School Leavers | Embarking on your first job search

By One2One Resumes

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What an exciting time in your life! School is over and you have the rest of your life ahead of you. With this comes the decision about what you want to do for a living. You’ve probably gained, or are working towards qualifications and need to begin your job search.

Exciting as this is, it can be equally terrifying! No one teaches you job hunting as a skill; you wouldn’t have a clue how to pick the phone and call a complete stranger and ask for a job. You’ve probably never needed a resume and never responded to an advertisement. Then comes the thought of being interviewed, which can be likened to having surgery without anaesthetic for some people, it’s so frightening.

So let’s go through a few things that might help.


Where and how to look for work

There are many ways to find positions. The more traditional methods of looking in the newspaper and searching online job boards are the most common. Read the advertisement carefully and make sure you follow the instructions on how and where to apply. Some adverts will list a closing date and you need to submit your application before then. If a closing date is not listed you should aim to submit an application sooner rather than later. Remember though to send a quality application – you don’t have to be the first person to submit, especially if rushing causes you to make errors.

When using any of these methods you will be competing with a large number of other jobseekers. You can reduce the competition by applying directly to employers of interest. Time to pull your research cap on and come up with a list of companies you’d like to work for. Research them, find out what you can about the culture as well as their products and services, and then approach them directly. Rather than sending your resume unsolicited,find the name of a person who hires. Tell them about yourself, what you are looking for, and why you think you’d be an asset to them. Send your resume and follow up with phone call.

Picking up the phone and calling a potential employer sounds simple enough, but it really is hard for some people. You can’t let this stop you. Mock yourself up a script and read from it to help keep you on track. Once you’ve done a few you will start to get the hang of it and it will flow more naturally. You can read more about cold calling employers here.


Your resume

You can’t job hunt without a resume. It is difficult as a school leaver to pull together a resume, and I find many simply give up and submit an ineffective document because they don’t know what else to do. If you’re struggling with this, enlist some help – a friend, family member, teacher or a professional resume writer. Your resume is an introduction to the employer – you will be judged on it and, in most cases, this is the only chance you have to convince the employer to interview you. If your resume doesn’t work, your job search will be much longer and far more frustrating. Your resume should include your skills, qualities, work experience, education, awards and referees.


Proof reading

One of the biggest reasons school leavers miss out on job opportunities is the spelling and grammatical errors in their job search communications. Always proof read your resume, cover letters and emails carefully. Each of them matters equally – many people obsess over the resume and then slap together a letter or bang out an email and before they know it, they’ve lost the job because it was sent with errors. Get someone else to check them over for you as well.



Text talk is convenient and widely accepted as a means of communication, but is not appropriate for a job search. I am going to say that again – do not use text talk in your job search. Employers loathe it; you look lazy, unprofessional and send the wrong message to employers. You can read more here.


Job interviews

When the time comes for an interview, you need to confirm the address and time with the interviewer. Ask if there is anything you need to bring. Take extra copies of your resume and make sure you leave home early to avoid any mishaps with traffic and/or parking. When you enter the workplace, warmly greet the receptionist – they will tell the interviewer what you were like. Shake hands and remember to smile, even if you feel so nervous you want to frown!

During the interview maintain eye contact and answer questions directly – don’t go off track, rather state your answer and try to give an example – no one word answers. Think of the interview as a conversation rather than an interrogation. Always be positive – don’t speak negatively about former employers, school or your job search. The two most common styles of interview are the 1-on-1 interview and Behavourial interview

As the interview draws to a close, you will be asked if you have any questions. Never say ‘no’ … this is your chance to shine! Before your interview make a list of questions to ask the employer; have about 12 so that if they already covered a question during the interview, you can move on to another one. Don’t ask questions that are covered on their website though – this makes it look like you haven’t researched and prepared. Read morehere

End the interview on a positive note. Thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you. If you like the sound of the opportunity and want the job, tell them! Ask when they will be making a decision.


Go it alone

It’s time to be a grown up, and often it is not you that will have the difficulty with this, it is your parents. Mums and dads are truly wonderful beings, they’ve devoted their lives to raising you to be the person you are today, they love you, support you and want to help you. The trouble with your job search is that an employer is employing you, not your mum or dad. Taking them with you (or in most cases, them wanting to come with you) to your interviews is not advised and is not looked upon favourably by employers. You need to do this on your own. If they drive you to an interview, ask them to leave and arrange to phone when you’re finished, or simply ask them to stay in the car park.


Dress codes

Knowing how to present yourself professionally is very important in a job search. First impressions are formed by an interviewer as soon as the lay eyes on you, before you’ve even uttered a word. This doesn’t mean you have to have the latest designer fashions or the most expensive clothes, but you should invest in a smart ‘interview outfit’. For men a pair of neat pants and smart shirt, and for ladies a smart dress or skirt and top. Wearing trendy gear is ok in some environments and frowned upon in others – if you are working in a creative field dress standards are more relaxed; if you are seeking a more corporate role you will be expected to present this way. If you are seeking a trade job you still need to pay attention to your appearance whether you’ll be wearing high viz gear every day on the job or not. Read more here


Body art

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people look at body art and see beauty in it and appreciate the self-expression. Others despise them, don’t feel they reflect well on their company and won’t appreciate them in any way. So the best approach in a job search is to play it safe. Wear clothing that hides tattoos and remove facial piercings. Once you’ve secured a role you will be able to look around and determine what is acceptable. But for an interview go for the safest option.


Online profiles

Employers DO check your online profiles. Facebook has lost many people a job opportunity because of what the employer has seen or read on your page. Change your privacy settings now; don’t let employers see photos and updates that cause them concern. Downing shooters at schoolies might have been a blast for you and a great release after years of study, but to a potential employer it poses questions such as ‘Is this person going to behave like this on weekends and take days off sick because of a hangover?’

Your job in a job hunt is to convince employers that you are a professional, deserving of an opportunity – what employers see online can make them run the other way.


Practice will help

The more applications you send, telephone calls you make and interviews you attend, the better you will become. Don’t beat yourself up if you fudge some along the way – we all started somewhere and everyone you speak to will be able to tell you about a bad experience about job hunting. It happens and doesn’t matter as long as you learn from it and try to improve next time.

Expect knock backs and don’t let them deter you.

Think about your approach, see if there is anything you could have done better, and then move forward.




© Michelle Lopez, Owner/Career Consultant

E: [email protected]


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