Erica Buist | Contributor | Monday, 12 January 2015

Ask An Adult: I'm Fed Up At Work. How Do I Go About Getting Another Job?

The Debrief: You’ve decided ‘It's Time’. But how the hell do you go about getting a new job?!
Illustration by Karol Banach

Shout out, ‘I want to change jobs this year,’ and over a third of the country will shout, ‘Me too!’ Well, they would if we lived in a cartoon. Last year only a fifth of the UK workforce wanted to leave their jobs, and in 2013, the year of ‘OMFG cling to your jobs everyone, getting hired seems to have been banned’, only 13% of the UK workforce wanted to leave their jobs, the plucky pups. In a glorious turnaround from the days of employers being buyers in a buyers’ market, they’re are now being warned by ILM chief executive Charles Elvin that they will have to ‘work harder to keep their talented employees’. That’s right, bosses: treat ’em mean, keep ’em until they manage to score a better position with a nicer company.

So, new year, new job? Here’s how to score one:

Get the timing right

The ‘New Years Resolution effect’ causes a January surge in people looking for jobs, which makes it the worst month when it comes to competition. The ratio of candidates to jobs available is highest in January – 25% higher than the next month, November. Executives Online’s data shows that ‘business-as-usual months’ are the best ones for job hunting: November, February, March, May, June, and October sees a higher-than-average number of new jobs available. It might be prudent to bide your time, like a poker-faced ninja, until there is less competition. 

Do your research. Seriously, investigate like you’re an FBI agent and you think your desired job has murdered its neighbour

A sideways leap can be the hardest job change to make: since you need experience to get experience, it can be tricky convincing an employer to take a chance on you. Especially if, in interviews, you reveal your lack of experience in simple ways, such as using the wrong terminology. 

Chris Tindall is five months into a new job in education after being a freelance roadie. Now running the theatre at a private school and teaching, Tindall says, ‘I started by doing loads of research.’ This included guzzling everything possible about education, whether it was reading articles online, reading the education pages in newspapers, following and chatting to teachers on Twitter. ‘All this helped me learn how people in education talk and the language they use,’ he adds,  ‘I also read up on how to get jobs as a teacher, so I could write applications like I had a degree (which I do have, but it’s in stage management), and as if I was more of a teacher than a technician.’

Pinch your CV’s cheeks for colour

Yeah yeah, redo your CV, we know – but how, exactly? Rather than read article after article on words, phrases and formats to include or avoid on your CV – although this one from GoThinkBig is an absolute corker, I defy you not to see at least one detail and mutter, ‘Shit!’ – try actually doing something that at least looks like relevant experience. Sometimes an employer goes on the ‘feel’ of a CV – to use Tindall’s job hunt as an example, a freelance roadie who really, really wants to be in education isn’t as attractive as a freelance roadie with a clear educational bent.

Tindall did some fancy footwork when trying to tapdance over into education. ‘I did some freelancing at a university and a school to make my CV more education-y.’ Same job but in a school? Boy, you DO know education!

Tell anyone who’ll listen that you want a different job – yes, even your boss

People often feel changing jobs has to be done on the down-low, that if your boss knows you’re thinking of leaving you’ll be thought of as uncommitted, less of a team player, and before you know it you’re being left out of meetings and lunches. But it doesn’t have to be that way – if you want to do a different job, shout about it, advises Will Henderson.

Henderson used to work for Innocent UK as an ‘office superman and general dogsbody’, and handed in his three-month notice because although he loved the company and the job, it wasn’t going anywhere long term. ‘I had been talking openly to people at the company about wanting to change roles. After about a month, one of the people with whom I’d been chatting came to me and said there was a job opportunity going with the finance and logistics team in Paris.’ If he’d kept his mouth shut about his aspirations, no one would have thought to mention him for the role.

There’s no harm in telling your boss you want to be doing something different, says Henderson. ‘If an opportunity arises, not only will they think of you, but usually they can train you to do the job far more cheaply than they can replace you. And even if they can’t, having a conversation as an adult, explaining that you want more or different responsibilities is far better than bitching about it in the pub, and certainly better than flouncing in one day saying, ‘Here’s my notice, I’ve always hated this role and I’ve ALWAYS HATED YOU.’

Do – but never say – ‘networking’

This word is a bit gross. The cynical meaning is ‘get to know people so that you might be the beneficiary of some nepotism’. The less cynical interpretation is make sure you’re in the eyeline of people too lazy to go through the traditional hiring process. Either way, putting your face in front of other faces is broadly a good thing. And it’s not all schmoozing at drinks dos – aspiring lawyer James Munroe claims to be ‘very bad’ at networking, but has found attending events organised by his law school have proved helpful as a way to meet people without the excruciating awkwardness of standing there with a drink and an agenda (my words, not his). ‘For law, attending mock trials, debating and mooting events are good fun, and good networking opportunities.’

Don’t think of it as networking. Arrange to go for drinks with that friend from uni you haven’t seen but see from her Facebook posts is doing that thing you want to do now. Don’t ask if you can 'pick someone’s brains'. It sounds weird, like you’re going to do some kind of experiment on them without the proper medical degrees. Just do a social occasion and ask about their life. Sincere interest – or what appears to be sincere interest – is far more likely to get you genuine offers of help than obsequious ‘networking’ or putting your fingers in their brain.

Don’t wait to be offered the job. Just start doing it

If you’re lucky enough to be able to showcase your talents without actually having the job yet, for God’s sake, do it. My own experience of being a struggling journalist led me to set up an anonymous blog, How to Be Jobless. I did it to make myself laugh and feel better about being unemployed, but it ended up landing me a job – which isn’t as far-fetched a story as it sounds. A blog is a showcase of writing talent, as well as a way to practise and improve. If you’re an aspiring writer, video producer, designer... anything you can basically appoint yourself to do, start doing it. Showcase your talent on a tumblr, on Twitter, donate your work and services – not only does it build your CV and oil up the skills, it shows potential employers a pretty epic work ethic. It’s one thing not to have a job, but to do the job regardless? That shows passion. Or that you read this article and took my advice. Don’t worry, they’ll never know the difference. 

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Follow Erica on Twitter: @ericabuist

Illustration: Karol Banach 

Tags: Work it