How To Develop Your Skills During the Job Hunt
If you’re struggling to land your dream job right now, don’t panic. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the same boat. But that doesn’t mean that securing an exciting new job is far from impossible—even one in the charity sector!
It just means you need to do a bit more to ensure you have all the right tools to stand out from the pack. Luckily, there are simple things you can do while job hunting to stay stimulated, improve your CV and break up the daily grind.
Here are our top tips for upskilling during the job search.
1. Step into the online classroom
The current job market is flooded with talent so it’s no surprise that employers have been forced to make tough decisions when it comes to interviews. You might have a killer CV with qualifications to boot, but having certain demonstrable skills will push you straight to the top of the pile. Job descriptions are great roadmaps; study the jobs coming your way and use them to identify gaps in your own knowledge.
We have well and truly entered the digital age and most entry-level roles in the charity sector now expect a high level of technical literacy. Whatever the role, knowing your way around social media platforms can go a really long way. The easiest—and cheapest—place to start is on your own mobile. Experiment with your Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts, and follow the charities you love. Learn from their content and figure out what makes a great feed. If you have access to a tablet, consider investing in apps like Procreate, Photoshop or Lucidpress to develop basic graphic design skills and become the ultimate social media wizard.
UAL run short online digital marketing courses designed to teach you how to manage social media channels and campaigns. Codeacademy is also a brilliant online resource for anyone looking to learn basic HTML and CSS coding for free (emphasis on the free). From designing marketing newsletters to maintaining webpages, these digital skills are like gold dust to small NGOs and will help you stand out in a saturated job market.
Pearson’s UK Learns also has a huge database of online, certified and free skills-based courses. From learning how to build relationships with donors to understanding how to work with refugees, their courses are highly specialised and many of them are tailored to the third sector.
It’s not just about bulking up your CV—though it certainly helps—it’s also about taking back control of your life. Working short sessions into your day will break the job hunt up into manageable chunks and help bring some variety to your schedule. It’s so easy to feel powerlessness in the current job market but completing something as simple as an online course will give you a real sense of achievement.
2. Get out (or stay in) and volunteer
Volunteering might not be financially possible right now, but if you’re in the position to do so, take this time to gain some experience. Employers don’t just want to see skills; they want to know you can use them.
The third sector has been disproportionally hit by this crisis and many organisations need all the help they can get right now. There are plenty of remote voluntary opportunities on offer: charities like The Mix, which specialises in support for under-25s, are always looking to expand their online communities and if you head to the United Nations Volunteers programme platform, you will find hundreds of remote volunteering opportunities from organisations who are on the lookout for an extra pair of hands.
Loneliness is at an all-time high, especially amongst older people, and organisations like The Silver Line and Reengage are looking for more volunteers to help run their helplines and provide vital online support to the most vulnerable members of the community. It might not be the sector you had in mind, but remote volunteering gives you the flexibility you need when you’re job hunting and provides you with the opportunity to gain and develop new skills that are vital if you want to work in the charity sector long term.
Remember, voluntary opportunities aren’t always advertised so don’t be discouraged if the ‘current vacancies’ page comes up empty at first. Sometimes you need to tell organisations why they need you, so it’s important to be proactive and sell yourself. Most NGOs don’t have time to design new roles for you from scratch, so the more specific you are, the better. Tell them exactly what you want to help with, how your skills match up and why you’re the best person for the job. Make it easy for them to see where you’ll fit in and they’ll be sure to snap you up on your offer.
3. Connect and build up your network
If you’re used to working full-time, being unemployed can come as a real shock. Try to use this extra time to your advantage and research the organisations that you’ve always wanted to work with. Get to know their campaigns back to front and find the people who have your dream job. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them on LinkedIn or CharityConnect and find out how they got there. It’s never been easier to set up a zoom coffee and gain access to insider knowledge so be bold! You’ve got nothing to lose. They might say no, but at the very least you’ll have put yourself on their radar if something does come up in the future.
Don’t forget to stay in touch with your old colleagues and managers as well. They’re useful people to have in your job seeking arsenal: they can proof-read cover letters, edit CVs and provide those all-important references. Networking can often feel superficial, but the time spent nurturing your professional relationships is rarely wasted and will pay off in the long run.
Be kind to yourself
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been hunched over your laptop staring absently at job ads and LinkedIn profiles for hours. How many times have you refreshed your email inbox today? Hint: it might be time to take a break. Applying for jobs is downright exhausting at the best of times, let alone in a global Pandemic, and waking up to multiple rejections in your inbox is nothing short of soul-destroying. That’s exactly why it’s so important to listen to your body and take some time out when things start to get overwhelming. A quick jog or walk about in nature, even if it’s just around the block, will clear out the cobwebs in no time and restore your mental strength.
Job-hunting is a marathon, not a sprint, so be kind to yourself otherwise you’ll burn out before you’ve even had a chance to get started. Whether it’s subscribing to the Happy Newspaper or bingeing a show on Netflix, give yourself time to recharge.