In this exclusive extract from her new book, How To Get A Job, Sidekicks founder Jessica Williams explains why knowing what you truly want is the crucial second step to success in your job hunt. You can read the first instalment, ‘It’s All About You’, here.
So, to recap: the first step is understanding that we’re only worth to other people what we demonstrate we’re worth to ourselves.
The second step is no less important: we’re going to make sure that you know exactly where you want to go before we set you on the road to success.
SET GOALS AND MAKE A PLAN
“People work better when they know what the goal is, and why. It’s important that people look forward to coming to work in the morning and enjoy working.”
– Elon Musk
Every successful outcome is born of a plan. Can you imagine Richard Branson starting a project without a clear plan for its execution? Do you think Steve Jobs ever launched a new Apple product without a clear plan to ensure success?
I’m not suggesting that you spend the next week writing a lengthy business plan for your job search (that would just be procrastinating!) but the clarity you’ll gain from having your goal firmly fixed in your mind is – I promise – another critical step in your path to a job, so it’s worth the time invested. Self-belief mixed with clarity of purpose is an extremely strong combination.
In order to harness this, then, I’d like you to complete a short exercise. Let’s make it crystal clear what it is this process is all about. I want you to write down the type of job you are looking for, why you are looking for that type of work, and approximately what you want to be paid to do that job.
That combination of What / Why / How Much is going to be really helpful in keeping you focused on your goal all the way through this process – and ultimately make you more self-aware, ensuring that the job you end up with is the one you want. For example:
● “I want to work as a waitress.
● “This will enable me to juggle earning money with funding my studies, to support my long-term ambition to become a pilot.
● “My time at the moment is worth between £10.00 and £12.00 per hour”.
● “I want to get a job as a PA within financial services.
● “I want this because it’s a stepping-stone to moving away from PA work and into investor relations, and because finance pays well generally.
● “My time at the moment is worth an annual salary of between £35,000 and £40,000”.
You might find that this takes you minutes to do or it might take you hours. Either way is fine! Try and keep your What/Why/How Much fairly relaxed: this exercise is intended as a guide, a tool to help focus your mind and understand what your goal is.
“In setting your goals, you need to be realistic about your talents. I love art, but can’t draw, so it would never have been the right career for me. But sometimes you can take your greatest skills for granted.
Many women come to me and say, ‘I’ve been stuck at home with the children for ten years and I don’t know what I’m good at.’ Well, for a start, you’re organised, can budget, and can manage people well.”
– Karren Brady
Keep it realistic. If you’re not sure what a reasonable salary expectation is in your chosen field, do some research: look at what jobs at your level are paying.
Once you have completed this exercise, you’re one step closer to getting the job you want. Keep your goals close to you during your job search: write them down on your phone, stick them on a post-it note in your car: somewhere you’ll see them every day, ideally multiple times a day. This will ensure that where you are aiming is always at the forefront of your mind, which will in turn maximise your chances of getting what you want.
LEARN TO SEE THE OPPORTUNITIES
“I was smart enough to go through any door that opened.”
– Joan Rivers
When I was sixteen, I worked in a motorway service station in Kent, making sandwiches. It was my first proper job. My shift started at 4.30am, so I’d get up at 3.00am and walk to work along the side of the motorway in the pitch darkness. Once there, I’d spend eight to ten hours making sandwiches for the chilled counter and reheating frozen pastries for the lorry drivers who used to stop in search of a hot meal on their way to the continent.
It wasn’t exactly a pleasant job: I was on my feet all day and frequently grumbled at by the customers. But I was determined to do well so that I could fulfil my goal of moving up in the world – away from the service station. I wanted to work in an office.
My next job after the service station was in a high-end hotel, working as a chambermaid. I loved it! It wasn’t yet an office job but I was on my way. My shift started mid-morning, so I could get the bus to work. I worked in the warmth, there were very few angry customers, and we worked in pairs so there was always someone to chat to, which made the day fly by. Yes, it was still physically hard work, but I worked as hard as I could and promised myself that my next job would be another step up.
And it was! I landed my next job selling double glazing over the phone. Sure, there were pitfalls to this job too – the angry customers, the pay was poor, the fact that I had no apparent aptitude whatsoever for telephone sales – but I was working in an office! I kept office hours and I was earning £3.60 an hour, which felt to me like a small fortune. In my mind I’d totally made it.
EDUCATION ISN’T EVERYTHING
“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to turn it into a door.”
– Coco Chanel
I worked hard at school, but – like most of us – I could definitely have worked harder. At the age of sixteen, around the time I began work in the petrol station, I got a scholarship to a brilliant local public school. I was so grateful for the opportunity, but even then I just wanted to work, and definitely worked harder at weekend and evening jobs than I did at school.
I got decent grades in my A-Levels and my teachers assumed I’d go to University. I was very worried about letting my parents down, so when I was offered a place at King’s College London to study English, I took it.
I worked throughout my gap year for a brilliant recruitment company in the City – I began on Reception, and progressed to taking on PA duties for the Directors and trying my hand at marketing projects. When my gap year ended, I took up my place at King’s, whilst keeping one day a week at work.
It took me exactly a term to realise that university wasn’t for me, and that I was much better suited to the world of work – but it was two terms before I could muster the courage to tell my parents, who despite my fears were absolutely brilliant about the whole thing.
My point here is that, if you are at school or college, teachers and sometimes parents will put a lot of emphasis on ‘getting good grades’. This is because, at this point in your life, grades are pretty much all recruiters have to go on. As you get older and broaden your skill set and start to add experience into the mix, grades become less and less important. A clutch of A’s at A-Level and a First Class Degree are amazing things to have, but please don’t worry if you don’t have them. You’re not doomed to a life of dead-end jobs. Many of the most interesting employers I work with at Sidekicks actively seek out candidates who have varied life experience rather than purely academic excellence.
If you are not naturally academic, don’t worry: remember, you can always round out your skill set in other ways, such as volunteering. A demonstrable work ethic from an early age is just as interesting to employers as good GCSE grades – trust me!
My decision to leave university to work full time was the best thing I ever did, because it was right for me. Only you know which path feels right for you to take, and it sometimes pays to think laterally.
IF THERE IS NO STRAIGHT PATH, THINK LATERALLY
“Straight roads do not make skillful drivers.”
– Paulo Coelho
In my role as a recruiter, I often spend time with people who know exactly where they want to go but feel disheartened because they can’t see how to make the leap from where they currently are to where they want to be. The key here is to think laterally. It’s absolutely okay to get a job that pays the bills whilst giving you the experience you need to take to get to where you want to go.
For example, I had a colleague some years back. I’d moved on in my career, and I was now working as a Senior Associate for the second oldest financial institution in America with $2.47 trillion under management: State Street.
My colleague (I’ll call her Katy but that’s not her real name) was working as a PA, supporting a director within human resources. She loved her work, but was desperate to get out of finance, and into the world of celebrity support: she wanted to become a Private PA.
There were only two problems. Firstly, she hadn’t had any Private PA experience, and this was a non-negotiable prerequisite for all the roles she was interested in. Secondly, the world of the Private PA is extremely competitive, and there were a large number of better-qualified people than her in the market for a job, so competition was fierce.
However, Katy was determined, so we hatched a plan. We looked at how to turn her biggest weakness (in this case, her background in finance) into a strength. Together, we carefully reworded her CV, highlighting her financial experience rather than trying to gloss over it, and presenting it as a positive.
And then the master stroke: rather than apply for one of the Private PA roles she’d seen advertised (and which every other candidate in the market was applying to) she applied to work for a very well-known individual, as an Accounts Assistant within his family office in London.
She got the job, of course: competition wasn’t fierce, and her background made her an ideal candidate. A year and a half later, after making herself indispensable to the individual in question and getting a chance to display her skills and brilliant personality on a daily basis, she was offered the role of Private PA, along with a substantial pay rise.
Katy is still supporting her boss now, a job that she adores and that has taken her all over the world, and all because she was open minded enough to take a circuitous route to her destination.
If you’re ever in a position where your dream job seems too far away from you, break it down into ‘steps’ and think laterally. There is always a way, if you really put your mind to it!
If you need qualifications to do your dream job, go back into education and work in a role that will pay you whilst you study. If you want to shift industry, take a familiar role in the industry you want, or the job you want in an industry you don’t want to work in long-term – anything to get you a step closer to your ultimate goal.
Click here to read more about How To Get A Job and the author.
How To Get A Job is available for Sidekicks candidates to download for free through Kindle Unlimited, here.