I had a job interview last week. Amidst all the usual questions, one statement really stuck with me. My interviewer said that, all too often, fresh graduates respond to the ‘So, what have you been doing with yourself since university?’ question in exactly the same way – ‘Well, I’ve been looking for a job.’
The difference was that she was interested in how I had been successful in generating my own freelance work whilst I was actively job seeking, and completing my postgraduate. It’s something I hadn’t thought to shout about before, but in hindsight, I can see how much leverage this experience can give me when negotiating a job offer and a potential role.
So, if you are a recent graduate, embarking on your final year, or just out of work, keep reading to learn how you can utilize this time to the best of your ability, and bring in an ever-elusive USP to your next job interview.
Social media is the simplest and easiest place to start. You can quickly create a handle and post content straight away. Use Twitter to outline your skills – be that in design, blogging, or photography – and use hashtags to collate the work together and make it easier for people to find. If your skills lie in visual work, use Instagram to build a portfolio.
Even if you aren’t successful in finding work, you will be able to show proof of a strong online presence which showcases your dedication to your profession. Don’t underestimate the power of this when job seeking, as it shows your commitment to keep something going without remuneration, or being told to do so.
Use hashtags to locate work you admire, and track down people you have a vested interest in. If there’s a photographer whose work you take influence from, follow them and comment thoughtfully on their content. Then, see who else is following them – as chances are they will have similar interests to you. These are the kind of people who could be interested in your work, too, so it’s worth reaching out to them.
Don’t be afraid to let other people know what you do, or what you can offer – it’s one of the only ways to cultivate a genuine following in the beginning.
If you can, make use of a free trial – it gives you valuable insights into who is viewing your profile, and can help you generate leads. Use it like you would your other professional social platforms, and share your work; be that an article, blog post or research paper, so potential employers can locate your content.
If there is a start-up you are aware of and think you can add something to their business, seek out their staff via LinkedIn and send them a direct mail. Don’t be afraid to do this – in these situations, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
It’s a valuable move to get involved with a fledgling company, because if you can prove your worth and value (by generating sales, bringing in more interaction via marketing, or creating some killer content for their social channels) it could lead to a full-time position further down the line.
If you are happy and able to, offer your services for low pay at this stage. If nothing else, it helps to build up your portfolio and will serve as a useful case study to discuss in an interview. Complete a level of work you are happy with, but don’t get taken advantage of.
Make use of job boards where you can list your own services for others to find. If you’re an illustrator and looking for a new commission, create a job listing saying just that. PeoplePerHour is a good place to start – you can even pitch for existing jobs if you feel you can meet the needs of the employer.
Remember, any work is worthwhile when you are job seeking, so use the time as best you can, and make it full of experiences that will help lift your next job application and help you land that role.
Lucy Farrington-Smith writes for Inspiring Interns, which helps career starters find the perfect job, in everything from sales jobs to marketing internships. To browse their graduate jobs London listings, visit their website.
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