After graduation, a holiday and a short stint studying abroad, it was about time I got a job. And so began the search!
I quickly fell into a role as a Sales Administrator through a friend of a friend. I knew it wouldn’t be permanent, but I also knew after about a month, that I disliked everything about it. I saw my friends succeeding in their graduate schemes and moving to big cities and felt completely left behind. After six months of feeling sorry for myself, my dad gave me some valuable advice; ‘No one can get you out of this job but you.’
In my last year of university, I joined all the job mailing lists: Milkround, Prospects, Reed, Guardian jobs, you name it I was signed up to it. I also attended careers advice meetings and workshops, but browsing the never-ending list of various different roles only made me feel more unsure about what I wanted to do and even more lost.
To overcome this feeling, I broke the task of getting a new, better job into three steps:
Step one: Perfect my CV and cover letter
To get things started, I contacted the Career’s Office at Essex and submitted my CV and cover letter. They were returned thoroughly ripped apart – in the best way possible. Together, Dee from the Careers Office and I re-built them to create a robust template that I could alter for different applications.
Make sure you reach out to bodies who can help you, even if, like me, you graduated a while ago.
Step two: What do I want to do?
I hadn’t got a clue.
I was looking at everything from government jobs to marketing to teaching English as a foreign language abroad. These roles each had only one thing that attracted me. Working in government meant that I would be a part of something that was change-making. For marketing, I was attracted to the pay. For teaching abroad, I was attracted to working abroad, not to teaching! This fits in with a concept I recently learnt about; the Hedgehog concept, in which a job needs to fulfill three key areas: your passion, your skills and provide you with an acceptable wage. These jobs only fulfilled one of these areas each.
The hedgehog concept is based on an ancient Greek fable that describes a conflict between a fox (a jack-of-all trades good at everything) and a hedgehog (who does one thing well), with the hedgehog winning.
(Jim Collins, Good to Great – Simplicity in Three Circles)
For me, my passion is to be a part of something change-making and global. What I am best at is writing and analysing, and I needed a wage that I could live on straight away.
I’d encourage you, if you’re struggling with narrowing down your search, to complete one of these diagrams yourself, if only in your mind. It might help!
Step three: Applying and applying and applying….
I was applying for jobs for around 6 months. It can be tiring. It takes time to tailor your CV and cover letter for each employer, as well as filling in the dreaded online forms. It was a real struggle to keep motivated, but in a way, disliking my job as much as I did WAS the motivation.
Be prepared for the long haul, and don’t be afraid to seek help. After a few months of no interviews or feedback, I contacted a local recruitment agency. They found me lots of roles, and I got several interviews under my belt and with each one I felt more confident. I then started to get some job offers, which is when I learnt that it’s okay to say no if it doesn’t sound right for you. An interview works both ways, and just because the job is offered to you, it doesn’t mean you have to take it. Find your hedgehog concept and don’t settle if you don’t want to!
After months of interviews, rejections, polite refusals, searches and application forms, I found a job advertised for a Philanthropy Executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK. I hadn’t considered looking at the charity sector, yet this job meant I’d be part of a global change-making organisation, required me to write and analyse, and pay was ‘negotiable’; my hedgehog concept had been found! I have now been at ARUK for 18 months.
Although I’m not at the top of my career, I am happy and have found something I enjoy. I feel I can be the best version of myself both in the workplace as well as in my personal life.
Don’t give up, don’t settle, expect hardship and frustration and lastly, remember that it’s all in your control.
If you’ve graduated and need a bit of help, or you’re not happy in your current employment, you can still access careers support from Essex. You are also now part of the alumni community – one of almost 95,000 alumni across 150 countries. Get involved to make the most of the support this offers.