Differentiate yourself in applications for jobs and work experience

March 31, 2009

Image courtesy of SOCIALisBETTER at flickr.comSo you’ve seen an ad for an internship or other opportunity and you’re about to send through the traditional CV and covering letter, but you’re wondering how you can distinguish your application from all the other applications (sometimes hundreds!) that the organisation will receive. It’s a tough one, and there are no hard and fast rules about what works and what doesn’t – if you ask 10 employers “What makes a CV really stand out for you?” you’ll get 10 different answers.

Some employers tell us that if they receive a CV on coloured paper they see it as a gimmick and it’ll be straight in the bin. Some like a more imaginative approach, as long as it is thoughtfully tailored to the job/organisation in question. One senior executive from a NW-based media company told students at a careers event we ran yesterday that he had recently selected a guy for a marketing job because he had sent as part of his application a video outlining his ideas for the marketing the business. However, if his ideas had been poor  or the video itself had been badly executed, then his application would be the first target of the employer’s ‘delete” button.

So if you’re going to go out on a limb and do something different, make sure you do it well! Just because you’re doing something different it doesn’t mean you can relax the quality of your application in terms of content and structure. In fact, you may need to work extra hard at producing something top notch, as  you’re asking the recruiter to be open-minded. For some people, a less risky way of distinguishing themselves is just to produce a really high quality targeted ‘traditional’ application with concrete evidence of the skills and experience that the employer is asking for and a clear passion for the area of work.

Finally, think about the ethos or culture of the organisation you are targeting. A very off-the-wall ‘social media’ approach may not go down so well with a very traditional organisation; a traditional CV and covering letter might work better. It’s horses for courses.


Finding work experience in competitive sectors

March 26, 2009

Some professions are seen as ‘competitive’, even taking into account the current financial climate. This may be because of the many thousands of graduates who beat a well trodden path to those jobs. Or it might because there simply aren’t many jobs to be had in that sector, but they are seen as interesting, desirable, or perhaps well paid. So how do you beat the queues and the competition?

Read the job spec properly

  • Understand what they are looking for. Check their corporate website, not just the recruitment pages. Try and understand the culture of the organisation. Does that sound like you? Why? Try and articulate this in your application. For example, if a company prides itself on its client relations, show that you are an outgoing person who can develop rapport with people, and where you have done this before.
  • Take the time to emphasise the transferable skills you have which are relevant to the role. If you haven’t seen our previous post, read that first.

Research the sector

  • Really research it. Look for websites, magazines, forums, people who know anything about it. Try and develop your understanding over several months at least, so that you can show you know what the sector is all about.
  • Organisations in competitive areas won’t be impressed if you just checked out the story of the day but can’t tell them what kinds of clients they work for or who their competitors are.

Start early

  • Recruiters often tell us that those applicants who apply as soon as possible after an advert show motivation, and on a practical level there may be more jobs to choose from if you apply early.
  • Even if an organisation has an ‘open’ closing date, there will be candidates being selected and interviewed during this time so the later you leave it the less chance you have.
  • You could ask companies in advance when their internship/work experience positions will be advertised, so you could get some forewarning.

Be proactive

  • If you don’t see vacancy adverts for your sector, approach organisations through speculative application, sending a targeted covering letter outlining your genuine interest in their organisation, and more importantly what skills you feel you can offer them.
  • As well as using the careers service information and graduate career directories, you can find lists of companies through the internet so easily these days, you just have to think laterally.  See the ‘career detective’ post on the postgrad careers blog to give you an idea.
  • Another idea is to search for companies on www.yell.co.uk. If you can’t find the company website listed on the directory then just google it. Hey presto.
  • There may be companies out there who don’t have any paid positions but may be amenable to some short term unpaid work experience or work shadowing. Once you have this on your CV, not only do you have contacts but your chances of finding paid work experience or an internship may improve considerably.

Jobs Seen on the Street 26.3.09

March 26, 2009

Part time jobs this week include:

Seen on the Job Centre Plus website
(Enter job ref and click ‘GO’ for details)

Seen on the Arndale Centre website

Seen on The Jobs Mine

Seen on Reed employment agency website

Seen on the Key 103 website

Seen via All The Top Bananas website


Want a career in the media? Start developing your skills and experience now!

March 20, 2009

Online newspaperOK, so you would like to get some kind of job in the media when you graduate. Maybe you’re not really sure what yet. Perhaps you quite like the idea of writing, or maybe you fancy yourself as the next Jeremy Clarkson or Paxman, depending on your personal style. OK, great – here are some things you need to know.

1. The media as an industry is developing and changing at breakneck speed. Keep your finger on the pulse.

  • It’s tough out there. Let’s start with the bad news. The job market for traditional journalism is contracting, and this is a long-term trend (over and above the impact of the recession), due to a great extent to the explosion of online media and user-generated content. Getting into journalism always was tough. But it’s going to get much tougher. For example, the Manchester Evening News recently announced it is axing 150 jobs and shutting down its local offices, due to falling revenues. And this is part of a national picture. The NUJ estimates that at least 1,000 editorial jobs have been lost across the industry since last summer, and ITV have cut up around 1000 jobs – broadcasting is not immune to this trend. At the same time UCAS reports that applications for undergraduate journalism degrees have gone up 24% in the last year. So expect more competition than ever before.
  • However, the media job landscape is changing. Even a ‘print’ journalist is now expected to be able to write for the web (e.g. google search friendly headlines) and be able to use social networking tools like Twitter for researching and breaking stories, as well as develop video and audio reports for the web. New job titles like multimedia content developer and social media specialist are springing up all the time the media industry embraces the web, just as ‘traditional roles’ in print and broadcast journalism are disappearing or changing shape. The Media Week jobs site is currently advertising 143 jobs in its digital/online category, compared with 10 in radio, 7 in TV and 29 and 20 in national and regional press respectively. The traditional distinctions between types of media (e.g. print and broadcast) and media and marketing are also dissolving online. Job roles for people working in online media/journalism, PR, marketing and advertising can be very similar, as the day-to-day activities and skills required are often the same and organisations and individuals increasingly ‘do a bit of everything’.

2. You need plenty of work experience and a whole host of skills to make you stand out!

  • Start small. If you have diddly-squat media experience on your CV, you’re unlikely to land a cushy internship at a top newspaper/TV studio straight away. Most people start out as regular writers/editors for the University newspaper Student Direct or contributors to the Student radio station FUSE FM. There are also hospital and community radio stations to try. The North West Radio info site has a good list of commercial and community radio stations. To get media recruiters to take an interest in you further down the line, you’ll need to demonstrate a longstanding commitment to a career in the media, so make sure you start early so you have lots to go on your media CV by the time you graduate.
  • Be proactive and self-publish. Don’t depend just on getting formal work experience. The internet has opened up a wealth of opportunities, so there’s no excuse for not starting to build up your portfolio now. Try submitting reviews of gigs, restaurants etc to local online entertainment sites like Manchester Confidential or local blogs, start a blog yourself on a subject you’re passionate about, write news reports for ‘citizen journalism’ sites like iReport (owned by CNN). If you’re interested in broadcasting, buy yourself a digital dictaphone and create a mini-documentary or special report on a local issue and see if you can get it aired on a local radio station. In other words, be proactive and imaginative!
  • Develop your bank of skills. Look at job ads for jobs you think you would like. What skills do they ask for? Start to develop these as early as possible, e.g. by setting yourself projects or going on short training courses. This will help your CV really stand out.
  • Sign up for our 2-day ‘Insight into Broadcasting and Journalism‘ course on 30th and 31st March – open to all University of Manchester students. On the course you will have the opportunity to hear from and work alongside many media experts and professionals from leading companies like the BBC, the Guardian, the Independent, ITV, Galaxy radio and more. You will also get the chance to work in TV, radio or print groups to produce a news story and create a real piece of work to include in your portfolio. Great for meeting media employers, learning about the media industry, and developing new skills. There’s a small charge of £42.50 to cover costs, but think how it will look on your CV!

So… it’s not easy to get into a career in the media and the industry is changing rapidly, but there will always be a market for people wanting to consume media. Top tips for employability for the media sector:

  • Keep your eye on media jobs sites and the media press and make sure you’ve got your finger on the industry’s pulse. Where are the new job opportunities? How is the market developing? Where are jobs being cut?
  • Use your spare time to get as much work experience as possible, build your portfolio and your ‘skills for media’ toolkit. Familiarise yourself with the new tools used by experienced media professionals, like Twitter and other social media and also multimedia, as well as the more traditional skills. Don’t just read about them – have a go at using them!
  • Be both determined and flexible. It’s not easy to get into a career in the media, but it is possible. Be prepared to experience plenty of knock-backs (most people do!) and try to keep a number of different strategies on the boil at once. If you can’t get the job you really want, think about what other related jobs you could go for which would give you the skills and experience you need.
  • Download our invaluable ‘ Journalism & Broadcasting’ careers guide with lots of links to info about work experience and training opportunities.

Good luck!


Jobs Seen on the Street 19.3.09

March 19, 2009

We actually saw quite a few jobs on the Job Centre Plus website this week, so those below are only a selection.  For web searches we would suggest trying there first (unless you have a very specific job type or employer in mind, as some of the other job sites had slimmer pickings this week.

As always, asking in shops, bars etc is time consuming but highly recommended, as you might find jobs that haven’t been advertised yet.

Seen on the Job Centre Plus website
(Enter job ref and click ‘GO’ for details)

Seen at the Arndale Centre

Also seen…

  • By our roving reporter Sarah – a new Top Man store is planned on the site of the old USC store on Market Street opposite Boots. They were recruiting this week for staff, for details ask in the Arndale Centre Top Man Store.
Arndale Centre

Arndale Centre


Employability Week: 16-20 March 2009

March 17, 2009

This week it’s ‘Employability Week’  with the Careers Service running a series of events in the Student Union including drop-in applications checking and careers advice every day from 11am-3pm.  My colleague Alice (who organised the event) has a post on the finalist blog – read that for more details. 

See you in the Union!


Jobs Seen on the Street 12.3.09

March 12, 2009

This weeks vacancies are:

Seen on the Job Centre Plus website
(Enter job ref and click ‘GO’ to view)

Seen on the Jobsmine (Manchester Evening News website)

Seen on Employment 4 Students website

Seen in the Arndale Centre

  • Merchandiser at Red 5 gadget store:
    Previous experience required, 12 hours per week. For more details and to apply visit the Arndale Careers Centre, located at the Withy Grove Arndale entrance opposite Clinton Cards.
Red 5 Merchandiser

Red 5 Merchandiser


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