Finding civilian job success is more reliant on online networking and job boards than ever before. Clive Lowe, former Royal Engineer and Deputy Director of Employment at the OA, gives an update.
In these unusual times of home working and social distancing, many job seekers are looking to the internet to help find their next role. Even in the ‘pre-Covid’ environment, job sites such as Indeed and Monster were popular. LinkedIn, recruitment agencies and job platforms all play a part but as we slowly emerge from lockdown, what is the most effective job seeking method?
Understanding what kind of role you want and what type of organisation you would like to work in is essential, says OA Career Consultant Lisa Jones. Geography and salary expectations influence decisions, but many Service leavers look to former colleagues and friends for inspiration. The ‘well-trodden paths’ of defence, management consultancy and banking remain popular choices for ex-military personnel.
So almost without realising it, Service leavers find themselves networking with their peers and starting to navigate the job market by simply having conversations. ‘Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted’ goes the old military adage, and it is equally valid for job hunting. Learning from others about the culture and values of an organisation, understanding what the work would involve and how your skills are transferrable is invaluable. Speaking to people will help you translate the different job titles described in job specs to ensure you apply for a role that is right for you. As Fiona Jackson, OA Career Consultant, points out, “People are your most useful asset when it comes to gaining information and improving your knowledge of sectors and organisations.”
Networking is still key
Over the past year, face-to-face networking has proved almost impossible. With the roll-out of vaccines and a road map to lifting lockdown now in place, networking in person will return. In the meantime, necessity is the mother of invention and technology is enabling us to network effectively online – GoToMeeting, Zoom, Skype and MS Teams are just some of the platforms used by businesses. Familiarise yourself with these and become an expert on at least one platform.
We often get asked; how do you stand out as a strong candidate when applying for a job? The answer here, is of course, through networking. Getting someone on the inside of an organisation to ‘vouch’ for or ‘recommend’ you is invaluable. Hiring is a risky business, and employers will look to mitigate the risks of a poor hire.
LinkedIn can be valuable
LinkedIn is primarily a professional social networking site that works to connect people. At its most basic level, it is a massive database with 740 million registered members from 150 countries. Users can search for employees within their target organisations, requesting to be introduced by a shared connection.
Central to LinkedIn success is their jobs board, which is used as a recruitment tool by just about every major organisation, making it the largest job market for professionals. Spending time ensuring your LinkedIn profile is relevant and reflects your experience is crucial to networking and job success.
LinkedIn groups are smaller communities that share a common interest; think about joining these. Use LinkedIn to identify people you could speak to about their careers rather than as a job application tool. Search out ex-military contacts in the company you are interested in and share a virtual coffee with them. Attend virtual events and insight activities and once lockdown restrictions ease, and it is safe to do so, attend these events in person.
Online job applications
To do justice to an online job application, research the organisation thoroughly. Network to ensure your name is ‘on the radar’, and ensure your CV closely matches the role specifications. Each job application should be targeted, measured and well researched, says Lisa Jones, but using a ‘scattergun’ approach and applying for multiple jobs seldom yields successful results.
Reports suggest that between 70% to 85% of people find their job through networking, having been recommended for a role by a former colleague or friend. Other statistics suggest that some 70% of open positions are not even advertised; often referred to as the ‘hidden jobs market’. So how do you access these opportunities? Again, networking is the most valuable activity if you want to find out more about an organisation’s future recruitment plans.
Online job hunting can be time-consuming with a low rate of return, says Fiona Jackson. Avoid large job sites like Monster/Total Jobs/CV Library etc, as your CV could get ‘lost in the ether’. Instead, target those recruitment sites that reflect the sectors you’re interested in. For example, for roles in the charity sector, use CharityJob or go to individual charity websites. The OA offers its own jobs platform; OA Recruit offers job vacancies aimed at the officer cohort. There are bespoke job sites aimed at ex-military personnel worth considering, such as Security Cleared Jobs and the CTP.
Remember, networking is essential when applying for jobs online. Try to speak to someone in the organisation before applying for a role and don’t put ‘all your eggs in one basket’ by relying solely on virtual job hunting. When Covid restrictions allow, get out and about to meet people but until then, network virtually.