Plenty of the population in the UK are currently struggling with their employment situation - with many furloughed, feeling a salary pinch or facing the prospect of being out of work.
The economic situation suggests that jobs may be scarce to find. However, that doesn't mean you can't increase your chances of getting one - either now or in the future - by improving your employability.
Doing so won't just enhance your prospects of getting a new job; it can also make you better at your current one. The uncertainty engulfing us all means we have no idea how things will be in the future, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will be negative.
Taking time out to improve yourself can make you better placed to deal with the future, however it pans out. Here are ten ways you can enhance your employability.
1. Contact recruitment agencies
Recruitment is much like any industry in 2020, seeing significant uncertainty and upheaval. This means you might not get as much out of contacting recruiters as you would have done in the past, but that is no reason to not get in touch and network with them.
Register with as many companies as you possibly can, either by emailing a relevant CV or uploading it to their database. Go on their website and find out which of their staff are specialists in your career area, and if there is an email address, contact them. If not, find them on LinkedIn (more on that platform below) and connect with them there.
As long as you aren't too pushy, recruiters are one set of employees who will genuinely welcome you getting in touch. They may themselves be out of work or furloughing at this time, but start building that relationship there and then. The more you talk to them, the more likely they are to find you the right opportunity.
If you are after a specific position, go directly to the source and try and find the company's internal recruiter or hiring department. Again, make sure you aren't too forceful in your communication, but this will show a keenness for the role. It will usually go down well before you apply, as well as make them more likely to remember your name.
2. Learn new skills
Utilising your free time to learn new skills is an excellent way of increasing your employability. If you are unsure about what skills would improve your prospects, look for job adverts for roles you consider desirable. Whatever you are missing, you could explore into finding more about it.
Many courses and qualifications will charge a fee. Still, there are chances that due to the current climate these may be reduced in price or available for a free trial.
Several online resources have made specific courses free during some or all of the pandemic, such as:
- Open Learn is all the free courses run by The Open University.
- Class Central runs many courses based on Ivy League universities, the top colleges in the USA.
- EdX offers courses from global institutions such as IBM.
- Dash is a free web development and coding course from General Assembly.
3. Read and research
You don't just have to follow online courses; learning can be much more informal and bite-sized. If you don't already, subscribe to newsletters and trade guides to find out more about your work.
Keeping abreast of developments during the pandemic will minimise the chances of you being out of touch if you are still waiting to return to your job. It will also help you come across as knowledgeable during interviews.
You could also look to improve your approach to work in general. Self-help books can be useful in this regard, with this list of 22 suggested titles to read in 2020 a great place to seek inspiration on where to start.
Books that provide insight across industries will help you think differently about both your career and problem-solving in general. An example is The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. However you want to expand your thinking, there will be many books you can read to help you out.
4. Research new career areas
Have you always fancied yourself in a different career? Whether you're an electrician with a marketing brain or a shop worker that would love to teach, this could be the perfect opportunity to explore a new way of earning money.
Spend time googling more about the job in question, and look for adverts for roles around that area. This will give you an idea of the experience and level of qualifications you would need to start a position.
If there are specific trade bodies for the profession, perhaps contact them for further advice. Their websites may even have FAQ sections which advise on how to get into the role. You'll quickly learn how possible the change is, and it could also help you start making progress on that journey while you are currently not working.
If your research does encourage you to think more seriously about the change, then 'Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction' by Laura Berman Fortgang is a book that could make you take your dream further. An audiobook of it is currently free on Amazon if you sign up for an Audible trial (or one credit if you are already a member).
If you're just thinking of earning a little extra on the side, check out 10 easy ways to make extra money.
5. Learn a new language
Speaking another language, even to a basic level, opens up more opportunities. Being able to have a casual conversation with a foreign recruiter will showcase a keenness beyond standard candidates. And if you are fluent enough to add speaking an additional language to your CV, it will look impressive for almost every type of employer.
You can start online courses with companies like Busuu, paid for, or Duolingo, who offer a free service. Hellotalk is also an excellent resource, again free, which will pair you with native speakers. Perhaps this could be more useful once you've developed more confidence within your chosen dialect.
If you can develop your language skills here are 10 career benefits of speaking a second language. And pick a language that you either have some experience in (even if the GCSE you studied it for was years ago) or one that directly interests you. This way learning it should be more straightforward and, hopefully, more fun.
The benefits of doing so are plentiful, ranging from gaining valuable experience in a new industry to building specific skills you may not have undertaken before.
The UK is in greater need of altruism from its citizens than ever before. Using your spare time in this way won't just help society out when in desperate need, it'll also look favourably on your CV.
Alternatively, could you use your existing skills to help people? Running free online tutorials is easier than ever before with social networks such as Instagram and Facebook or through specific video streaming software such as Zoom or Twitch.
And you can be creative about how you do this. If you have acting experience, could you record yourself reading bedtime stories for children? If you're a plumber could you upload basic advice on dealing with broken radiators or sinks so people at home can handle these problems themselves?
Even distributing them to a small network of people will help, and it'll demonstrate your resourcefulness at a point when the country needs it.
7. Take up a new hobby
Hobbies, depending on what they are, can also boost your employability. As well as the languages mentioned above, starting a podcast or blog is an excellent way of showcasing your communication skills. And while it helps if it's around an industry-relevant subject, doing so for your football team or community centre can still deliver the same positive impression.
Playing sport as part of a team shows the ability to work well with others, not to mention building friendships which may result in career opportunities and support. Even classic pastimes like knitting could lead to setting up your own business.
Think of things that you are interested in which you’d enjoy doing in your spare time, and try and adapt that pursuit into developing a skill which will look good on your CV.
8. Work on your CV
Most of us will only update their CV when we are looking for work. The problem with this approach is that in any role you are regularly doing things that should be shouted about and celebrated. Your CV should be a concise way of reflecting this.
Take time to make a list of everything you've achieved in your current job, and what skills you’ve gained that would be desirable for future employers. Once you've done this, you can start updating your CV with this information. This article from CV-Library outlines some of the best ways to do so.
It's a good idea to create a master CV, where you make a note of everything you could use on a job application. Don't worry if this ends up being a large document - you can edit and cut out non-relevant bits based on each job application.
9. Update your LinkedIn account
Once your CV is up to date, do the same to (or create) your LinkedIn profile. A LinkedIn profile is like an online CV or work history profile, it’s for job searching, networking and staying up to date with your industry. You can add the same achievements you've put in for your current role as well as any courses or qualifications you've taken. This shouldn't take long if you are cutting and pasting the work you've already done.
Linkedin is much more than a place where you house your CV; it's also a vast virtual networking event. So use this as an opportunity to connect with people on the platform. The social network this year has been awash with people sharing their stories about working from home, furlough life and returning to work - could you do the same?
There may also be freelance opportunities that arise on LinkedIn as people downsize in many ways and look for more ad hoc projects. It may also be that companies still require work but don't want to commit to hiring new staff. This could present some short term opportunities, which may prove even more fruitful in the long term.
10. Work on interview technique
Making your CV stand out either by increasing your qualifications or tidying up its presentation is great. Still, it'll only get your foot in the door. It's just as essential to ensure when the interviews do come rolling in that you're clued up for them too.
You should be able to find out the process for each employer's interview in advance. They could ask you to present, do a phone or video interview or even still be running face to face (socially distanced) interviews.
There are a few things you can do that will help either way. Practice speaking about your achievements, to a friend, family member or even a pet. Just saying things out loud to yourself in the mirror will make you more confident on the day.
The STAR method is also always suitable, which is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action and Result. Essentially, this enables you to break down exactly how you solved a specific problem. If there is a presentation involved, try that out beforehand too.
Make sure you're prepared for the format as well. In this new socially distanced world, interviews are less likely to be face to face, so check out Prospect's advice on video and telephone interviews are more prominent.
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