’s a jobs crisis but what about the remaining 85 per cent? What are they doing? Working of course. And which figure are you hearing for the first time? And which would you rather have when negotiating a crisis? Clear direction? Or gnashing of teeth?

Without wishing to diminish the challenge of securing a job, I regularly meet people who do succeed. It may not be their dream job, or even one they particularly enjoy, but that’s not the point. The point is they’re out earning every day and no longer gripped by a suffocating lethargy caused by poverty and isolation. More importantly, having a job often makes it easier to find another one.

Conversely, I also meet people who say they’re doing everything possible to find work. While I don’t claim to have all the answers, it’s been my experience that this everything rarely stands up to scrutiny. All too often it’s confined to daily scanning of newspapers, online jobs’ boards and company websites containing fewer and fewer vacancies, while at the same time being scrutinised by an ever increasing number of competing eyes.

Aside from severely restricting one’s job search, relying on such a strategy reinforces a belief in the ‘no jobs – why bother’ myth. If an employer has a vacancy to fill, surely they’d post it on their own website if nowhere else?

Not true. In a recession many employers only advertise vacancies if they have trouble finding suitable candidates and/or they’re legally obliged to. Otherwise, they can afford to rely on word-of-mouth referrals and/or direct speculative applications for the most part.

So, what can you do to increase your chances? Well, my advice would be to take the verb ‘hunting’ literally and widen the net by sniffing out this so-called hidden jobs markets.

“Oh, I never thought of that,” is the standard to reply to suggestions someone might look beyond their qualifications, find a potential demand for other skills they might have, and adapt their CV accordingly. Occasionally some further training might be necessary but not always.

Take Tracy for example. Tracy’s not her real name but that doesn’t matter.

What matters is that she’s a qualified and experienced photographer who returned from the US to live in Ireland six months ago. Sheer lunacy when you think about it but she had her reasons.

Here’s what Tracy did to help herself in a jobs market containing zero demand for photographers:

  • Skills for sale: Aside from photography, Tracy had other valuable skills she could offer ‘for sale’– bookkeeping, diary management, client care, Adobe Photoshop etc., acquired fulfilling the dual role of receptionist/photographer’s assistant from her time working in a busy New York studio. Moreover, as part of her communications degree, she had fast, accurate shorthand and typing.
  • Duplicate CVs: Having identified these additional skills, Tracy created two CVs – one focussing on office management/secretarial/client service experience, the other on photography. She then spent a few days bringing her typing and shorthand speeds up to par before successfully registering with a temporary office staff employment agency, for which she began getting regular assignments almost immediately.
  • Word of mouth: Meantime, having updated her website, Flickr and LinkedIn accounts to showcase her photographic skills, Tracy is actively promoting herself online, as well as contacting photography studios offering herself a freelance assistant photographer.

One of the reasons Tracy’s story resonated with me is that a few years ago I found myself in a similar situation thanks to a divorce. However, I had two things Tracy doesn’t have: A baby daughter and a 13 year old son. Sourcing suitable childcare for my daughter was one thing, but who was going to care of my son then erupting into his teens? Eh, that was down to me and me only.

The only solution I could see was finding a part-time job within school hours or working from home. Oh, how employment job agencies laughed when I contacted them. Either way, I still needed to feed the financial drains and keep an equally expensive mortgage over our heads.
To cut a long story short, as a published writer with typing, researching and proofreading skills, and what with necessity being the mother of invention, I wrote to all the solicitors in my area offering myself as a, well, freelance typist, proof reader, and researcher. Other potentially more lucrative service offerings did occur to me but frankly I wasn’t in the mood.

As luck would have it, I started getting regular work from one solicitor, who referred me to other solicitors, which ultimately led to securing the perfect morning job assisting a semi-retired barrister. And where did I hear about this vacancy? From my first client who also acted as referee.
I wonder, will Tracy’s story end in a similar fashion? I certainly hope so. And if it doesn’t, it won’t be for the want of trying I’ll bet.

Elizabeth Hutcheson is a career consultant with www.SliNuaCareers.com, who offer CV preparation, interview training and mock interview services. They have offices in Dublin, Galway and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. For a free CV health check, email getthatjob@slinuacareers.com with ‘CV Health Check’ in the subject line.

(Looking for jobs image via Shutterstock)

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About the author:

Elizabeth Hutcheson

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