Follow every lead
The job hunt is a full-time investigation
Finding your first job can be frustrating. Many chases may end down blind alleys, and instant success is unlikely. But with the right approach and a little persistence, your search need not drag on.
Blindly sending out resumes might work, but serious job hunters would not chance it. Instead, they approach job hunting like a full-time investigation, systematically searching for opportunities and taking the time to research the companies that interest them.
The first step is to decide what exactly you want to do. Look at what interests you and where your strengths lie. If you like meeting people, a career in sales might be suitable. Or if you consider yourself a good organiser, perhaps a role in office administration would suit you.
Once you have decided on an ideal career, give yourself some options by identifying jobs you will settle for if the ideal position does not turn up. If you are looking for a career in marketing, would you settle for a job in public relations or sales?
Your action plan
The next step is to put together a plan of action. Set yourself daily targets - how many opportunities and companies do you aim to identify each day, how much time do you aim to spend on researching these companies and, ultimately, how many applications will you send out?
To identify opportunities, first consider what sources are available to you. Newspapers, job-search magazines and careers websites are a good place to start. But remember, many jobs are not advertised, so include any companies that interest you among your targets for investigation.
Your social network could prove useful for leads too. You may think you have no contacts, but anyone from a relative to a teacher could give you a promising lead.
Lastly, be prepared to visit recruitment centres, company 'open days' and job fairs.
Once you have identified a lead or opportunity, begin researching. What does the job involve? What are the company's products? How would you fit into the organisation? If the company is not advertising, who should you send your resume to? The company website and a quick call to the human resources department should tell you all that.
With all this information to absorb, it is important to get organised. Set up a filing system so you do not get lost among your clippings and notes.
Your resume can be critical in securing a job. It is the first indication an employer receives that suggests the job applicant is motivated to do the job. List clearly your education and work experience. It is also worth stating why your qualifications fit the particular position and why you want to work for the company.
But do not stop there. Include any experience you have that adds to your skill set or demonstrates your qualities in a relevant way.
Keep your resume to one page if possible, be concise and use action words and phrases when describing your experience.
Have it typeset or laser-printed on good paper. Print your cover letter on the same paper. Be honest about your skills and work experience.
Stay optimistic. A job search can last months, so do not get disheartened after a week.
Cast a wide net. Many jobs are not advertised, so do not limit yourself only to combing the classified pages of the newspapers and internet sites.
Go networking. Talk to anyone you know about your job hunt. You never know who may give you a lead.
Research, research, research. The more you learn about a company, the better you can sell yourself to it.
Do not sell yourself short. Think of everything you can do, from typing to driving. Examine your experiences and see how they reflect your strengths. Add these to your CV.
Create the right image. Be punctual for interviews. Try to relax. Be polite and professional. Show you want the job.