You may be thinking about starting an apprenticeship, or perhaps you’re coming to the end of one and contemplating your next move; whatever your circumstances, it is essential you plan and prepare for the next stage in your career. It’s not just a one-off event either, but a continuous process throughout your working life, evolving as you develop your skills and interests, or if circumstances change.
In the following pages we have put together advice and industry guidance to help you to develop ideas, explore the opportunities available to you and, once you know what you want to do, offer advice on making sure you are competitive when it comes to landing that job or promotion.
Whether you’re applying for an apprenticeship, going for a promotion or moving on to another employer, one thing is certain at some point you are going to have impress the employer and convince them that YOU are the best person for the role and their business.
PREPARING FOR YOUR JOB SEARCH
While the process can vary depending on the employer and sector, one thing is certain and that is you will have to go through some sort of recruitment and/or selection process. It may not look exactly the same each time - as each organisation will choose the method that suits their business - but the objectives are the identical…..
For the applicant: it is the process whereby a candidate identifies a job role they are interested in and sets about persuading the employer, through the selection process, that they are the best candidate for the job.
For the employer: it is the process by which an employer identifies a skills gap and/or need in their business and sets about attracting the most suitable candidates to that role.
Most important thing to remember is that the relationship is equal. You don’t have to assume a humble and indebted role through the process; they need you, your skills, enthusiasm and knowledge. You just have to make sure that it is you they chose and the key to success here is being prepared. The more you understand about the role, the business, the sector and, most importantly yourself, the more chance you have of success!
In the next pages we put together some advice, not just on getting your dream job, but on career pathways and options to consider at all stages of your career.
GETTING STARTED – WHERE ARE YOU NOW?
Whether you are getting started in your first apprenticeship or moving on to the next stage in your career, you need to gain an understanding of where you are now and match it against what you will need for the future:
- What are your strengths, weaknesses and your likes and dislikes?
- What skills and qualities are needed for the sector/role that interests you?
- What skills, qualifications and qualities do you have? Are there gaps?
- If there are gaps, can you gain those skills quickly, or are they longer term goals?
All of the above could have a significant influence on how you plan your next step and, if you don’t prepare, could result in a lot of wasted effort on your part.
Spend time thinking (and writing down) answers to the above questions and match them against the roles that interest you. Existing job adverts for roles are a great way to get an idea of the level of knowledge, the skills and role requirements for your chosen field; they also give you something to aim for when planning for the future. Follow the link to our sectors pages and look at the advice and pathway options.
WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS?
In the age of the internet you can access a massive amount of information. Don’t get too carried away though, before you get too enthusiastic about job roles you see you need to be realistic about what is possible:
- Look at the person specification. Do I have the essential skills and qualifications they are asking for?
- Look at the job description. Can you see yourself doing this day-in-day-out, outdoors in all weathers, stuck in an office/at a computer, early mornings, weekends and shifts etc.?
- Is the commute doable? Can you see yourself doing it daily?
- Can I afford to live on the wage?
Now look at your results and think about which barriers can be overcome …and you will need to be realistic here! Employers may adapt hours to fit in with a bus timetables or support you through training if you lack ‘hands-on’ experience, but they are unlikely to keep the job open while you learn to drive or if you are missing vital skills.
If you are unsure ask. No one is going to mind helping you make the right choices!
FINDING THAT JOB
Jobs opportunities can be found in many places: word of mouth, volunteering, job adverts in papers, agencies and on the internet. Businesses will use different approaches depending on the role and the level of skill and qualifications they need, so it is worth exploring lots of options, not just one method. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Apprenticeships: The apprenicehip.gov.uk website is a free service and used by most employers. You need to register and then you can search within your local area for the type of role you are looking for.
Generic Jobs Boards: Indeed, Total and Monster (they also have apprenticeships) etc. These are all sectors and national, so worth knowing what you are looking for before you go to theses. It is easy to filter your search and you can sign up for alerts.
Industry websites: Every industry will have websites that provided advice and guidance, as well as advertise vacacnies. They may not have apprenticeships advertised, but they do have advice and career pathway options, as well as being a great place to look at the skills required further on in your career. This can help you make decisions now that will benefit you in the future.
Locally: One of the best ways is to ‘make your own luck’ by finding out the names of businesses in your area and then knocking on doors. Get your CV ready (see our CV writing section) and ask around. Even if there is nothing available at the time you might impress them with your drive and attitude and they may keep you in mind for future, but remember, first impressions are important so make sure you are tidy and polite.
If you can’t find what you are looking for….
Firstly, don’t panic. Jobs come and go daily. You may not see one today, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one posted tomorrow. Keep looking and activate any ‘alerts’ available to ensure you don’t miss out.
Once you have found a job role that ticks the boxes, you then need to set about convincing the employer you are the best person for the job. Employers need to be able to see you working in their business and, more specifically, in that particular role. The more you know about their business, the role and the sector, the more likely you will be able to convince them to choose you.
Across the website is guidance on the various stages of the recruitment and selection process. Look at the stages and make sure you are prepared.
PREPARING YOUR CV
When applying for jobs, your CV is your ultimate selling tool. If you want to be selected for interview, this is your opportunity to showcase your skills and passion. It is often the first introduction the employer has to you, so you need to impress.
WHAT TO INCLUDE
Contact details: Always put your contact details first so recruiters can easily find your email address or phone numbers.
Personal statements: This should be a short statement (make it a similar size as this paragraph) and include relevant information about your skills and motivation in relation to the job advert. It should be tailored to the role, rather than a general statement and make sure you identify specific skills that demonstrate you are a good ‘match’ for the role.
Career history: Start with your most recent job, work experience or voluntary placement and work your way backwards. List your job title and the dates you were employed with a brief description of your role. Make sure that you link the information to the job role you are applying for, using the job description and person specification as your guide.
If you don’t have much industry experience, use transferable skills. These are skills that are relevant in any job role some examples are: customer/people skills, communication skills, technical skills (computer programmes, software), working to deadlines, working independently or in a team, research experience etc.
The best way to think of these is to go through your work day or think back to school/college. Did you have to organise events? Did you keep records or hold meetings? If so, these are perfect examples of being organised, working in a group, using your initiative and sticking to deadlines. Were you a volunteer for a charity? This proves that you’re a committed individual. Did you get involved sports at college? Pull out examples that demonstrate skills you have developed. Don’t leave it to the employer to guess! Write about more than just the duties or responsibilities and include key achievements that demonstrate your skills and qualities.
Qualifications, training and education: Next, list your education (school, college or university) and relevant training. If you have a bad grade, don’t leave it out. It’s likely the employer may guess and they may guess a worse scenario. It isn’t just about standard qualifications either, don’t forget to include other training – first aid, sports coaching, Duke of Edinburgh Award, Health & Safety etc. – that you may have completed.
DESIGNING YOUR CV
There are lots of templates you can access online for designing your CV, but they can sometimes be over complicated and may not be suitable for you. Stick to a simple format and make sure you:
Highlight titles and main headings in bold.
Use a standard font such as Arial or Times New Roman and don’t be tempted to make the font size small to fit more on the page. It must be easy to read. Fancy borders and formatting can take the focus away from the important part – the content.
Length and order
You have about ten seconds to grab the recruiter’s attention, so make sure you put the important work experience first. If you have limited work experience, put your academic qualifications first.
Make it short and sharp. Aim for two pages or less and include only what’s really necessary to get you the job. Use simple, plain and positive English with clear and concise content.
Spelling and grammar
Always thoroughly check your spelling and grammar and ask someone else to read your CV before you send it. A CV with lots of errors screams lack of care and not likely to put you in favourable position with the employer and all you will accomplish is to make the other applicants look good.
And here are a few things you don’t need on your CV
- Date of birth
- References – just state: 'References available on request'.
And don’t forget……some employers will use social media to check people’s profiles before offering them a job and there are no laws against them doing this, so put your information on a privacy setting or, if you can’t do that, make sure that whatever they find will not put them off!!
INTERVIEWS – WHAT TO EXPECT
So you’ve impressed them with your CV and/or application form and you've got through to the next stage of the recruitment process, that all-important interview.
The interview is your opportunity to sell yourself and demonstrate how you would be a good fit for the role. You'll be able to discuss your skills and experience in greater detail and, importantly, what you feel you could bring to their business. It's also a chance for you to ask any questions you might have about the role and/or business and to make sure that the role, their values and culture, are a good fit for you too.
Here are some tips to help you prepare
- Do your homework! Visit the organisation’s website, look over the job description and remind yourself of what you put on your application form and/or CV.
- Remind yourself of what they’re looking for and think about any examples you can talk about to demonstrate these skills and behaviours. Think about how your strengths and skills and qualities you have that are linked to the role.
- Practise by talking to others about yourself and thinking about how you would answer the practise questions below
- Next, make sure that you understand the purpose of the organisation. Why do they do what they do? How do they do it? Who are their competitors? This will help you to see how your role will fit in to their organisation and demonstrate, to the interviewers, your keen interest.
- Plan your travel and expect the unexpected! There’s nothing worse than getting lost or missing trains before an interview. Make sure you know where the interview is being held and plan how you're going to get there.
- Of course, things can happen that are out of your control so it’s a good idea to make a note of the person who will be interviewing you so that you can contact and let them know if you’re going to be late.
AT THE INTERVIEW
It’s natural to feel nervous before an interview, so don’t panic, just be yourself. They need to recruit someone; they aren’t trying to trick or catch you out.
First impressions: First impressions count for a lot. Make sure you’re wearing something professional and/or appropriate for the interview. This is especially important if the job role is based outdoors or working with animals etc. Your suit may look nice in the mirror, but may it not work if they ask you to do something practical. Make sure you understand what form the interview will take. If you are unsure what to wear ask what the dress code is.
Your handshake is important, so look the interviewer in the eye and shake firmly. A smile will help too!
Body language: It isn’t just about what you are saying, we assess people visually as well. If, when under pressure, you tend to play with your hair, fiddle with a pen, bite your nails or anything else, try not to do so during the interview. Instead, look your interviewer in the eye, sit up straight and keep your hands on your lap. A positive posture will help you to feel more confident too.
The interview: This may seem obvious, but the most important thing to do is listen and answer the questions carefully. One of the biggest mistakes made in interviews is not to answer the questions properly. Listen to the question and think about the information they are asking for before you answer.
Make sure your answer relates to the question and, if the question is in 2 or more parts, that you answer it fully. Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to elaborate or repeat themselves if you’re unsure. No one wants you to fail, so make sure you give yourself every opportunity to impress them.
If a question does throw you off track, ask for a moment to think about it and compose yourself. If you’re really stressed, let your interviewer know: this will help them understand your situation and make you feel at ease. Remember, they don’t want to catch you out.
Change your examples: If an interviewer asks you a question about communication skills, team working experience and vocational skills etc. don’t use the same example for every question. As with your CV writing, think about the role and think of a variety of examples you can use to demonstrate you have these skills.
If this is your first ‘proper’ job role or you have had limited experience, then think about transferable skills: communication, customer service, IT, social media, money handling, team working, organisation/planning, all of which are massively important to all businesses. Try to think of a variety of ways to highlight your skills; perhaps by using examples from your hobbies or in school/college.
Come prepared with questions: At every interview there will be an opportunity for you to ask questions about the role and the organisation. This will show the interviewer that you are interested and help you to visualise what it would be like to work there.
Examples of questions that you could ask:
- How many people are in the team I may be working in?
- What are the businesses long term goals?
- What’s the best thing about working here?
- What’s a typical day like?
During the interview try to smile, nod and show you’re interested in what your interviewer is saying. If you look bored or don’t maintain eye contact, your interviewer may think you’re not interested in the job. Even if, at the end of the interview, you decide the role isn’t right for you, thank them for their time and remain enthusiastic. It’s always best to be professional.
Practise Interview Questions
Interviewers will ask you many different questions. The key to answering them successfully is simple: be prepared. Look at the job description, advertisement and the organisation’s website. What are they looking for from their people? What do they do and how do they do it? Then consider how you can demonstrate you will be an asset to their business.
Here are some questions your interviewer may ask. These are a good place to get you thinking about the role and then applying this to you. Practise your answers!
Give an accurate picture of yourself in the interview. Friends and family may have advised you about what to say, but it’s best to be yourself. This way you'll reveal your personality, you'll be more comfortable with your answers, and you'll appear much more authentic and relaxed.
Find out more about typical job profiles
To the right are typical examples of job profiles you can expect to find having completed a KEITS course. Job profiles include key duties, hours and environment as well as skills and interests. Click on the links to download each job profile.National Careers Service Animal Care Job Profile Business Admin Job Profile Customer Service Job Profile Floristry Job Profile Horse Care Job Profile Horticulture Job Profile
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The Apprenticeship in Animal Care has improved my timekeeping skills, has improved confidence and social skills. Has improved my communication with my seniors and colleagues.
Level 2 Apprenticeship in Animal Care