Careers Forum Webchat - Keeping motivated and positive in your job search

Mike Barnard (Milkround), Charlene Campbell (Think Productive), Careers Network Advisers: Chris Packham, Ellen O’Brien & Blandine Moghuo, an International Student.

Chris: Morning everyone, welcome to this webchat. We're talking about job-hunting, especially if you're going to graduate soon and are or will be looking for a job.

Ellen: Good morning all, I am here specifically to chat with any International Students who may be present, also my colleague Blandine Moghuo- an international student herself is here to answer your questions.

CN Advisor: Morning everyone! I'm Mike Barnard from graduate recruitment website Milkround. I'm happy to help with general questions about kicking off your career.

Charlene: Hello! Great to be here. I'd love to hear how people are getting on. My focus is on getting organised and staying focused.

Chris: Morning S*****, thanks for joining the chat. What type of jobs are you going to look for after finishing your PhD?

S*****: At the moment, I spent most of the time on my examination preparation. I also have two part-time jobs which cost about 20 hours per week. I attend as many career and psychological workshops as possible. I found it is very difficult to manage time properly.

Chris: S*****'s questions raise the scary side of job-hunting: so much to do-short term work to keep you going, occupied and earning (hope!), longer term professional goals, how do you prioritise and divide your time on various objectives?

CN Advisor: MB: Hi S*****, it makes a lot of sense to get a part-time job now if you can. Try to find one that will offer you some relevant experience that will impress employers when you start applying for full-time roles.

CN Advisor: MB: It's also important not to let part-time work prevent you from putting in the right amount of hours for study. If you feel either of your jobs are eating into valuable study time, you're best off letting one (or even both) go. You can get another job but you can't study for another degree so easily.

Charlene: Hi S*****, I completely hear you about the heavy load when it comes to balancing work and career planning. I should have mentioned I'm a manager at Think Productive, we specialise in helping people feel organised and find balance. Do you have somewhere that you 'store' all your career related material? If yes, when do you get to review it?

S*****: Charlene, it is great to know that you are a specialist in getting organised and find balance. I really need your advice. It has been a long-term problem for me. I do have folders to store job-seeking materials and books. Most of the storage are the row notes taken from the career workshops. I did not have time to review it.

Charlene: S*****, yes this is such a common problem - you collect the information and then that in itself feels like another problem - what am I going to do with all this information, how will I follow up? I think that it helps to get into a habit of reviewing your career based information (at least) weekly, it doesn't have to be for long, say 20 minutes to throw out what you don't need and make sure you're staying focussed on your goal. Pick a time when you feel fairly relaxed, but if you can make it regular that's great.

Chris: Charlene's advice is part of developing a coping strategy. If you feel in control of your job search you'll be better able to cope with disappointments and problems, like rejection from a job application. You'll be disappointed but remind yourself there are other chances in process.

S*****: Chris, I agree with you. At the moment, I am trying to hold on with the current jobs and apply for potential jobs if I can. There are a lot of disappointments in job-seeking. However, I at least have sustainable income which makes me feel safe and less pressure.

Charlene: Totally Chris, I like to think of the full time job as the destination or outcome, but you'll have several goals along the way, that way you're setting yourself up for a series of wins and you're more able to see what you've achieved.

S*****: I've consulted Ellen and some staff in several charities about finding a job in charities. It seems that the visa will be a major problem.

Ellen: Hi again S*****. You are right that the visa is a major issue as you need to find an employer who will sponsor you and the job must be at graduate level and earning you over 20k per year- which is a lot to ask for a charity as they tend to be low paid.

CN Advisor: MB: the visa element is often a stumbling block for international students and understandably makes job hunting so frustrating.

Chris: S*****'s potential job just below the £20k threshold raises the question about negotiating higher salary. If the employer really thinks you're the best candidate you have a negotiating opportunity.

S*****: Thank you Ellen and Chris. I will try to apply for the Data Analyst job and negotiate the salary. Is there anything else I should be aware of for this specific application?

Chris: I guess S***** if you try to negotiate higher salary you need to examine the job description and the organisation's needs and identify where you can offer 'added value', such as experience and knowledge which is beyond their basic requirement and which could help them with their service delivery, other activities and objectives.

What do others think?

S*****: Thanks Chris. It is a very valuable suggestion. I double checked the email I received from the agency. There is no company name and no job description. I just replied them and asked for more

Ellen: Having resilience is key here. It is very hard to cope with rejection and not feel crushed, but a resilient attitude is crucial to succeed. Taking the long view is important and accepting each knock back as another challenge will help you to stay optimistic.

S*****: Yes, Ellen. As an international student, I'm quite familiar with the feeling of being rejected. I believe it made me more resilient in other areas of my life.

Charlene: It's understandable that you'd want that security S*****, also I think it's great to look for growth within every situation. Even in your current jobs there may be opportunities to gain a new experience or demonstrate a strength.

S*****: Charlene. Yes. I aware that the best chance to get a job in charity for older people is to talk to the staff in the charity I'm volunteering for.

Chris: And vacancies often open up in organisations you volunteer at-you're essentially an internal candidate. They know you-that's an important advantage.

S*****: Indeed Chris. I believe that the comments from my referees who also work for this organisation would be very convincing.

S*****: Chris and Charlene, I found that I work more efficiently if I focus on one task rather than multitasking. However, in really life, it always have multiple demands. In most of the time, I'm multitasking.

Chris: S*****'s raising many important points about coping with uncertainty in job-hunting and keeping one's life together with such challenges.

Anyone else logged in who'd like to ask a question about job searching?

S*****: Thanks for your suggestion. I will try to spend time regularly on reviewing these information. It's a good idea. I also find managing married life is time-consuming. The housework, especially cooking, is very time consuming. I find it is impossible to find time for a day out every week which my husband really wanted to do. It is also difficult to find time for discussing family issues weekly.

Ellen: Generally S*****, don't forget you have the global perspective and cultural awareness and maturity that many UK graduates lack. You have had a life changing experience studying here and have developed a broad and mature outlook. Good Luck!

S*****: Thanks Ellen!!It's nice to hear you pointing out my advantages. I will keep that in my mind.

Chris: I like Ellen's point about remembering the big picture positives from your personal situation, such as international experience, cultural understanding, maybe language skills.

It's easy to lose sight of these in the treadmill of job searching. You have to think how can whichever employer and job you're applying to use your big experiences and knowledge. And tell them convincingly when you apply!

S*****: Thanks Chris. I agree that it might be easier to find a job which appreciates my international background, academic experience and two language skills.

Ellen: Chris is right and this brings me to mention the importance of developing your network as an internal employee. Do you keep note of the professional people you meet through your part time jobs or through Careers Network activity? These are important contacts who may be able to act as links to other opportunities.

S*****: Thanks Ellen. What do you mean by 'the professional people'? Do you mean the experts in the organisation and the Careers Network?

Charlene: Very true Chris and sometimes it's hard for us to stay clear on our strengths for example what Ellen pointed out. A few minutes in this forum and I can tell S***** is proactive, positive and very hard working. It's good to keep getting feedback so that you can deliver that back to potential employers.

Chris: I think Blandine Moghuo can now join us. Blandine's an international student who helps Ellen O'Brien, our International Careers Consultant, who's also with us this morning.

S*****: Hello Blandine!

CN Advisor: Hi S***** and everyone, I am Blandine and just join the Chat room, I am also an International and can fully identify with your feelings, as you said disappointments help developed our emotional resilience

S*****: Thank you for joining in the discussion, Blandine. Could you share some experience of your job seeking? I sometimes find English is another issue in the job seeking. I don't have problem to expression my thoughts, but it is quite difficult to join in a competitive discussion.

CN Advisor: Blandine: that's fine, it makes sense, thanks

CN Advisor: Blandine: Hello again S*****, I found it particularly difficult to get a part-time job during my first year at uni in 2008, the reason being that I didn't have any UK experience. Fortunately, I was able to secure a job that I still enjoy today with valuable help from Careers Network

CN Advisor: Blandine: I wholly agree with all of you on the importance of developing some networking skills, perhaps one way of doing this S***** would be to develop a professional LinkedIn profile that would let your skills, qualities and attributes emerge to attract employment?

S*****: Thanks Blandine, I am working on building up the profile on LinkedIn and Monster.

Ellen: S***** that's great to have a LinkedIn profile and don't forget to join our group

Also remember to make sure your facebook page is professional!

S*****: Thanks Ellen, I'm new to social media, but I will definitely update my profiles and join in the groups.

Ellen: S***** be good to have you- we have over 250 members now and often post details of events, opportunities or sometimes just have a discussion.

You must also come to our next coffee morning on Wed 27 Feb 12.00 in room SR1 in careers network- friendly, relaxed and informative. We will be chatting about "Career Planning". This event will be hosted by 2 International Ambassadors.

S*****: Ellen, I tried the website you mentioned. There are a lot of groups. Which one should I join in?

Ellen: This one.

S*****: Thanks Ellen.

Chris: Ellen's mentions of LinkedIn and networking events remind us how important making useful professional and social connections is. Use every chance to do this.

CN Advisor: Blandine: Careers also offer the opportunity to be mentored so to improve your LinkedIn profile. As this the first for this mentoring scheme I wonder if S***** can still register, what do you think Ellen?

S*****: Thank you for this information, Blandine. It would be great if I can register with the mentoring scheme.

Ellen: Yes there are some LinkedIn training sessions being delivered quite soon. Yasmin Ansari is the co-ordinator. Contact her at y.ansari@bham.ac.uk for dates and details.

Chris: Welcome to anyone recently joining us for this webchat about job hunting strategies and coping techniques. We're here until 1 o'clock. Ask any question you like!

S**: Hi all. Ellen how should I keep motivated if I do not hear back from employers even a word like thanks for your interest in our company or a single 'thanks'? It has a consequence where you may start doubting your capabilities. How about that?

Chris: Welcome S**. Your question's important, so I've opened it to anyone for comment.

Chris: Sorry, S**-get the spelling right-on job applications and all the time.

S*****: Hi S**. I have similar experience. I keep a record for all of the applications, such as application time, closing time and application documents. After applied for ten jobs, it became clear that employers should send reply in one to two months time on average. If they didn't, I would email or call them to ask for feedbacks. After I get the result from the job interview, I always write or call interviewers to ask for feedbacks. Sometimes the feedbacks from different interviewers could be very different. Although I did not get the job, I got a lot of positive and constructive advice which is very helpful to the job-seeking.

Ellen: Hi S**. Unfortunately employers are not always forthcoming in acknowledging applications - because they get so many I assume. If you accept that this is likely it is less disappointing. Keep notes of anyone you speak to in HR or Graduate recruitment and if you do follow up an application with a telephone call, keep your message brief and cheerful.

CN Advisor: MB: hi S**, employers are notorious for not getting back to applicants and your experience is common. Don't be afraid to phone up HR departments or the main contact for a job to check they have received your application. This is also a great opportunity to show your enthusiasm for the role.

Chris: Absolutely Mike (reminder that Mike Barnard from Milkround graduate jobs and careers website is here with us) Any questions for a recruitment and job market expert?

S**: Interesting. So I can follow up my application through a concise phone call or email.

CN Advisor: MB: S**, there's no reason you can't follow up your application with a call or email. And you should also request feedback from your application too. Employers aren't obliged to provide feedback, however you can often get some valuable insights.

Ellen: Yes, the people you work with or who work with fellow organisations, HQ etc as well as the professionals in Careers Network.

Chris: Charlene, what should those of us who need a boost to our proactiveness and positivity do? One or two starter tips in the job search context?

Charlene: Thank Chris, I think the first tip is to review your goals as I said earlier at least weekly - this will help you stay clear about what you should be doing to move forward, I also think it's good to never stop learning about the career you want, through talking to people especially. This will keep you excited, add to your knowledge and keep you networking.

Chris: Picking up Mike's point about follow up rejections and feedback, if you show you're confident and proactive (important as Charlene says) then you'll leave the employer with a strong impression of you. Next week someone may resign or announce maternity leave and they'll be recruiting again. You're likely to be considered and asked back for another chance.

Chris: We've lost Blandine Moghuo, hope temporarily we'll try and get her back. The technology is temperamental - bear with us for the last 25mins

S*****: Charlene, in terms of time management, I mentioned that I have multiple tasks in hand and have demands from married life. I found it is very difficult to get enough sleep and exercise. Could you give me some suggestions on the time management?

Charlene: Hey, Of course that's really hard. The thing we always say is it's not time management - it's attention management, so making sure (as much as possible) that you're giving your full attention to the task hand - if you are having family time for example that's it - you're focussed on that and then when you're studying you're focussed on that, that way you get the maximum outcome from each area of your life, from there it's being clear about when you do each activity, the best time for you in terms of energy and time available. What do you think?

S*****: Thank you very much for the encouragement, Charlene.

Charlene: It might be good to start with an energy audit to find out what times you're at the most vital. We all know generally if we're a morning person or an evening person but our energy levels vary quite a lot during the day so if you can make a note of it for a couple of days it can help with scheduling. Then you need to work out what you need to do and how long/how much energy it takes to do it. You need to focus your efforts on the things that have the highest impact for the lowest energy , for example when I have less time I go to a dance class instead of the gym because it's social AND I'm learning a skill so it's more time efficient. Sorry, I think some answers haven't loaded for me so I hope this isn't too confusing!

S*****: Thanks, Charlene. I agree with you. I make daily task plan in the morning and review it in the evening. Hope I can keep focused. Could you give me some suggestions on how to prioritize tasks? For me, it seems that most of the tasks in hand are important (e.g. exam preparation, part-time job, job seeking etc.). It is very difficult to finish all the tasks I wanted to do every day.

Charlene: If you find you're routinely scheduling more than you can do everyday then you will only feel like you're not succeeding. I have a huge list of things I want to achieve but I only allow myself to have 9 things on my action list every day, it makes me focus and I end the day feeling that I have achieved.

S*****: Thanks Charlene.

Ellen: Remember you can still use the Careers Network for 1 year after graduation wherever you may be.

Chris: Keeping in touch with other graduates can help alot with coping with the challenges and frustrations of job hunting-and celebrating achievements. Easy to get isolated when you leave university, keep in touch with people, meet up when you can. I guess Charlene would agree that looking after your social life helps with positivity.

S*****: Thanks Chris and Ellen. During my PhD study, I rarely had any social life. It's time to catch up.

CN Advisor: Blandine: I am now back in Chris, thanks

Chris: We're going to finish very soon. Any last questions?

Ellen: Please come to our coffee morning. Our lead International Student Ambassador is a PhD CoSS student and the others are all really friendly. They will make you feel very comfortable.

CN Advisor: Blandine: try also to into >>Progress>> with My bham, it could help a lot S*****

Chris: Thank you all for contributing to this discussion. Thanks especially to our external guests Charlene from Think Productive and Mike from Milkround.

Sorry for any tech problems. We'll edit the whole chat and hopefully pick up any missed comments, and make it available for future use by students.

Ellen: You're welcome and thanks to Blandine for giving up her time

Charlene: Thanks for having me! Best of luck

CN Advisor: Blandine: thank you for all you

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