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Getting your dream job: Advice from the National Careers Service

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The National Careers Service provides information and advice to help you make decisions on training and work opportunities. The service offers confidential and impartial advice to teenagers and adults in England (for other parts of the UK, see ‘further advice’ below). Visit the website to talk to an adviser via webchat, or access information and online tools to help you improve your job prospects and take control of your career.

If you need a visa to work in the UK, please see Work visas for graduates for advice, and visit the UK Visas and Immigration website for full information.

Here, National Careers Service adviser Victoria Matthews shares tips on how to find your ideal job.

Victoria says: ‘Choosing a career and finding work can feel like a daunting prospect at times, particularly if you are not familiar with the UK jobs market. Whether your priority is trying to identify the ideal long-term career or looking for part-time work, there are a few things to consider to help you reach your goal.' Read on for her advice...

Identifying the right career for you

If you know what you want to do, you can start to research the entry requirements for that role and start planning your job applications.

The National Careers Service Job Profiles section has information on over 750 jobs and will help you make sure you have the right skills and qualifications. You can also find out about what the work would be like, the average salary you could expect and what the career prospects are.

But what if you’re unsure about which career is right for you? As a starting point you may want to consider questions such as:

  • What are you looking for from a career?
  • If you were to visualise yourself in your perfect job, what would you be doing day-to-day?
  • Can you commit to further study, or gain work experience if required?
  • Do you have particular criteria that a career will need to meet, such as working hours, environment, salary?
  • What transferable skills do you already have that may be desirable to future employers? Eg. are you analytical, good at writing, tech-savvy or great at negotiating with people?

It’s worth giving serious thought to these questions, as they will help you identify realistic career options as well as explore different roles.

If you need inspiration, the National Careers Service Skills Health Check tool can help you to identify your skills, interests and work values and generate career ideas, so that you can start exploring what kind of job would suit you. Simply complete a series of questions and activities to help identify your dream career.

Networking and looking for vacancies

Networking is a valuable way of making contacts and learning about how a particular industry works in this country.

Your university or college careers service, friends and past colleagues may also be able to help you think about where vacancies might be available.

In the UK, you can find many job vacancies through employment agencies, or on job search websites.

Online social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook are also useful. You could ‘follow’ certain companies to find out when they are recruiting, and this is a good opportunity to familiarise yourself with the latest industry news. Having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile can also be useful to make yourself known to prospective employers.

Writing an effective CV

Once you’ve decided which career or job you want to pursue, it’s really important to dedicate time to creating an effective CV, or updating the one that you already have.

Have a look at our CV article for top tips on writing a winning CV.

Preparing for interview

So your CV is looking great, you’ve applied for your dream job and you’ve been invited to interview! That’s a great start, but the hard work isn’t over yet.

To succeed in an interview, it’s important to do your research and be prepared.

Read as much as you can about the company – for example, where is their head office? What products or services do they offer? Who are their customers? It is also worth thinking about the wider industry they operate in, and the challenges they will be facing. You should be able to find a lot of this information on their website. Have a look at the ‘About us’ and news sections, if they have them. Also, they may have an annual report for shareholders – try reading the executive summary.

Secondly, make sure you familiarise yourself with the person specification for the role you are applying for. What skills and experience are they looking for?

This research will help you to anticipate the kind of interview questions that may be asked, and demonstrate that you’ve taken the time to learn about the company. It’s also worth having answers prepared for generic interview questions, such as your strengths and weaknesses, and why you want the job.

When you’re in the interview, it’s OK to be nervous and to take a moment to gather your thoughts before answering a question, but these are things that you really should know already. This may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people go into an interview underprepared.

Interview day

Finally, after all of your hard work, the day of the interview has arrived. Hopefully you’ve had time to research and practice your route so that you turn up on time.

Surveys have found that in the first few minutes of an interview, the majority of the interviewer’s opinion of you has been formed based on how you look, act and sound – so make sure you are dressed smartly, speak clearly and think about your body language. Also, don’t forget to turn off your mobile phone! An interviewer will not be impressed by that kind of interruption.

Looking for a job is a job in itself, but if you follow these simple, common sense steps, you should be well on your way to getting your foot on the ladder.

Further advice

For further advice on careers in England, visit the National Careers Service website.

If you’re looking for information about careers in other parts of the UK, please visit: