Dave Hilton, one of our Employment Advisors at the Forces Employment Charity, who served in the Royal Artillery for 22 years, explains how to get yourself ‘job ready’ this January.
With January comes a period of the year when job searching is easier, as organisations actively seek new talent. As the new year stretches ahead and organisations kick into gear post the holiday hiatus, January is the perfect time to consider your next career move and begin your job search.
However, job searching can seem a bit of a daunting process, especially if you are a Service leaver and haven’t worked in a civilian job for a prolonged period (or ever), if you haven’t moved jobs for a number of years, or if you’re planning a career change, such as seeking a different role or moving into a new industry.
When Sandra signed up with the Forces Employment Charity, the biggest challenge she faced in her job search was that she had spent ‘24 years in the same company since leaving the RAF, and for the first time ever I left a job before I had my next one.’ Sandra worked with one of our expert Employment Advisors who provided her with networking advice, introductions to organisations, confidence building, CV preparation and interview technique support, to help her find her new role.
We’ve put together some top tips to help make your job search less overwhelming, more focused and time-efficient. Job searching can be an exciting time, as you consider your next steps and see the numerous and exciting possibilities open to you.
Define what you want
‘When I started looking for a new job I really didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. Then I was introduced to Karen from the Forces Employment Charity who made me realise exactly what I have to offer and why someone would want to employ me.’ – Marsha, ex-RAF
Before you start looking, ask yourself what you want. Breaking it down can make it more manageable to understand what you are looking for in your next role.
Is there a particular industry you would like to work in? Do you want a managerial or senior position? Do you want to manage people? What are your salary expectations?
Consider your current role
Looking at your current situation and evaluating it can also be useful. Are there elements of your current role that you enjoy and would like to replicate in a new role? Conversely, what do you dislike in your current role and would like to move away from? Are there any skills you would like to explore and learn? Or do you have current skills you would like to exercise further?
Locations and organisations
Think about organisations and environments you enjoy working in, or would be interested in working in. Are there particular values or priorities within an organisation that you’re looking for? Are you drawn to working for a larger corporate company, or would you prefer to work for a smaller organisation, or even a start-up?
Following the shift in working following Covid-19, many employers are offering greater flexibility, enabling you, the candidate, to have greater choice over how and where you work.
This shift in the world of work has given rise to other practical considerations including your working requirements and environments. For Sandra, when she secured her new role with the support of the Forces Employment Charity, she found that the role had a positive impact on her life, with her working life being more relaxed with much less time spent traveling in addition to her working hours.
You may have similar considerations regarding the location of your work. Consider the environment you work best in. Do you want to work from home, or do you prefer a hybrid model? Are you seeking a more practical role that will need you at your workplace every day? Do you want to travel for work – and how does this suit your home life and other commitments?
It is also worth knowing that as an employee you can request flexible work hours, as long as you have worked for the organisation for more than 26 weeks. Although it’s not mandatory, the employer must give due consideration to the employee’s request – but if this is something you know you would like from the outset, incorporate this factor into your job searching.
Make a list
It might help to jot some of these ideas down. Consider what you’re looking for, and what aspects of a new role are non-negotiable for you. It doesn’t have to be hugely specific at this stage – this will be enhanced and may even change as you begin researching, but having some ideas about what you do and don’t want will provide you with an initial roadmap to navigate your job search.
You can contact the Forces Employment Charity at any stage in your job search for support, but if you have some ideas about what you want, convey these and your expectations to an Employment Advisor. They will be able to give you facts about employment within specific sectors or about specific roles, and will help you identify whether you require any extra training, so you can find a role best suited to you.
Once you have thought about what you would like from your next role and organisation, then begins your research.
If you have a particular role in mind start looking at job specifications across different companies that appeal to you, to see how the role can vary between different organisations and what the expectations are. You can also speak to an Employment Advisor at the Forces Employment Charity about the variations between different roles. Understanding the job specification will provide you with a checklist of how your own experience meets the criteria, and if you need to do anything more, such as training or upskilling, in order to secure that role.
Company and culture
Whether you have a specific role in mind or not, start researching companies within the sector(s) that you would like to work in. Look at company websites to understand more about them, what they do, where they fit within an industry, and also to start learning more about the company’s culture and values, and whether these would suit you.
It can also be useful when researching specific companies to notice their industry jargon and type of language. If you are interested in a specific company, it will put you in a stronger position to work with them if you have an understanding of some of the sector and organisation-specific language. You can also view the organisation’s vacancies online, although be aware that not all jobs are publicly advertised; if you don’t see a role that suits you, it may still be worth getting in touch with the organisation.
An organisation’s LinkedIn profile and other social media accounts, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, also provide useful insights into what the company does and their general ethos, outlook and tone. How the organisation chooses to present itself to the world is a useful indication of the sort of company they are, and will enable you to start determining what it would be like to work there. You can also look at senior staff profiles on LinkedIn, such as the CEO’s, to see what they are posting, what they are talking about and what their online presence is.
For more statistical information and to see the company’s future goals, their positioning within the sector and their aims and scope, look to the organisation’s annual report, their strategy and their long-term plan. This will provide you with an indication of what the organisation has already achieved and what their ambitions are. The majority of good companies will have this information publicly available, and if not then this can be something you ask once you start networking.
The thought of networking can make some people feel uncomfortable. However, if you break down what networking actually is – having conversations with people in the sector that you want to work in, and asking them questions – it can feel less intimidating. The more people you connect with and talk to, the more you will understand how the sector works and what opportunities are available.
There are three main ways of recruiting. Candidates can be headhunted, they can be advertised to (for example, listings on job boards), or recruiters can go directly to candidates (and often these jobs aren’t advertised at all). The latter is all conducted via networking, and hirers are looking for people in their networks to speak to about new roles. Combine this with the surprising statistic that approximately 70% of all jobs are gained through networking, and that the more senior the role the greater this percentage becomes, then we start to draw a picture of how important creating your own network and making new connections can be. Plus successful networking can considerably shorten your job search.
There are a few ways to start networking. You can network virtually via email, telephone, or LinkedIn. You can meet new people at events, such as sector-specific business conferences, which are often advertised on LinkedIn. The Forces Employment Charity hosts a variety of events both online and in person which can help you build your network. Or you can arrange a face-to-face meeting with a new contact.
To network effectively, research the people you want to connect with. These can be people who are currently working at an organisation you are interested in finding out more about. Ask them about their organisation, particularly if you have questions that your research did not answer. If you want to find out more about the industry in general, then strike up a conversation about it. You could also start a conversation by asking for advice and guidance on your job search.
After any kind of networking, whether it is face-to-face or an exchange of emails, it is good practice to keep a record of who you met and what they do and what you discussed.
You can find out more about networking here.
LinkedIn is a brilliant tool to help you network and build your community, and has become one of the main platforms for organisations to advertise job opportunities. Many hires are made directly via LinkedIn, so it’s an especially useful platform to have whilst job searching and networking, and is a profile you can keep updating and using throughout your working life.
The platform has a wealth of information about different industries, employers and trends. You can see what organisations and their people are talking about, plus you can contact people on the platform via direct message.
Here are a few tips when creating or updating your LinkedIn profile:
- Keep your profile up to date with a recent profile picture. It is always good to have a profile picture as the contacts you make and meet through the platform are more likely to remember you, and if you do meet them face to face, will recognise you.
- Use the experience section of your profile to talk about your previous roles. Ensure that the information you provide matches up with your CV.
- Spend time building your network. Start by adding family, friends, colleagues. Then start reaching out to new people in organisations you are interested in to find out more about or working for.
Finding extra support for your job search
At the Forces Employment Charity, we’re here to support you throughout your career and job search. Many of our expert advisors have military backgrounds and empathise with the specific challenges that Service leavers, veterans and reservists can face when job hunting, and can provide tailored support to suit your particular job search. They will coach you through the process of job searching, preparing your CV, interviewing and accepting a job offer.
Wherever you are on your career journey, and whatever you are looking for as your next step, the Forces Employment Charity is here to support you.
‘I was amazed by the support and professionalism of the Forces Employment Charity and cannot praise them enough.’ – Sandra, ex-RAF, found a new full-time role with the support of her employment advisor at the Forces Employment Charity.
What happens when you register
- Once you have registered with the Forces Employment Charity one of our Advisors will be in touch to find out more about your current situation.
- Your Advisor will carry out a ‘needs assessment’ which will help them understand any barriers to employment relating to issues such as health, housing, or debt. If any additional needs are identified, your Advisor will then be able to refer you to other organisations that can provide the relevant support.
- Our Advisors can then help develop your employability to present you to employers in the best possible way. That can involve advice on what to apply for, how to find work and develop a good CV, interview skills, training, etc.