Hunting for professional opportunities should be a positive and exciting process. The opportunity of putting our academic interests and achievements into practice (and the potential of earning a real wage) is motivating, and undertaking placements, grad-schemes and internships seems like the logical step during university. But sometimes it can all become a little less uplifting. It’s already spring and time’s running out, there are countless assignments due, exams are looming, and everyone else and their dog seems to have got something. Hunting for work is a pressurising experience, but it doesn’t need to continue being a negative one. Here’s some tips for staying motivated and finding something great.
1. It sucks, but you don’t.
By now, you’ve probably had a lot of it. “Unfortunately, you were not successful…”, “The exceptional standard of the candidates…”, “We’ve decided not to progress your application” …however they’re phrased, all these emails read the same to me. It can be difficult not to take rejection personally, but it’s important to remain positive and learn from each experience. Psychotherapist Rebecca Howard says it’s our perceptions of situations that cause stress, recommending the ‘NAC approach’ when rejection strikes. Also, take time to reflect. What did you learn through writing the CV/ covering letter/ supporting documents etc.? How can this be used to support another submission? As HR for feedback on your application.
2. When life gives you lemons…
Use your resources. Family and friends in the industry, ex-employers, Leeds-exclusive jobs. Using your contacts can provide the necessary support needed to escape the vicious ‘you can’t get experience without having any experience’ cycle. It’s important to make the applications yourself and not ask someone else to do it for you, but obtaining key names and having some inside knowledge can be really helpful. It also makes your application more personal and memorable.
3. And when life doesn’t…
Grow your own. Not all jobs are advertised, and by this time of year, deadlines for major companies have passed. Be proactive and directly contact companies yourself to express your interest in working for them. Prospects.co.uk suggest speculative methods can be particularly important in the ‘charity, design, environmental and media sectors…’, where they are more common practice. They also suggest that even if you don’t succeed, your proactive approach could make you memorable for the future. Search for employers, state clearly why you want to work for them/ what you can do for them and follow up with an email after two weeks. If you don’t ask you don’t get.
4. Do something different.
Back to the CV drawing board. You’re great, but you keep getting rejected so you may need make some changes. We’re familiar with the doom-and-gloom, broken-record rhetoric about competitiveness and saturation of the jobs market. Everyone has a degree, so it’s important applications have something special. A good way of making yourself stand out is attending networking events, and at Leeds, WILSOC events cover a range of industries, and the Business and Media Schools also offer options (see Facebook and university website). Alternatively, getting unpaid/ voluntary work in the sector you’re interested in is really important. It shows dedication, and that you won’t be entering the workplace as a complete beginner. These experiences also give you more to discuss in interviews.
5. Dealing with pressure, prioritising time.
University alone is pressurising enough. When coursework and revision is on the agenda, it can be hard to prioritise time. I’m constantly asking myself whether applying for placements is worth sacrificing my studies for, and whether I can really dedicate worthwhile time to submissions. Ultimately, these are unanswerable questions, and how much time you choose to allot depends on you. It can be difficult not to feel pressure when it seems like everyone else is getting onto programmes, but it’s important to retain perspective. Remember, no one’s bragging about the schemes they haven’t got onto. Three of your friends may have just succeeded, but you aren’t the only one in the world who doesn’t have anything yet. I think that when applications start taking a toll on our grades, as well as our mental health, it’s time to take a step back- not forever, just temporarily. When ready, take time to studying and application schedules. Be smart and strict.
When it comes to job-hunting, remaining optimistic, motivated and open-minded will go a long way in supporting success. Maintaining confidence during the process is just as important as doing all the extra-curricular stuff, and with dedication and positivity, you will find something. Be proactive- learn from every experience, keep knocking on doors, and use all the resources Leeds Careers Centre have to offer. There’s a reason this process is tough and it’s teaching some great lessons to support future career-building. You can do this!