We’ve recently met some amazingly talented and inspiring young women struggling to take their first step on the career ladder. Getting your first job can be challenging - employers are looking for graduates with work experience and yet you need a first job in order to gain that work experience. It’s a catch 22!
Here are four steps you can take to give yourself the boost and begin your career journey.
1. Know yourself better
Early-stage career people focus on their education and often their hobbies, but employers are looking for the whole person. If they are employing graduates, they know that you don’t have work experience and so they are looking for your soft skills. Spend time getting to know yourself first - your strengths, your weaknesses, your passions and your plans for the future. Having these clear in your mind will help you focus on which roles are right for you in the world of work. Two excellent resources for this are What Color is Your Parachute? 2018: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard Bolles and Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabel Briggs Myers.
Now that you know what jobs would suit you most and what your strengths are, write a few sentences around this for the top of your resume. Adding an example makes this even more useful for employers. Then develop a short pitch for when you meet a prospective employer - your elevator pitch!
2. Network like a pro
Some people are natural networkers, but most of us are not. The good news is we can learn and just a few simple tricks can be incredibly useful. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is perfect for picking up these essential habits. Research the types of conferences and meetings that are attended by your prospective employer. Put on your most professional attire, take a deep breath, then approach with confidence. But remember, they want to meet the real you, so always be authentic. Once you have made the connection in person, follow up with a LinkedIn request so you can keep track of your expanding network.
3. Ask for the job
You’ve found your niche, the roles that most suit you and your strengths. You’ve reached out and connected with potential employers. This will have given you an even better idea of the type of places you would like to work and the people you’d like to work with.
The next step? Ask for a job! It might sound simple, but it takes courage. If you’ve done your research and know this is the place for you, then you have nothing to lose - and everything to gain! Flexibility is key early in your career. Even if the opportunities aren’t available at your dream job right now, think outside the box and try for companies which will put you in a great position the next time around. It’s common to move around early in your career, before settling down into that dream job. So go out there and start asking. Attend meetings, conferences, knock on doors, email, etc. - do all you can to make contact and ask for a job.
4. Become a Volunteer or intern
This is one way to address the work experience gap. This can be challenging because it’s difficult to work for free or very small wages as an intern but we’ve found that this is one of the best ways to get your first job. Consider it an investment and a learning experience in the same way as formal education. Internships are a great way to build a professional network of contacts, to build your resume, and land a job. Employers often consider their own interns as the best potential candidates for internal positions because they are a known entity and are already trained up in organisational processes and culture.
We've produced a Wonder Woman Resume Cheat-Sheet and Template to help you on your way. You can also check out our Wonder Woman Guide to Acing your Interview. If you’d like further support from us, please see here for our services.
We Are All Wonder Women is an international movement for female conservation professionals to be inspired, connected, and empowered to create an authentic, fulfilling and happy career.