How to make yourself job ready

It can be a shock to start work after full-time education. But as thousands of students leave school, college and university, now’s the time to get in practice

By Tim Gibson

As the summer beckons, students up and down the country are preparing for the end of their time in education. Undergraduates will be nervously eyeing degree results. College students will be preparing for A-Levels or vocational assessments. Younger pupils will be wrestling with GCSEs.

    “It can be a major shock to start work after years in education,” says Ellen Dalena, a consultant at Just Recruitment...  

For many, this period spells the end of their time in education. Once the final exam is sat or the last piece of coursework submitted, they’ll head out to the big wide world, hoping to find a job that makes the best use of their talents.

We’ve written elsewhere about the best way to spend your time while looking for a job and about finding the right opportunity for you.

But how do you get yourself ready for the lifestyle change involved in moving from full-time education to a working environment?

“It can be a major shock to start work after years in education,” says Ellen Dalena, a consultant at Just Recruitment Group Ltd who specialises in first-time appointees. “Although it’s by no means a walk in the park to be at university, college or school, you tend to have more flexibility about your time, and fewer expectations about things like what you wear, when you take breaks, and even when and where you work.

“The nine to five can come as something of a surprise if you’ve grown accustomed to the flexibility and informality of student life.”

The trick is to start building routines into your life even before you pick up your first job. “I always advise candidates who are leaving education to start behaving as if they’re already working while looking for the right opportunity,” Ellen continues.

“Set an alarm and make sure you’re up and ready to leave the house by 8.30am. Dress smartly, rather than slopping around in joggers and a hoodie. Eat a proper breakfast and do something proactive. You may spend a couple of hours visiting recruitment consultants to register your details. Perhaps you’ll do some internet job hunting in a cafe. Or simply spend the time reading the news and engaging with the world. That’ll ensure you have something interesting to say when you’re interviewed.”

Another tip is to identify gaps in your CV and use the time before you start work to fill them. “I’m always happy to give candidates advice about the things they need to do to enhance their employability,” says Ellen. “The most successful candidates are those who ask how they can sharpen their skill set while job hunting. They show a hunger for work and a desire to improve their profile.”

    “Set yourself some projects that are relevant to the sort of job you hope to secure,”...  

Ellen Dalena also says you can use the time before starting work to get in the right mindset.

“Set yourself some projects that are relevant to the sort of job you hope to secure,” she says. “For example, I had a candidate who wanted to work in a manual role. While he was looking for the right opportunity, he decided to make wooden garden furniture that he could sell to friends, deliberately working a seven-hour day in his dad’s workshop.

“The benefits were twofold: he had a bit of money coming in while he looked for work. But more importantly, it got him into the habit of working throughout the day. When he started his first job a month or so later, he was accustomed to early rises and long days. It all felt perfectly natural to him.”

A further benefit of being proactive is that it sends a positive message to employers. “A common complaint among employers is that younger people don’t have a good work ethic,” reports Ellen Dalena. “If you can go into an application process with evidence of your motivation, diligence, and general get up and go, you’ll immediately stand out from the crowd.”

So there you have it. You may feel as if completing your studies is a liberation. But if you want to find the job of your dreams, it’s when the hard work really begins.

Published: 6 June 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

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