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How to Be One Step Ahead in Your Jobs Search

01/01/2014 17:07 GMT | Updated 03/03/2014 10:59 GMT

Top Tips from National Careers Service

New research from the National Careers Service reveals that almost 40% of careers advisers have been contacted by job seekers or career changers about New Year resolutions.

Typically, the period between Christmas and the New Year is a time of reflection when people look back at the past year - assessing what they've achieved, what they could have done better and what they're hoping to accomplish in the New Year. From our experience, this is also a period when people start thinking about their career plans and jobs search.

With this in mind, we would advise people to start preparing for their jobs search now to be one step ahead of everyone else.

Below are some tips on how to kick off your jobs search now:

1. Interests and strengths

Whether you know exactly what you would like to do next or not, December is a good time to think about what you enjoy and what you are good at to ensure the job you would like to go into is compatible with your strengths. You don't need to limit this to your work life - by considering your hobbies and personal interests, you might uncover a hidden talent that you never knew you had, that you can use to gain new employment. You could also write a list of things that you aren't happy with, or if you're in employment, don't currently like about your job, to make sure that you can avoid falling into a career that heavily relies on elements you won't enjoy. Visit the National Careers Service to learn about different industries and the skills needed and take the Skills Health Check to see if you can uncover a hidden talent or find a dream job that you've never heard of before.

In early January 2014 National Careers Service will be offering a service called 'Here for You.' During this time the National Careers Service careers advisers will be providing video tips for finding the right job or career path for you. If you would like to see those you can do so by liking the National Careers Service Facebook page

2. Long term goals and objectives

As well as thinking about what you're good at and what you enjoy, it's really important to consider your personal long-term goals. Do you want to travel? Perhaps you've always dreamed of having a big family? Some jobs may look interesting now, but think long and hard about investing time and effort into something that may not be compatible with your long-term objectives. It may seem daunting to try and plan your life out, and of course things do change, but by being well prepared you may avoid finding yourself in the same situation in five years time or more.

3. Make an action plan

Once you're clear on what you want to do, put together an action plan of how to achieve your goals. Again, the National Careers Service can help, but in the meantime have a think about how you will get from where you are now, to that coveted dream job. Perhaps you need to re-train or re-locate? It is important to think about timings and your finances too.

4. Think about your finances

If you are out of work, have a look at your finances and make sure you are getting all of the benefits you are entitled to. Whether you're in employment or not, it is likely you will need to update your CV (more on that later!) and prepare yourself for interviews. Set yourself realistic targets and timescales for each task, so that your job search doesn't become stagnant and so that if you're out of work you don't fall into debt. If you are thinking of returning to education, you will most likely need to look at what funding is available to you, and whether you'll need to find a source of additional income whilst you study. The National Careers Service has loads of information on funding and finance.

5. Research

Once you have worked out the area you would like to work in, try and research some specific companies to get a feel for the places you might like to work. This is also a great opportunity to look at your chosen industry as a whole; you should take note of any big news, announcements or innovations happening in that field.

Look at all the routes to enter the company, graduate schemes, direct employment and Apprenticeships.

6. Build up a network

When researching different industries and companies, you may come across inspirational people who have done well in their careers. Perhaps these people are connected to you by friends, family or old colleagues and they can introduce you? Meeting people who work in your chosen new field can be invaluable for both identifying future opportunities with a company, but also for getting good, practical and honest advice and insights into the job you are interested in.

7.Are you qualified?

This is also the time where you should check that you have the relevant skills in place to gain employment in your chosen field. You may want to consider gaining a new qualification. This can seem daunting, but there is plenty of support available for every age group. Visit the National Careers Service website for more information on different training and education options, and for advice on funding and finance.

You might also want to consider doing an apprenticeship, which gives you the chance to earn while you learn, gaining a qualification whilst gaining valuable workplace skills and experience. Anyone over 16 years old can apply. Find out more at apprenticeships.org.uk.

8. Applying for jobs

When you've finished your research and you're confident you fit the criteria for the jobs you are interested in you will be ready to apply for jobs in January. It doesn't need to be as hard, or perhaps painful, as you might imagine. There are a few different ways to apply for jobs. You can search online for opportunities, on job websites, and directly on company websites. For apprenticeships you can visit Apprenticeship Vacancies to view vacancies.

It is also worth sending out speculative applications. This is where you get in touch with a company that isn't advertising any openings, to express your interest in them. Sometimes a company won't advertise a job, and some may even create a position if they feel the candidate is strong enough - don't miss out on an opportunity with a company you'd love to work for because they aren't currently advertising.

9. Prepare a good CV

Once you have decided what you want to do, and how you are going to get there, make sure you don't fall at the final hurdle and throw away all of your hard work. It's really important to have an up to date CV. A good CV should never exceed two pages, and be sure to check spelling and grammar - in fact, ask someone else to check your spelling and grammar too! It may be a good idea to get your CV in shape in December and then to tailor it to specific job requirements, once you start applying for concrete roles.

To ensure your CV is concise, only include relevant and recent experience. For example, if you have recently undertaken additional training or education, put this at the top of your CV. When you talk about your previous jobs, be sure to highlight your achievements rather than your duties - a prospective employer is going to be more interested in what you can do for them than knowing about what your job entailed. Make sure you tailor your CV to the job you are applying for, by highlighting your most relevant experience and interests. If you're struggling to write your CV, or you're not sure the format is correct, visit the CV Builder on the National Careers Service website for more assistance or call 0800 100 900 to speak to an adviser.

10. Prepare yourself!

Once you have completed and sent off your CV, you will hopefully have some interviews to attend and it is really important to prepare for these. It sounds like common sense, but you wouldn't believe how many people go into an interview woefully underprepared. Do your research on the company you're interviewing with, as well as some of their competitors, and have a line ready for general interview questions, such as what are your strengths and weaknesses and why you want the job. It's okay to be nervous and need a moment to gather your thoughts before answering a question, but these are things that you really should know already. It is also a good idea, if you have the time, to do a trial run from your house to your interview destination - be sure to arrive in plenty of time and well presented.

The National Careers Service is available to everyone aged 13 and over in England. It supports, encourages and inspires people at every stage of their working life by providing the right tools and advice on the right steps at the right time.

Through online tool, web chats and face-to-face advice, we help people to improve their job prospects and take control of their careers and working lives.

Contact the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900 seven days a week from 8am to 10pm or search for the National Careers Service online.

To find out about Apprenticeships as one route into your chosen career visit apprenticeships.org.uk or speak to the National Careers Service.