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Unemployment Blues: Improve Your Employability

By Rachel Nash

Posted: 6th August 2014 12:20

The job market is tough – there’s no denying that.  One of the most common complaints among recent graduates is that nobody will employ you, because you’ve not got experience – but how do you get the experience if nobody will employ you! It’s a difficult one, but sitting around wishing that things were different isn’t going to change anything.  However, YOU can.

Work Experience

Work experience is generally unpaid, short term (think less than a month), and is likely to have a low level of responsibility.  Loads of industries offer work experience, particularly media-type roles, and quite often will have a rotating-door type policy on candidates – one out, next one in.  As much as this can be a little impersonal, it means there are plenty of opportunities out there to try out and see if you like them.


Internships are usually longer running positions, and in general you will be given more responsibility than you would on a work experience placement.  Some internships are paid, and some are not.  If it’s an unpaid position, you should evaluate whether it’ll give you a useful insight into your chosen industry, leave you with demonstrable skills so you are a better candidate in the future, and if you’ll gain important contacts from your time in the position.  Yes to all three and it could be worth the investment of your time.

Don’t forget that while you might be a temporary intern, the company is getting a chance to see how you work and how well you fit in with them.  It might not lead to a full time role – but then again, it might! Should a position come up with that company in the future, you’ll be a really desirable candidate because they’ve actually seen how well you can do the job. 

Courses or Qualifications

It sucks, but even if you’ve got a degree, so does just about everyone else on the job market.  One way to really make you stand out is simply by proving that you never stop learning.  However, stating ‘a thirst for knowledge’ on your CV is a generic catchphrase with no real substantiation. 

Get around this by enrolling yourself of a course to gain some extra qualifications.  Lots of local colleges and universities offer night schools or short courses, so have a look into what’s offered in your area.  Even if you don’t take a course that directly corresponds to your chosen career, you’ll be learning new skills, providing tangible proof that you’re invested in yourself and that your free time is full of valuable learning experiences – and that you’re not just sitting around waiting for opportunity to fall into your lap!

If you have an idea of what your dream job would be, check available positions in that field to see if there are any extra qualifications or courses that are listed as essential or desirable criteria.  If there’s nothing listed, try and find interviews or publications by people working in that industry to see what path they’ve taken.  Not all courses will be useful, but if you can find a good one, it could really help you to get ahead.

No idea what you want to do? One of these multi-tasking courses will improve your employability no matter what job you choose.

  • Languages: speaking a second (or third!) language will immediately put you in the top percentage of candidates.
  • Computers/IT: pretty much every job will have some element of IT.  Make spreadsheets your forte or become a master of Photoshop and your see your job options open up.
  • First Aid: every workplace needs to have a registered first-aider – that could be you!
  • Writing or Literacy: if you don’t know your ‘it’s’ from your ‘its’ and the thought of proof-reading makes you cringe, it could be a worthy investment to brush up on these skills.  Good communication makes you a better candidate for pretty much every role you can think of.

It’s who you know, not what you know

So you spent three months as an intern but it didn’t lead anywhere.  Don’t be so quick as to dismiss the whole company! Even if they can’t offer you a job, your boss might know someone in the industry who has positions available, and even be able to put in a good word for you.  Never underestimate the power of a friendly word.

That said; try your hardest never to burn bridges.  You might hate the job, but sticking your middle finger up at the company the second you step out of the door won’t do you any favours.  Most industries are smaller than you think and gaining a bad reputation in your first position could seriously ruin your chances further down the line. 

You might feel weird doing it, but try calling up former colleagues, bosses, or teachers, to see if you can grab a coffee and pick their brains.  Be clear that you respect them and their opinions, and that you’d appreciate if they can help you in your job hunt.  Most people will be flattered that you think highly enough of them to ask for their help, and really, what do you have to lose?

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