Finding work in London
April 28, 2011 8:17 AM   Subscribe

UK jobsearching: I'm 26, and having a tough time finding any job in London - let alone one that's a good career prospect. Do you have any pointers, and in particular, advice on how to get reliable, short-term work to cover the gaps?

I'm in London, UK. My CV is here, if anyone wants to see.

I have a great English BA, and respectable A-levels/GCSEs, along with just over 4 years work experience. The trouble is, I haven't really been too career-minded during this period and my background is somewhat spotty, vague and broad. After Uni I spent 6 months doing temp office jobs, then spent 2.5 years working at a small, but successful company where I handled all the day to day affairs - it was mainly me who talked to customers from end to end, got us new clients and contracts, scheduled, bookkept/ran the database, handled credit control, ran the small office, did misc. tasks for the MD, offered ideas on new products, new procedures, etc etc... I've been styling myself as "Admin/Sales Manager" but it's hard to know if I'm pitching it right given the mixed levels of responsibility and lack of a clearly-defined job description.

I left that since there was no prospect of promotion or payrise, but then just fell into a mishmash of stuff - a long freelance editing gig, stints returning to my original job for a month or so to cover for people, an 8-month data analysis project at a financial group, and some temp work. I've done well everywhere I've been, and handled some quite high-level stuff in terms of management, business development, PA skills and more, but it's always been under the guise of a generalist or nominally low-level person. The only really specific skills I have are in stuff like MS Office, which is hardly a rare asset. The trouble is, most of the jobs this sets me up for are either very low-wage admin, or cold-sales-heavy stuff like recruitment, telesales, etc, which I want to avoid.

So, I'm still wrestling with the best way to match this to a job with decent prospects - ideally building on the ~£25k I was earning at the financial group, but at this point I'd take anything above £20k really - and to sell it properly on my CV. I'd like to work in the not-for-profit sector, and I've made some inroads on gaining skills, connections and knowledge about that, but it's likewise tough to break into. In that sector and in general, my experience for the last couple of years has been agencies registering me but then never getting back or responding to enquiries, and job applications falling into a bottomless void.

Anyway, I don't really expect specific CV tips or whatever without going into more depth, but any general ideas or suggestions would be welcome.

I also have a couple of specific questions:

* I've thought about seeing something like a "career consultant" who can go through my background, aims etc, tell me where I've been going wrong and what I can do right. But it's hard to tell who's going to be able to help me, who's selling vague bumpf, who's overpriced, and who's just plain useless. Does anyone have any experience using these? Recommendations? Suggestions on how to find a worthwhile one?

* While I search, things would be much more secure if I could get some kind of reliable short-term work, even if it was low-paid. I don't have any bar/retail experience, and would ideally like to avoid jobs where I'm dealing directly with customers all day, but can compromise. Given that agencies don't seem to have even low-level data-entry work for me -- unless I'm just missing something -- what are people's recommendations about filling-the-gaps jobs?
posted by Drexen to Work & Money (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Two CVs, one for admin and one for sales? You know you use the word "superb" three times in the first paragraph, right?
posted by Leon at 8:23 AM on April 28, 2011

I'd recommend tailoring your resume to be more specific to a given opportunity. Here's what your intro says:
Bright, adaptable English graduate with proven experience in administration, management, sales, business development and office/executive support. Confident communicator at every level, with superb office skills, excellent command of language, and a talent for solving problems and improving systems to achieve superb results.
The problem is that it looks like you are trying out for (and undecided between) three different jobs- editor, admin, and sales manager. I'd suggest having three different resumes, and slant them so they are in better alignment with whatever job you're pursuing at that moment. Similarly, I'd spin your background in each variation. If you want to be a sales manager, then transform the editorial section so it better covers proposal writing and marketing. If you're going after an editorial position, then kill the process stuff (or spin it so it's about content workflow).
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:25 AM on April 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, I hadn't noticed the "superb" thing - looks like 2 of them, not 3, but I will change that.

I do in most cases send a tailored CV for each position - that's just the "general" one I keep on hand, to give an idea of what I've done. I will be sure to step up the level of tailoring - I got similar advice a little while back, and have been working on it.
posted by Drexen at 8:41 AM on April 28, 2011

Quite a long CV for a 26-year-old. I would cut a lot of the small jobs and put them in a section called Freelance and Short Term Work and itemize them as bullet points. I.e., Company Name, Title. Significant achievement in one sentence.

Do A-Level grades matter when you are 26? I don't bother saying I have a high school diploma.
posted by parmanparman at 9:08 AM on April 28, 2011

If you are aiming for reasonably well paid work I would mention your admin experience but mention it last. Instead emphasise whatever other experience you have that is most appropriate for the role, be it sales, or finance or general management type stuff.

The smaller the organisation you apply to the more they will value all round skills but as you rightly say there is an assumption that people can use MS Office and do general admin even in a lot of roles that aren't admin specific because support staff are among the first people to go when money is tight and a degree of self sufficiency is often expected.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:11 AM on April 28, 2011

Just looked at your CV - consider doing this skills based and not job history/experience based. Your fragmented employment history has allowed you to gain a broad set of skills - let that shine through as opposed to highlighting the long list of jobs.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:16 AM on April 28, 2011

Best answer: I would consider cutting down your CV. Not many people are going to read it - most will only skim it. Write it with the knowledge that you only have about two seconds of someone's attention before they move on to the next CV.

Take a look at the Prospects website. They offer a CV review service for a few pounds and they do a really good job. I had my CV looked at by them out of curiosity and they made some great suggestions.
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 9:23 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the input so far, guys! I'll definitely work on cutting my CV down further to the essentials.
posted by Drexen at 9:57 AM on April 28, 2011

Highlight and quantify accomplishments vs. past job descriptions. E.g. "raised GBP" vs. "administrative liaison"; "bid and won multiple new contracts" vs. "dealt with whatever..."

Shorter the sweeter - I wouldn't read through this version as it's too long.
posted by zeikka at 10:01 AM on April 28, 2011

Best answer: Re a careers consultant, I can recommend Teresa Glover at the University of London Careers Group at Russell Square. I had an hour long session with her last year when I was trying to decide whether to stay in my current profession or switch to something new. She understood where I was coming from very quickly, had a lot of relevant knowledge and insights, and I found the session very helpful. I came away with a firm plan which has worked well for me since. I think the session cost about £75? Anyway, it was well worth it.
posted by prune at 11:40 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been on the job hunt, and I do at least small revisions on my CV for every job I apply to. I literally cut and paste the job announcement into the top of my document, then go through my skills and experience sections emphasizing exactly what they want to see.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 1:45 PM on April 28, 2011

You have GOT to put bullet points in. I've looked through a fair amount of CVs and blocks of text lose me immediately. Whatever else you do, please use bullet points for each job description.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:27 PM on April 28, 2011

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