Over the last 10 years I have been employed full time in 6 different companies. Is that a lot of jobs for one decade? I’m not sure, I suppose it depends on a lot of factors. I don’t think I have a vastly different career history to other people who work in London, because it is such a fluid market.

But I have left a job because it was completely mis-sold (having stuck it out for a year) and another I left because the opportunity to move to Barcelona came along both of which are slightly unusual. Anyway, my point is that I know quite a bit about getting a new job and I’m going to share some of my knowledge with you in this post.

Tailor your covering letter and CV

I’ve written posts on both covering letters and resumes so all I would add here is that you should tailor your CV and covering letter for each of the jobs you are applying for. For example if you are applying for an assistant role that supports a communications director do emphasis your marketing skills or if you are applying for your first role working with a board level executive ensure you highlight any previous experience working with senior members of staff.

Working with recruitment agencies

Dealing with agencies – hum, this is tricky. In my experience there are some terrible agencies out there that will treat you really badly and will put you forward for jobs that are totally unsuitable for you. Dealing with employment agencies like this can be exhausting and a complete waste of time. Through trial and error I have managed to find a few diamonds in the rough, they are few and far between but out there if you know where to look and how to work with them. Here are a few things I’ve learnt about agencies over the years:

  • Agents are sales people. They are there to broker a deal between you the candidate and the organisation who are their client. The agent’s interests are in the organisation not you. Most agencies want to place a candidate in a position that they have experience in, ideally one that they have done in the past and that they have a proven track record in. This is great if you are looking for an identical job to the one you have currently but not brilliant if you want to move up the career ladder or try a new industry. This is why you really really need to tailor your resumes before approaching an agency otherwise you will end up doing what you have always done.
  • Agents are not there to further your career. They want to find a number of suitable candidates, place one in the role at a cost effective price that makes them commission and keeps their client (the employer) happy. Agencies have a number of jobs and will select the candidate that fills the requirements, they won’t proactively look for a role that suits you personally. It is worth bearing that in mind when you are looking for a new role. Ensure you are clear with the type of role you want and stick to it so that the agency doesn’t keep sending you unsuitable opportunities.
  • When applying for jobs through a website such as LinkedIn, monster.com or secsinthecity.co.uk do make sure your CV has all of the keywords appropriate for the job you are applying for. The agencies will only call you if your CV has passed their keyword algorithm. Totally unfair but totally true! Have a look online for keywords for assistants, you will find loads that you can add to your CV.
  • Quality not quantity. When you first start job hunting only join a few agencies so that you are not bombarded with calls. If your search takes longer than you thought you can join a few more depending on how urgently you need to find a new job. Remember it is quality not quantity and as I’ve already said some agencies are better than others.
  • Interview them too. Once you are invited in to see an agent remember that they are gatekeepers to the organisation you want to work for so do think of it as an interview. Dress appropriate and be prepared to answer questions about your career to date and experiences. Also remember that you can interview them too, they are making money out of you so you have every right to make sure they are the kind of agent you want representing you.

Remember to apply directly too!

I often forgot that I didn’t always have to go through a recruitment agency to find a new job, I could do some of the work myself! It is a good idea to target organisations that you would like to work for and connect with them directly, they may not be recruiting at that time but might keep your CV on file in case anything comes up. As ever it is also worthwhile making sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and you stay connected to your ideal employers on Twitter just in case they post any recruitment opportunities. Also do network with other assistants and attend any local events, you never know which contact might think of you when a job arises.

Should you go to every interview? 

Well I do think it depends on where you are in your career. I don’t think you should waste time going to interviews that are totally unsuitable for you at any point but if you are not very confident in  interviews or you are not 100% sure what you really want your next career move to be then you don’t really have anything to lose by going to most of the interviews offered to you. As I said, you gain interview experience, you might find out more about the job and actually like the sound of it or you might meet the executive and really click. Once you are at a level where you are totally confident in yourself and your skills you will become much more selective with the jobs you pick and the interviews you attend. Here is a link to my post on questions to ask at an interview.

 Good luck with your job hunt!

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