The New Year is the perfect opportunity to make a fresh start in your career, with many of us vowing to change jobs, get promoted or to negotiate a pay rise.
Taking a break over the festive period also gives you time to think about what you might want to achieve in the year ahead, but it’s easy to let those best intentions slide.
With nearly 750,000 jobs being advertised in the UK – an increase of 5% on last year, according to the Office for National Statistics – there is more chance than ever that you’ll land your dream job in 2016. So how can you decide on your next career step? Moneywise talks to the experts.
Research the job market
Start by doing some research into the industry, job role or company that you want to work in, but don’t let it take your focus off your current job.
As Kathryn Foot, head of customer success at Careercake.com, says: “Do not use your existing employer’s time to conduct your job search. You will want a good reference for future employees, so be professional to ensure this happens.
“Work out where you want to be, but be realistic. If you have worked in customer services all your life, it is unlikely that you can become a broadcast journalist overnight. To succeed in any interview, you need to be a good fit for the recruiting organisation; that means your skills and strengths need to meet their preferences.”
She also says you should consider roles that offer better opportunities for progress than in your current job, including money, flexibility, training and a better chance of career progression.
Improve your CV
When was the last time you updated your CV? If it was more than six months ago, then it’s likely that it needs a refresh. Take a look at your document and ask yourself if it reflects your achievements. If not, then it needs some work.
In today’s marketplace, competition for jobs is fierce. Kelly Adamson, managing director of recruitment agency Adept Professional Services, says that she will often receive in excess of 200 applications for just one vacancy. This means that candidates must “ensure CVs are fit to compete by focusing on what you do well rather than simply what you do”.
Foot adds: “You have 10 seconds to impress a reader with your CV. This means your good stuff needs to be on the first page and should be at the top. Your contact details should not take up a quarter of a page, so keep these brief. Your name should stand out, and underneath you should only include your contact details (mobile phone, email, LinkedIn and other appropriate social media addresses).”
She also emphasises the importance of having a ‘killer’ personal statement. She explains: “A brief statement that highlights your value, your customer and your unique selling point. If your personal statement starts with ‘I am a motivated, driven and hardworking person...”, then you have lost me already.”
Above all, when applying for a job it’s important to tailor your CV for the organisation and role that you’re applying for.
Foot says: “One size does not fit all. You are more than two pages of a CV, so make sure you get the chance to show this at interview.”
Get a pay rise
If you’re after a pay rise instead of a change of role, then it’s important to start by researching the market to find out if your salary is on par with other people in similar roles.
If you want to approach your existing employer about a pay rise then you will need to gather this information to make your case stronger.
Former teacher Lee Carpenter – now a recruitment consultant and director of supply teaching agency PK Education – recommends looking at salary surveys, speaking to recruiters and finding out how much people in similar roles are earning before you ask for a pay rise.
He says: “Always ensure, when making a request, that you can provide well-researched evidence or examples of when you have gone above and beyond, backing it up this way will give your request more weight.”
Additionally, don’t let envy get the better of you. Foot says: “If a colleague has let on she is earning more than you, then don’t start crying about how unjust it all is, refuse to speak to her again and then run to the boss demanding a pay rise; this won’t work.”
Indeed, it could be that there is a historical reason why a colleague earns more than you or perhaps he or she is on a different type of contract, or perhaps management simply feels that your rival is a better worker. Also, consider whether you are rushed off your feet all day or have down time – if it’s the latter it’s unlikely you will be offered a pay rise based on workload alone, especially if rivals appear to be working harder.
“Be clever, chat to a higher-paid colleague about her responsibilities and make mental notes that you can use in future discussions with the boss,” adds Foot. “They may have been working on additional projects, have a different skillset, or have added value to the business using their initiative and have been duly rewarded. Remember that you need to build a case that you can present to your boss.”
In short, do your homework, know the market and your worth and present it as a business case. Also, be diplomatic and be prepared to negotiate.
It is never too late to swap jobs and turn a passion into a career but you have to realistic, especially if you’ve got a family to support and/or a mortgage to pay.
Adamson says: “People will tell you you’ve got it great where you are and that the grass is always greener on the other side. What they don’t know, though, is what is best for you.
“Switching careers doesn’t have to be the daunting process everyone makes it out to be if you are organised and thorough with your search. With a dearth of skills, if you have transferrable skills or those that are in demand and are willing to train, develop and learn, then swapping careers is absolutely possible.”
Impress in an interview
Going to an interview can be daunting but it’s all about preparation, says Foot. “This is such a cliché but very true: ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. Know the dress code, how to get there, research the interviewers, the company, the role and the sector.
“Know who they are and what they do. You will have to do more than simply research the ‘About us’ section on the company’s website. Read the job description and person specification, understand the skills they are looking for and consider how you match their needs, drawing from recent examples.”
Foot also suggests grabbing a friend or family member to rehearse your answers on in advance, so that you sound natural and authentic. Always prepare some questions to ask at the end, but try to avoid obvious or typical ones.
Carpenter says: “Try to understand the ethos of the organisation you are looking to join. Show that you are knowledgeable about your industry and let your enthusiasm shine throughout the interview.
“Remember an interview is an opportunity for you as a potential employee and the employer to find out whether you are right for each so always ask sensible, well-thought-out questions at the end to ensure that you clear up anything that you are uncertain about.”
Do you need an online portfolio?
This is where cringeworthy recruitment industry lingo comes in, so brace yourself. Choosing to have an online presence is important for developing your personal ‘brand’ and something that most jobseekers can’t afford to ignore. Creating a website or at the very least a LinkedIn profile gives employers a quick way to check your work and see you in action.
LinkedIn is a social media website for professionals. Like Facebook, it allows you to create a profile. The aim is to connect with contacts and showcase yourself to potential employers – a bit like an online CV. The network also recommends jobs that are listed on the site, depending on your skills, interest and experience.
Foot says: “We all have a personal brand. You can choose to ignore this and let others define your brand or you can use social media to your advantage and control how you want to be perceived.”
However, it does depend on the industry that you wish to work in, as Carpenter points out: “If you are wanting to work within schools, you do need to be careful as your online presence can cause some issues. A good rule of thumb is to keep all social media accounts private and think before you post.
“Even if your profiles are private, always ensure that the comments or images you post are sympathetic to the nature of the industry you are in.”