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Career advisors, Jenna and Kimbers, team up to answer your questions on GCSE choices, interview tips, applying for jobs, changing careers and more.
JenR: Hi everyone.
Kimbers: Howdie y'all.
Jo7: JenR and Kimbers will be taking your questions tonight so if anyone wants to get started feel free to ask away :)
feelinglow: I'm choosing my options on what to study for GSCE's at the moment, any tips on how to make the right decision? I'm still unsure about what I want my career to be.
JenR: Thanks for your question feelinglow.
**Helen**: I remember choosing my GCSE's - even though it was a very long time ago ;-)
feelinglow: Yeah, it's a stressful time Helen.
**Helen**: Indeed! They told me to choose drama even though I was really shy. It ended up being a good decision as it helped build my confidence.
Kimbers: Hi feelinglow. I think at this stage it's important to make sure you keep your options as open as possible - especially if you're unsure about what career interests you. Our recommendation would be to choose subjects that you enjoy and are likely to achieve better grades in.
JenR: Don't worry too much that you're still undecided about your career. The main thing is that you enjoy your studies at this point - career ideas will come from that.
feelinglow: OK. I'm thinking of taking a wide variety. At the moment I'm thinking of taking: French -because I've heard languages look good on your CV, History - because I'm interested in it, Science- because I've always wanted to do something with science, ICT - because almost every job needs it, and DT - for some practical stuff.
**Helen**: Quite similar to mine feelinglow :) I did ICT, French and History and I enjoyed all of them.
Kimbers: It sounds like you've thought things through and made your choices based on good reasons. Is there anything you're not too sure about?
feelinglow: I'm unsure whether or not I should take Welsh because I live in Wales and, at the moment, most jobs are seeking welsh speakers. Although I'm unsure if I'll continue to live in Wales with my job choices.
Kimbers: I think it really boils down to personal choice on this one feelinglow. I don't think taking Welsh is closing any doors - unless there are other subjects that you might enjoy more. Languages of any kind demonstrate an ability to communicate which is a key skill in life and in future job applications - a good skill to have, but up to you!
feelinglow: Thanks Kimbers, I think that if I find I need it I can always take a college course.
Kimbers: Good point :)
Tom: I did Double Science, Design Technology, German, and History.
feelinglow: That's what my science is Tom. It's called 'Additional Science', and it comes alongside our core.
**Helen**: What did you do for your final DT project Tom?
Tom: I built a newspaper rack out of wood. It looked really good. I've still got it at the top of my wardrobe.
**Helen**: That sounds cool Tom, much better than mine!
Jo7: Cool, thanks for that Kimbers and JenR. Let's move on to the next question now, we have a couple in the queue.
kangan92: I'm trying to look for a job but not having any luck. I would like some tips on what to do in an interview to impress the employers and any other tips.
JenR: Hi Kangan92, are you getting through to interview stage?
kangan92: Yes, but then I get an email saying I've been unsuccessful and, when applying online sometimes, it says that my skills do not match their criteria.
JenR: Well done for getting through to the interviews then. What sort of interviews have you had? Panel interviews?
kangan92: It's normally one-to-one.
**Helen**: Kangan92, not sure how familiar you are with TheSite.org in general, but we do have a video on how to ace job interviews. It may be worth checking out :)
JenR: What do you feel you struggle with when it comes to interviews?
kangan92: I get nervous and mostly I have difficulty in thinking about what to say so I just don't answer in full.
JenR: It's natural to be nervous at job interviews, you're not the only one. How do you prepare for the interview? Preparation can be key in preventing nerves and ensuring your answers are the best they can be.
kangan92: I prepare by writing down what I will be talking about, researching the company and preparing the questions I'll be asking
JenR: That's a really good start. How about practising your answers with a friend? This should help make things clearer in your mind which will help prevent nerves. Also, don't be scared to ask them to repeat the question or to ask if you've answered the question in full.
**Helen**: Yeah, there are a lot of classic questions that get asked in different guises: "Why do you think we should offer you this job?" etc - you can find example questions online too.
Kimbers: Jobsite has quite a useful tool to help you practice for interviews. Here's the link: Be my interviewer
kangan92: Yes, I'll try to do that.
JenR: Great :-)
kangan92: Thanks :-)
Kimbers: One last thing kangan92... When I have an interview it helps to have something in my hands to prevent me from fiddling and getting distracted, so I take a clipboard with a copy of my CV and the application form. Try this it might help your nerves!
kangan92: Thanks Kimbers, that's a really good tip.
Jo7: Let's go on to Tom's question now.
Tom: I'm really concerned over my lack of progress finding work. I went to see a Next Step advisor on Wednesday. He's told me to change some stuff round on my CV again. I don't think it will work. Whenever I visit a careers advisor they ask me to reshuffle my CV, and it never gets me more interviews. I've also been asked to look at the careers website categories again see if any particular environments might suit me. I've done this a thousand times, so I don't think I will come up with anything.
I'm also doing an application for Cooper Parry for AAT. I'm struggling to answer this question: "In under 100 words describe a difficult/challenging experience for you and what you have learnt from it". Also their application date's coming up - should I send an existing CV, or an updated one unchecked?
I know this is a tough one...
Kimbers: Hey Tom. It sounds like you may have some decisions to make regarding your preferred career choice. For the role in AAT (and every other role you apply for) you will need to ensure you tailor your CV/application very closely to the role and the sector.
Tom: I have a few different CV's, one for practical, one for office work etc. I need full time work regardless first. I apply for a lot of things.
Kimbers: The best way to target your CV is to ensure you are talking about the skills and experience they are asking for in the job description and providing examples/evidence of times when you have achieved this before. This can be throughout your education, work experience, volunteering, hobbies, and interests.
Tom: I have been doing that.
Jo7: It sounds like you're doing a lot of the right things Tom. Frustratingly at the moment I think there are a lot of young people in your situation, the level of applications per job are so high at the moment.
**Helen**: How far afield (location wise) are you applying Tom?
"The other thing to consider if you're interested in publishing and editorial work is to do some online stuff, like creating a blog and writing about something you are passionate about."
Tom: I live in Derby. I apply in Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and occasionally Birmingham. Approximately 25 jobs per week, every week. It's soul destroying.
JenR: 25 job applications a week is an awful lot. After a while it's understandable that you would feel the way you describe. If you spend more time on fewer applications you may find this more beneficial and more enjoyable. 25 sounds very stressful!
Tom: I feel I take all the time necessary on them. I put in a tailored covering letter etc. I hate where I live and work, and I have to put up with it indefinitely.
Kimbers: I think you need to take your targeting of applications to a whole new level. By that I mean being really specific to the organisation, the industry - using terminology that is sector specific and demonstrates a real understanding of what they are asking for, all backed up by evidence.
Tom: In September I approached every accountant and supply chain business in the region speculatively and it was a waste. With many online agencies they hide the name of the employer too. I don't just apply for those kinds of jobs though.
Jo7: I'm really sorry you've not had much luck Tom, but do hang in there. I think Kimbers has some last bits of advice before we need to move on.
Kimbers: It's great to hear you had the confidence to approach employers speculatively. Although you found it unsuccessful it can in fact really work, especially when building up your network of contacts. Sometimes it's about gaining info from these people, and not just about asking for a job. You should always ensure you ask for feedback on any unsuccessful applications, this can really help for next time, but also ask for any other opportunities such as work experience or shadowing.
Tom: Nobody gives feedback anymore.
**Helen**: Tom, you can request feedback.
Tom: I have done it numerous times. 'Someone will call you back' - the call doesn't come. Other candidates must have had more experience than you. Or they can't put me through to the right person.
**Helen**: In my experience people are often short on time or a bit lazy, but if you persist with an email, then they should give you decent feedback. If you let them know that it's really important to you then they may well recognise that it's worthwhile taking the time to help with it.
Sometimes it can be virtually impossible based on the number of applications they'll be likely to have received and the answer will actually be that someone else's CV made more of an impact than yours.
Megan: I have a college interview for Monday and I'm not really sure what to say or what questions I'll be asked. Do you know any examples of types of questions they generally ask? Also I get really nervous and I have a little nervous laugh which I've been advised not to do. Do you have any tips to help with nerves?
JenR: Well done for getting the interview Megan.
Kimbers: It will probably be questions from the tutor or course teacher about why you want to do that course and what sorts of things you think are involved. Depending on the course they might ask if you've had experience before in that subject.
On the nerves front, it's similar to what we said earlier - preparation is key and will make you feel more relaxed and confident. Also, if you're excited about the course your enthusiasm will shine through. Good Luck!
Megan: Right, okay. Thank you :)
Franki: I've been working at my mum's employer for almost a year and a half now because after I finished uni I couldn't find a job off my own back despite applying for hundreds of jobs for about six months.
I'm now at the point where I'm desperate to leave because there just isn't enough for me to do and I'm getting pittance for it. I've been applying for lots of places with no joy and I think it's because I struggle to sell myself very well to employers, even though I know I can do the job.
I find that I'm spewing out generic phrases to try and show I have the skills needed, but I can't seem to big myself up enough. I'd also appreciate any advice you guys might have on getting into publishing or editorial jobs without experience (bane of my existence!).
JenR: Hi Franki, it's great that you sound as though you have a good idea about what you want to get into. Have you considered gaining work experience so that your applications for publishing and editorial jobs may be more successful?
Franki: Thanks Kimbers :-) I don't know if I can afford to do work experience. Isn't it largely 'expenses only' type stuff?
JenR: Some work experience opportunities can be just one day, a week, a couple of days, a month, or something like work shadowing.
Franki: That's difficult when I'm already in a job :(
JenR: What about using your holiday days? Or maybe in the evening or weekends?
Franki: I used up all my holiday days on having to go to therapy. I can see about weekend ones though.
JenR: The other thing to consider if you're interested in publishing and editorial work is to do some online stuff, like creating a blog and writing about something you are passionate about. This is all experience to go on your CV.
Kimbers: You can start your own blog for free using Wordpress.
Franki: I do have a blog. I guess I should use it more!
**Helen**: You can always pitch some ideas to TheSite.org to build up your portfolio too.
Franki: My main problem seems to be that I lack self-confidence. I'm OK when it comes to interviews, although a bit nervous. The problem is when I'm writing the supporting statements for applications. Also, my degree isn't as good as it could have been because of health problems. I can't say, "I got a 2:2 because...", because that's just making excuses and they won't care.
JenR: Great that you have a blog Franki, definitely keep it up. Your confidence will increase the more you write and it's a great way to develop your writing skills.
**Helen**: Franki, it's the proven experience that may make you feel more confident in statements - e.g. I've been published in x, y & z writing about the following topics.
If you can write a blog that has a theme, a proven following and is well written, then that's as valid as getting published in something more official.
Kimbers: It's always really hard for people to identify our own skills. Low confidence is especially common when you might not feel like you have the experience you need in a specific area, or if you don't know how to show that you have the skills you need. Finding out about ourselves can be hard but tools such as this Skills Health Checker might help.
Definitely carry on with the blog and try to build your network by contacting publishers and writers who may be able to offer you some experience or even just share their expertise.
Franki: Thanks for all your help guys. I'll have a look through Kimbers' links and maybe, if I can get away with it, I'll do some blog writing at work tomorrow. Thanks guys :D
Tom: Here's my blog from my volunteer job, they asked if I'd do one.
**Helen**: Tom, it sounds like you have a lot of skills and knowledge in volunteer management. Have you been applying for those kinds of roles? Really cool blog entry by the way!
Tom: No, there aren't any out there. Our building has had a real cull of paid staff.
**Helen**: Do you read Third Sector? Also UKVPMs is an email group that you may benefit from following, quite a few jobs shared, it's a Yahoo email group.
Tom: I'll take a look Helen.
**Helen**: Cool. If you have any problems finding it drop me a PM on the discussion boards, I can send you some links.
JenR: Thanks for all your questions guys. Sorry we couldn't answer the ones waiting. It's been great chatting with you though.
Kimbers: Cheers guys, lovely talking to you. Wishing you all lots of success and good luck, see you again soon.
**Helen**: Cool, speak to you later! Thanks JenR and Kimbers!
Tom: Night all.
Jo7: Thanks for all the questions folks. If you would like to ask a question about careers you can get a personal response from an advisor within three working days on our askTheSite service or you can share your question on the discussion boards and TheSite community can help.
kangan92: See you Kimbers and thanks again.
JenR: Bye everyone!
Kimbers: Night y'all x