Lizzie’s Journey: Ch 2 – Setting up your job search successfully

4 minute read

Welcome to part 2… Firstly, let’s recap: I’ve left my job and I’m moving to London to begin my journey in the environmental sector. So, here I am, without a job. I’m not going to pretend I had everything in check within 24 hours of moving here. I didn’t. To make it easier, I’m covering this part in a Q&A, otherwise you’ll be reading forever…

Did I have a plan when looking for a job? (processes, resources, what were the first steps)

Yes and no (that doesn’t sound too helpful but give me a chance to explain).

I knew what kind of charity I wanted to work for. But I didn’t know what role I was looking for. I made the mistake of casting my net too wide at the beginning. When I stepped back and thought about the kind of roles that my skills were suited for (and I was genuinely interested in) I definitely saw a much higher success rate in the applications that followed. I looked at my skills and past experience, and decided to focus mainly on roles in communications.

Tip 1: Don’t be afraid to be specific. Think of the kinds of roles you envisage yourself in and the type of charity or cause that you want to work for. This will give your search a true sense of direction, allowing you to focus on applying for the jobs that you genuinely want. You might find that there’s more than one role or area of the charity sector you can see yourself in, and that’s fine too! Most of the processes though, I learned along the way.

What did you have to do before job hunting (CV writing/ cover letter/ networking/ research into sector)

So, before I started job hunting, I had one thing, well… two.

The determination to get the role I wanted and a CV. My Master CV included a personal profile, key skills, education history as well as additional qualifications and work experience. With all the information in one place, I was easily able to tailor it for each position applied to.

I didn’t actually have a set cover letter, but wrote one that was specific to each role. Now, this may seem like a lot of work, but I promise you, if you are only applying to the jobs you really, really want, it’s not. Networking is a great tool too and I dabbled in it (reluctantly). Don’t just connect with people on LinkedIn – make sure you talk to them. Some people are happy to give advice and refer you to roles they might know of. LinkedIn etiquette is a tough one and I only added people that I had a connection with (e.g. who I’d met at an event or had been to my university). But some people say just add anyone you think would be a useful connection. Either way, I suggest taking the time to write a personal message. Also, find out about events relevant to your sector, for me there was an event called Green Drinks, among others.

Tip 2: Networking doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get an instant leg up into the industry, but even if you just come away with advice, it’s been helpful. And while it might seem like everyone is finding a job through connections, I promise you can get your job based on personal merit. I did network but in the end, it wasn’t how I found my job.

What was your first point of call to find a job? (job board, agency etc)

CharityJob! And I’m not just saying that.

I didn’t find recruitment agencies particularly helpful, just because a lot of charities don’t have the budget to use recruiters for entry-level roles. So, I set up a saved search on CharityJob which went something like this: ‘environment’ + ‘London’ and I was notified when any relevant jobs were posted. Because I figured if a charity had one job going that was outside of my specification, it was a good reason to get in touch with them to see if they had anything else coming up. I also got notifications from my university careers centre, as well as a specialist environmental job board. And I had a good dig around Google to see if there were any charities that I didn’t know of, who were perhaps just advertising on their own website. But honestly, most of the opportunities that fitted my own criteria were on CharityJob.

How much time did you spend job hunting? How did you manage to do this while working/studying?

At the beginning, I spent too much unproductive time looking for a job.

I mean, I thought if I dedicated every waking hour to my job search, I could get the job within a matter of weeks and not have to worry about finding temporary work. But I just wasn’t doing the 1-2 applications a day I’d hoped. It was unrealistic, as was my goal to find a job in a matter of weeks. When I changed my goal to two applications a week (and obviously more if there was a particularly deadline-heavy period), it became more achievable. It was realistic to fit a couple of cover letters and a few edits to my CV into my week. It may not sound like much, but this allowed me to apply for all of the jobs I wanted.

Tip 3: Again, it goes back to really focusing your job search which allows you to concentrate on quality not quantity. By achieving what I’d set out to do, I had the time to do other things aside from looking for and applying to jobs and was able to take a much more positive approach.

What were the highs/lows throughout interviews? (successes/ pitfalls/ anything that you could have improved – how you found the experiences of being interviewed)

The interview process was definitely the most daunting. When I accepted that finding a job wasn’t going to be a two-week process and focused on making my situation more sustainable (by getting temporary work, etc.) I could relax more during the interview. Sure, you’ve got to keep telling yourself that you can get that job (they wouldn’t be interviewing you otherwise), but the more relaxed you allow yourself to be, the better. I can’t say I’m an interview pro but make sure you get a good night’s sleep, that you’ve eaten before and that you turn up in good time.

Tip 4: At the interview itself, keep eye contact, don’t forget to smile and focus on making the interview a dialogue. It will be a lot more natural and relaxed this way, rather than a series of questions and answers. And definitely don’t be afraid to ask them any questions.

So there you have it – my first steps to taking a leap into the charity sector had started (and not as smoothly as I’d thought). But I learned a lot from the experience. Remember there’s nothing wrong with making a few changes to your plan! Keep going, because the hard work does pay off.

From Lizzie

Stay tuned for Chapter 3…

Lizzie Harrocks

Lizzie works in communications for an environmental organisation. Fan of documentaries and lapsang souchong tea, she blogs about the trials and tribulations of the job-hunting process.

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