Expert chat: Job hunting woes

Saj, our job hunting expertSaj Samiullah has worked extensively within the IT industry. In 2011, he set up his own IT recruitment business, using the in-depth experience he built up from industry. Having been a hiring manager, a job seeker and now a recruitment consultant, Saj has a great all-round view of what young people should be doing to give themselves the best chance in today's competitive job market.

Louise: I haven't been job hunting for many reasons, one of which is that I have a form of autism. I'm currently a childminder which I really enjoy but I'd quite like something with more of a routine. My passion is supporting people so becoming a counsellor is appealing to me. But I don't have the courage to even go to college, let alone apply for a job like that.

Saj: The key thing to consider is, do you feel that if you got a job which offered you a routine, would you be able to do it? If so, there's no need to declare that you have autism on your CV. All you need to do is try your best to get in front of the right people and get a feel for the work. Hirers LOVE passion. I would be interested in someone who has high passion and less experience than the other way around. It counts for so much.

Helen: There may be learning you can explore outside of a formal college environment. There's lots of e-learning available online and other organisations like The Mix that provide distance support. You may find some volunteering opportunities that give you the opportunity to discover your true skills.

Saj: Volunteering is an excellent way to build up your experience and your credentials.

Jodie: I've looked into many volunteering opportunities but keep being turned down. Sometimes I've been turned down at the application stage due to my previous experience or a health condition I have. Other times I'm turned down at interview stage because I get very anxious, especially in big groups of people.

Saj: Interviews are nerve-wracking experiences with lots of different factors at play. All eyes are on you - who wouldn't be nervous? But the more you do it, the better you can be the next time. You have to learn from each experience and try to understand that the people asking the questions are just like you. When you have anxiety or depression, things get twice as hard. Something that can really help is role play. So here is a good link of how to prepare with mock interviews.

Jodie: I have tried role play and mock interviews and always do really well in them. It's just when it comes to the actual one that I fall at the last hurdle :(

Saj: Do you have anyone in your life who you can talk to about experiences like this? Someone who can be almost like a mentor. Perhaps a member of your family? The process of talking about your anxieties and fears can help you to step back and understand that interviewers aren't looking to catch you out - they just want to know that you are capable. So go in with a smile, think of something happy before you see them, and just have a good old chat! If someone is sitting in front of me for an interview for a volunteering position, I won't be giving that person a hard time. I wouldn't use tough questions like in a commercial job interview. I'd take a softer approach, and much of it would be conversational and just getting to know them.

Jodie: What would an employer be looking for? For example, team-working, being able to work on your own, leading a group etc. Would these skills be as well as the job description?

Saj: What an hirer looks for is different from business to business. However, common traits that people always look out for are things like passion (which we have discussed), ability and, very importantly, your ability to be able to think laterally. The ability to display that you are not a robot and can understand what needs to be done is very important. For example, on your CV you may list lots of skills, but what interviewers want is examples of where you used particular skills to help a real-life situation. So you can say you have 'filing' as a skill, however if you can say "Due to my filing skills I reorganised an office filing system which really helped everyone", it sounds much better.

Jodie: When you do get rejected by an employer, why does it cause you to feel less confident? Sometimes I feel I don't have the courage to apply for another job after I've been rejected.

Saj: With rejection, you have to adopt the attitude of 'The more times I get this wrong, the better my chance is of getting it right next time.' I won't lie - it's not easy to keep your motivation up after multiple 'no's. Anyone who says it is is lying! However, bear in mind, there are thousands of people in the same situation. You're not alone. Keep learning from it, and find someone to talk to as we discussed earlier.

Annabel: I've been on a rotational grad scheme for just over a year and I've enjoyed some rotations more than others. Unfortunately now my managers have decided that I'm very good at every job I do, so I'm having to return to jobs I'm not so keen on just to 'help out'. It's getting to the stage where I'm not making the progress that I want but I feel guilty about saying no. Should I say no more often?

Saj: The key thing here is communication. Young people sometimes are afraid to speak up. You don't have to harshly say no, but you do have to communicate what works for you and open up that channel with your managers. It's great that you're on a grad scheme and that you're doing well and being recognised. If you have a sit-down with your boss, you can let them know which jobs you enjoy most and plant the seed in their mind. Then, after 18 months, you can assess again and see where you're at.

Sandy: I've been looking into training to be a professional piercer. Any advice?

Saj: What have you done to further this line of interest of yours?

Sandy: I've done some research and looked at training and at apprenticeships too.

Helen: Have you got piercings yourself, Sandy?

Sandy: Yes, loads!

Saj: You will have some cred when approaching piercers for apprecticeships, which is a good start! Again, with this one it's about passion. There's lots of competition for apprenticeships so it really is about having the belief that this is what you want to do and then hounding people enough so they can see that - within reason!

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015