When it comes to dispensing careers advice or job search tips, everyone’s an expert. Or so it seems. No wonder today’s crop of graduates feel confused.com when it comes to separating the good from the bad….and the very, very ugly. Now, I’m certainly not going to claim a monopoly on common sense and career wisdom, but I think some of these are ripe for review…
1) Follow your passion
How many times have you read this before?
Whether attributed to Confucius (unlikely) or Harvey Mackay, (US Businessman and purveyor of pithy sound bites) this maxim has become careers gospel. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the sentiment: if you can find congruence between who you are and what you do, then you’re more likely to feel fulfilled, motivated and….happy. If you find a job you love, great. But the problem with the ‘cult of passion’, is that it enslaves jobseekers to the idea that they MUST do what they love to find career satisfaction. And that’s quite a limiting proposition.
I came across a blog which perfectly encapsulates the modern careers conundrum: how the search for your life’s work can actually make your working life miserable. Or worse, stop you finding anything at all. If nothing quite measures up to the utopian ideal, how on earth do you get your career off the ground?
2) Embellish your CV
There is a very fine line between enhancing (Oxford Dictionary: intensify, increase, or further improve the quality, value, or extent of) and embellishing (Oxford Dictionary: make a statement or story) more interesting by adding extra details that are often untrue). Spot the difference?
You might think the chance of being shortlisted is worth the risk of exposure – others have rolled the dice and won. A few series back, the winner of BBC’s Apprentice happily defended his creative truth-telling, and Karren Brady (does anyone spot a theme….?) also confessed to CV inflation, by falsely claiming a degree. What’s a little white lie you might ask? After all, self-promotion is key to career success. But that doesn’t mean leaving your integrity behind.
If you’re recruited on the basis of inaccurate or false information, you could soon find yourself in hot water. Even if you manage to hide the truth, the gaps between your ‘manufactured’ experience and real experience, will soon start to show. Blagging can only get you so far.
3) Just network!
Networking is something of a sacred cow in the careers world, and the reason why? It can work. Does it always? Er….no. Too often, in the face of overwhelming odds (simple maths: more graduates than there are ‘graduate jobs’), grads are simply told to ‘just network’. Newsflash: networking isn’t an innate, intrinsic or reflexive behaviour. Networkers are made, not born.
I can’t imagine how dispiriting it must be to hear those fatal words when you simply have no idea HOW to network. It’s disingenuous to pretend that networking is simply a matter of communicating and connecting. Meeting people is easy – we’re social animals and programmed to connect. Building meaningful relationships and establishing professional credibility takes much longer and there’s no quick fix. Fortunately, here’s some advice we prepared earlier!
4) Be yourself
I can understand the provenance of this advice: there’s no point contorting yourself to fit a company ideal. If you’re hired on the basis of what you project, not who you really are, there’s a pretty strong chance you’re in for a bumpy ride. You can’t keep up the pretence forever. If you find yourself in a company with a ‘work hard, play hard‘ culture, you could be spending much of your time in – and outside the office – suppressing the real you.
This does not mean you should adopt the warts and all approach to interviews and assessment centres. In the current climate where team-work is king, you’d be a fool to announce your extreme introversion and expect a warm response. There’s little chance you’ll find a job that plays to all your preferences: we all have to find compromise somewhere. So next time you decide to “be yourself” make sure it’s your best self. Or to put in another way: your professional self, not the one who slobs out in a tiger onesie!
5) Send a post-interview thank-you note
I am a strong advocate of the personalised thank-you note, and remember hours spent in the final week of the Christmas holidays writing painstaking thanks to Great Aunt X and Uncle Y for their kind gift. We’re socialised to be gracious and polite and a well-timed thank-you note is the ultimate expression of good manners. This does not, however, translate to the post-interview grovel. Which is pretty much how most employers in the UK will interpret the current (US) vogue for sending a post-interview thank-you note.
At best your note will be dismissed, and at worst it will be seen as a shameless attempt to influence the outcome. And this could prove counter-productive. Don’t be swayed by the preponderance of US-oriented advice you read online: this practice has yet to cross the Atlantic…