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Spotlight at the National Careers Service


Benefits of widening your job search

If you’ve been going for jobs at a certain level or in a competitive industry for a while now and not getting any luck, there are two approaches you might like to consider.

Firstly, you could take a look at your job hunting techniques to see if you’re looking in the right places, and saying the right things in your applications and interviews. If you’re getting stuck at one stage of the recruitment process, you might like to get some advice to see if there are any ways you can improve your CV or your interview technique, for example. You can speak to National Careers Service advisers about this, and there’s plenty of job hunting advice on our website.

But if you feel you’ve done that and your applications are as good as they can be, it could be time to consider a different approach. In a competitive jobs market it can be hard to find your target job, so sometimes it can help to consider a plan B.

This is especially true if you’re looking for jobs in fields that are always competitive – recession or no recession – such as film and TV, music, performing arts, design, environmental careers, law, sport, publishing, journalism and advertising. In these kinds of fields it can be a case of continuing to plug away and waiting for your opportunity.

This can also be true if you’re looking for work at a certain level, or specialised work. This is a situation than anyone who feels they’ve got lots to offer can face – from recent graduates to people with years of experience. But what do you do whilst you’re waiting for the right opportunity?

Here we look at some of the benefits of taking on a plan B - widening your job search and considering stop-gap jobs.

Gain skills and experience

Even in jobs not in your target industry or at your ideal level you can learn useful skills. This gives you something constructive to put on your CV and recent work experience to talk about in job interviews. For example, if you want to get into film and TV, and you take a secretarial job in a different industry, the admin skills you develop would be very useful when applying for a TV production assistant role.

Make contacts

Making contacts by networking is the most effective way of finding work. Even if your stop-gap job isn’t in your target industry you will meet people in many different types of job – people in different departments, contractors etc. And even if the people you meet are not in the sector you want to work in, they may know people who are. That’s what networking is all about – it’s not about meeting the key people straightaway. It’s about starting out with a small network and expanding it through other people’s contacts, and then their contacts, and so on and so on, until you get through to the key people.

Brings purpose and routine to your day

If you’re out of work, taking a stop-gap job gives you something concrete to get up for, and gives your day a structure. This can come as a welcome change if you’ve been motivating yourself to do a job search each day.

Access to internal job adverts

Many organisations have jobs that are only available to internal staff. These jobs will have far fewer applicants than those advertised externally, so the competition may be reduced. Even if the organisation always advertises externally too, your experience gained from within the organisation (and a positive reference from a current manager) can certainly give you an advantage.

Increased confidence

Most of us feel good when we’ve got responsibilities and we’re completing tasks. Even if the job isn’t your ideal one, there could be job satisfaction from doing a good job and performing at your best. And most of us gain confidence from interacting with other people, whether they are colleagues, the public, clients or customers.

More money

If you’re not working but you feel you won’t be better off if you take a job with a certain salary, it can help to take the long view – even if you’re not financially better off initially, in many jobs you get pay rises the longer you stay in them. And the more experience you get, the more chance there is you can use it to get promoted.

Access to training opportunities

When you’re in a job there is often an internal training programme. If this includes general skills like computer skills or customer service skills, then these are easily transferable into many different jobs. Your employer might also fund you to do a vocational or professional qualification.

So as we can see, there are many advantages to widening your job search or taking a stop-gap job. However, there may be some instances in which it might be beneficial to consider other options. Maybe you’ve arranged a fantastic work placement or a volunteering opportunity that is giving you excellent experience. You have to make the decision on which approach would help you to move you closer towards your goal.

If you’d like help with decisions like this, or want ideas for stop-gap jobs that could help you take a step in the right direction, our careers advisers are available for you. You can make an appointment with one if you get in touch with our contact centre.

You might also be interested in this video featuring Ben, a recent graduate who’s looking for work and facing some big decisions on the best approach to take to working towards his target job.


Careers advice