1. Cast your net wide
The importance of living close to one’s workplace, has been declining in importance for several reasons in recent years. This continuing change means that you can cast your net much wider than people would have thought possible even twenty years ago.
The reasons for this change include:
Remote Work: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work. Many jobs that were once thought to require physical presence in an office can now be done from anywhere with an internet connection. This has reduced the need for employees to live close to their workplaces.
Technological Advancements: Advances in communication technology and collaboration tools have made it easier for teams to work together from different locations. I was a part of a team managed from Australia that included people from several countries across the globe. Video conferencing, project management software, and cloud-based systems all allow for seamless remote collaboration. Be prepared for occasional meetings that may take place in the middle of your night!
Urbanization and Housing Costs: Many jobs are concentrated in urban areas where housing costs are often higher. Living closer to work can be expensive, and increasing numbers of people are choosing to live in more affordable rural areas, thanks to the flexibility offered by remote work.
Traffic and Commute Stress: Long commutes can be expensive, stressful and time-consuming. As people prioritise work-life balance and well-being, many more may be more inclined to seek jobs that don’t require them to spend hours commuting each day.
Global Talent Pool: As a corporate global talent leader I understood that the growth in remote or hybrid work allowed the employer to tap into a global talent pool in certain occupational groups. In these groups it became possible to hire the best candidates regardless of their geographic location, which then reduced the need for employees to be physically close to the workplace. Today, of course, the increasingly common questions are: What kind of workplaces do we need and where?
Environmental Concerns: Commuting contributes to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. As environmental concerns grow, some individuals and companies are actively seeking ways to reduce the environmental impact of commuting, further reducing the importance of job proximity.
Flexible Work Arrangements: Beyond remote work, flexible work arrangements, such as compressed workweeks or staggered hours, are becoming more common. These options can make it easier for employees to balance work and personal commitments without needing to live near the office.
While living in proximity to the job remains important in certain industries and particular roles, these factors collectively contribute to its declining significance in today’s evolving workforce. This gives you some advantages and, if you have successfully worked nationally or internationally then your experience could well mean you can spread your net even wider.
2. Use key words
It is relatively well known that using key words when you’re searching online enables the algorithms on search platforms to identify the roles of interest. It is also true, but less well known, that clicking on jobs with the job titles or a company that you’re keen on so the platform yields more of the same: not always but commonly.
If you are searching internationally, it’s important to remember that services are frequently supplied in different ways in various countries. Take water and sanitation services as an example.
Sources of employment in this sector can vary significantly from one country to another due to differences in infrastructure, government policies, economic conditions, and cultural factors. In some countries, water and sanitation services might be centralised and provided by government agencies or utilities, while in others, they could be decentralised or even managed by local communities.
The methods of water treatment, distribution, and waste disposal can also vary based on available resources and technological advancements. Additionally, the level of access to clean water and proper sanitation can greatly differ between developed and developing countries.
Consequently, water and sanitation engineers are often employed by various sectors, including government agencies, consulting firms, non-profit organizations, and private companies. The relative importance of different sectors is not the same in every country or region of the world.
Some of the biggest employers in this field include municipal water authorities, engineering consulting firms specialising in environmental and water-related projects, international development organizations, and utility companies.
These and similar considerations should influence the key words you use.
3. Don’t wait for a job to be advertised
Not all jobs are made public. The proportion of jobs that are never advertised can vary based on the industry, location, and specific circumstances. Many job openings are filled through referrals and recommendations from people within a company or industry. These hidden job opportunities might be filled through referrals, networking, internal promotions, or direct approaches by employers to potential candidates.
That this happens highlights the importance of networking and building professional connections to tap into these hidden job markets. Building and nurturing professional connections can provide you with valuable insights, introductions, and opportunities that might not be advertised publicly. Networking allows you to showcase your skills and qualifications directly to individuals who can vouch for your abilities. Attending industry events, joining online forums, utilising social media platforms like LinkedIn, and maintaining relationships with colleagues and acquaintances can all contribute to expanding your professional network and increasing your chances of finding job opportunities.
It’s always worth sending an email or having a chat with a manager at a business that you like the look of, as you never know when an opening might be coming up. This kind of “cold calling” for a job can be daunting, so here are ten tips:
1. Research the organisation you’re interested in and identify the right person to contact. This could be the hiring manager, department head, a recruitment specialist, Human Resources or talent manager, even a head hunter or executive search firm or someone relevant to your field.
2. When writing your email create a clear and concise subject line that captures attention. For example, “Enthusiastic [Your Field] Professional Seeking Opportunities.”
3. Start your email with a brief and friendly introduction. Mention how you came across the organisation and why you’re interested in working there.
4. Then, in a couple of sentences, highlight your relevant skills, experience, and what you can bring to the organisation. Focus on how your expertise aligns with their needs.
5. Express your interest in potential opportunities within the company. Be specific about the type of role you’re interested in and how you can contribute.
6. Attach a curriculum vitae or resume that you have written to highlight your relevant experience, capabilities and qualifications. Do not send your ‘general’ CV!
7. Emphasise the value you can bring to the organisation and how your skills can help them achieve their goals.
8. Request a brief call or meeting to discuss potential opportunities. Mention your availability and express your eagerness to learn more about their team.
9. Conclude the email with a thank you for their time and consideration. Sign off with your full name and ensure that your email signature block contains all your relevant contact information.
10. Ensure your email is well-formatted, free of errors, and easy to read.
Remember, the goal is to pique their interest and initiate a conversation. Keep your email concise and focused on the value you can offer. Be respectful of their time and make it easy for them to respond. Personalise your email for each recipient and follow up if you don’t hear back after a reasonable amount of time.
Following up on a cold call job hunt email requires a delicate balance of persistence and professionalism. Here’s how you can go about it:
1. Give the recipient some time to review your initial email before following up. Waiting about 7-10 days is usually a good rule of thumb.
2. In your follow-up email’s subject line, reference your previous email, so it’s clear that you’re following up. For example, “Follow-Up on [Your Previous Subject Line] [Date Sent].”
3. Begin the email by briefly mentioning your previous email, such as “I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to follow up on my email dated [date] regarding potential job opportunities at [company].”
4. Reiterate your enthusiasm for the company and the role you’re interested in. Emphasise why you believe you’d be a valuable addition to their team.
5. Remind them of the skills and qualifications you highlighted in your initial email and how they align with their needs.
6. Politely express your continued interest in discussing possible opportunities. Suggest a brief call or meeting at their convenience.
7. Thank them for their time and consideration once again. Demonstrating gratitude shows professionalism and respect.
8. Include your contact information in your email signature in case they’d like to get in touch directly.
9. Keep your follow-up email concise and to the point. Make it easy for them to quickly understand the purpose of the email.
10. Maintain a professional and courteous tone throughout the email.
Remember that some recipients may be busy or have a high volume of emails, so a follow-up serves as a gentle reminder of your initial contact. If you still don’t receive a response after the follow-up, consider it a sign to focus on other opportunities, but keep the door open for potential future interactions.
In addition to these direct approaches don’t overlook the value of ‘recruiting’ your friends, ex-colleagues and family onto your job search team by letting them know that you’re looking for a new position.
4. Sell your skills – not years
Lots of places still ask for a curriculum vitae or resume and a covering email (or letter) when you’re applying for a job. However, you can now advertise yourself rather visibly via social media sites like Linkedin to showcase your skills and experience.
When applying for a job, it’s important to strike a balance between emphasising your skills and showcasing your relevant years of experience. Both factors play a role in how you present yourself as a qualified candidate:
Highlighting your skills is essential because they demonstrate your ability to perform the tasks required for the job. Focus on skills that directly relate to the role and provide evidence of how you’ve successfully applied these skills in your previous work. Use specific examples to show how your skills have contributed to achieving positive outcomes.
Years of experience can be important, especially for roles that require a certain level of expertise and familiarity with the industry or job functions. However, the quality and relevance of your experience matter more than the sheer number of years. If you have extensive experience, make sure to highlight specific accomplishments and projects that showcase your contributions. Try, wherever possible, to quantify your achievements over recent years.
In many cases, job postings may list both required skills and desired years of experience. Tailor your application to address both aspects:
In relation to skills you should customise your CV or resume and cover letter to showcase that your skills align with the job requirements. Provide specific examples of how you’ve applied these skills to make a positive impact and put numbers to the outcomes wherever you can so that readers understand the scale of your achievements.
If you have the required years of experience, emphasise this in your application. If you have less experience than requested, focus on the skills you’ve gained and how they make you a strong fit for the role despite having fewer years.
Some recruiters may prioritise skills over years of experience, especially in industries that are rapidly evolving or require specific technical expertise. Others may place more emphasis on years of experience, particularly for senior-level positions.
Ultimately, the key is to present yourself as a well-rounded candidate who possesses the necessary skills and relevant experience to excel in the role. Tailoring your application to address both aspects will help you stand out to potential employers.
5. Get learning
It can be a little disheartening if the jobs you want require very specific qualifications. It may be worth having a look if there are any ways of picking up the experience or training that you need to land a job while you’re on the hunt.
There are numerous websites and platforms that offer free online training and courses across a wide range of subjects. Some popular sources for free online training include:
Coursera: Offers a selection of free courses from top universities and institutions. While some courses are fully free, others might provide free access to course materials but charge for certificates.
edX: Provides courses from universities and institutions around the world. Similar to Coursera, edX offers both free course materials and the option to purchase certificates.
Khan Academy: Offers free educational content primarily focused on school subjects, but also covers some higher education topics.
MIT OpenCourseWare: Provides free access to course materials from various MIT courses across multiple disciplines.
Stanford Online: Offers free online courses from Stanford University on a variety of subjects.
Udemy: While many Udemy courses are paid for, there are also free courses available across diverse topics. Just search for “free” courses on their platform.
Codecademy: Specialises in free and interactive coding tutorials and courses.
Coursera for Refugees: A specific initiative by Coursera that provides free access to its course catalogue for refugees around the world.
LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com): Some libraries offer free access to LinkedIn Learning courses. Check with your local library.
Google Digital Garage: Offers free courses on digital skills, including topics like online marketing, data analysis, and more.
Alison: Offers a wide range of free online courses, including diploma and certification programs.
Harvard Online Learning: Provides free courses from Harvard University in various subjects.
BBC: The BBC offers a variety of free online learning resources through its website and various platforms. Here are some examples:
BBC Bitesize: This platform provides free educational resources for students, covering a wide range of subjects and grade levels. It includes interactive lessons, videos, quizzes, and study guides to help with academic studies.
BBC Teach: BBC Teach offers educational resources for teachers and educators, including lesson plans, videos, and classroom activities across different subjects.
BBC Learning English: This platform provides free English language learning resources for non-native speakers. It offers courses, podcasts, videos, quizzes, and grammar guides to improve language skills.
BBC Skillswise: Skillswise focuses on improving adult literacy and numeracy skills. It offers resources to help individuals enhance their reading, writing, and mathematics abilities.
BBC FutureLearn Courses: The BBC partners with FutureLearn, a digital education platform, to offer a range of free online courses on diverse topics. These courses are created in collaboration with universities and institutions around the world.
BBC Ideas: BBC Ideas is a platform that offers short videos and articles on a variety of thought-provoking topics, encouraging critical thinking and exploration.
BBC Radio Podcasts: The BBC produces a wide range of podcasts on various subjects, which can serve as informative and educational resources for listeners.
Humanitarian Leadership Academy: The Academy operates through a digital platform that offers online courses, resources, and tools on various topics related to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Many are free of charge. These resources are designed to build the skills and knowledge of humanitarian workers, volunteers, and communities, helping them respond effectively to crises and emergencies.
Openlearn: The Open University’s (OU) OpenLearn is a free online learning platform that provides access to a wide range of educational resources and courses. The OpenLearn platform offers individuals the opportunity to engage in learning on various subjects without the need to enrol in formal degree programmes.
Remember that while the course materials might be free, some platforms charge a fee for certificates or additional features. Always review the course details before enrolling to understand any potential costs. Additionally, the quality of courses can vary, so consider reading reviews and checking the credentials of the instructors before committing to a course.
6. Celebrate your wins
It’s easy to get disheartened if you are knocked back after interviews time and time again, or you don’t feel like you’re getting through the door in the first place.
You are not alone: many successful individuals have faced challenges and difficulties in their job search, including struggling with interviews. Here are a few notable examples:
Before becoming a media mogul and one of the most influential talk show hosts in the world, Oprah Winfrey was once fired from her job as a news anchor because she was considered “unfit for television.” She had her share of job rejections before finding her true calling.
J.K. Rowling, author of the immensely popular Harry Potter series faced rejection from multiple publishers before finding one that would publish her first book. She went through a challenging period in her life and career before achieving her remarkable success.
The bestselling author of numerous horror and suspense novels, Stephen King received numerous rejection letters early in his writing career. He even collected these rejection letters on a nail in his room. Despite the initial challenges, he persevered and eventually found success.
Albert Einstein, the renowned physicist and Nobel laureate faced challenges in his academic career and job search. After graduating, he had difficulty finding a teaching position and worked at the Swiss Patent Office before making groundbreaking contributions to physics.
These examples demonstrate that facing difficulties, rejections, and challenging interviews is not uncommon, even for highly successful individuals. What sets them apart is their resilience, determination, and the ability to learn from setbacks, ultimately leading them to achieve remarkable success in their respective fields.
I would recommend that you set incremental targets for your job search, deliberately celebrate your achievements and, when you do get an interview, receive some positive feedback or have connected with someone who believes in you, then give thanks for that and think about how to learn from these achievements en route to your goal.
If you do secure interviews but don’t get job offers, practice your interview skills. Conduct mock interviews with a friend, coach or a mentor to improve your performance.
About the author
Formerly Global Practice Leader for Talent Management at World Vision International, John Evans pioneered the charities’ global leader orientation, talent, succession management and education processes, leadership assessment, coaching and career development services during a period of complex change.
John moved into humanitarian development from education and finance having previously served as Global Consulting Development Leader with Hewitt Associates (now Aon). Before this he was responsible for Hewitt Associates’ European organisational development consulting practice, contributed to the launch and early leadership of Prospects, was a Fellow in Leadership and Organisational Development with OPM Ltd and began his career in educational and career guidance.
John is now principal leadership coach at Vitas Consult Ltd, works with Waverley Learning and also as an Impactpool career coach. His books are available here.