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Stick at it!
‘Searching for a job is very much like trying to hit a piñata,’ says Quest’s regular civvy contributor Ryan Mansfield. ‘You’re blindfolded and you have no idea what will happen each time you take a swipe … but you do know that the law of averages says you’ll crack it in the end …
Leaving any job can be demanding on the emotions. We may have a blurry misconception of our own self-importance and interrogate ourselves with questions like, ‘How will they cope without me?’ or ‘Am I letting them down?’ This is normal and far more common than you might think – and won’t be helped by the reality that you perhaps no longer view some of the people you work alongside as colleagues, but as friends. Nevertheless, the fact that you have Quest in your hands is more than enough evidence that the time is right and you’ve moved on, or know that it’s just a matter of time until you do.
Indisputably the biggest nuisance in this situation is the pursuit of a new job. No question. Finding and applying for jobs that tick a satisfactory amount of boxes on your fantasy wish list, only to never hear back from most of them or discover that the position is already taken. My advice: apply for plenty and see what happens.
From there, the comparatively small percentage that expressed an interest in you will be in touch, and that’s where we’re going to focus our attention in this feature: the interview. Having said that, I really dislike the word ‘interview’. It seems far too serious and it puts me on edge just to say it. So let’s refer to them as ‘job chats’ from now on. I suggest this because it’s amazing how an interview has the bizarre ability to make us very tense and disrupt every butterfly in our belly. Why is that? We’re going to sit down, have a ‘chat’ with a representative of the organisation you’ve applied to and see if you can make it work between you. It’s all a matter of mind-set – and keeping a lid on your nerves and demons is the best way to get ahead of the rest.
Keeping a lid on your nerves and demons is the best way to get ahead of the rest
I have always been quite lucky and seem to land jobs rather than actually having to look for them. However, having sat on both sides of the interview desk, I know not only how difficult it can be, but also what companies tend to look for – and I’d like to share this with you. You may have been in the Forces since you left school, and I’m aware that this may even be the first job chat you have ever prepared for. I’m also sure that everyone you know is eager to chuck in their two-penn’orth and advise you on what you should say and do, making it all seem very confusing. Well it’s not.
The key advice to remember from this, if nothing else, is that times have changed, and pretty much everything I say from here on out fits comfortably within that statement. You need to try to portray who you are as much as possible. The older generation will tell you to cover your tattoos and shave your stubble off; your mum will tell you to be the ‘sharpest dressed there’; your mates will give you a load of tosh suggestions they’ll claim they’ve used in the past, when really it’s just the Carlsberg talking.
Now I’m not saying you should have a total disregard for job chat etiquette, but there is a fine line between doing what everybody says you should do, and what is actually best for you. For example, I once went to what turned out to be a successful job interview on a Friday, and wore the same outfit that night for a party with friends. If you don’t own a suit or feel uncomfortable in certain type of clothing, then don’t wear it! There are plenty of smart alternatives. The same goes for the rest of your appearance. The taboo that was once beards and tattoos in the interview world is no more, and as long as you look respectable, and your granny isn’t heading the interview panel, it shouldn’t hinder your chances.
A former colleague of mine, Mark Pilbeam, a lecturer in law, once gave me one of those obvious but invaluable pieces of advice we don’t always think of it when it comes to job chats. He told me to avoid what he called ‘conveyor belt responses’: loosely translated, don’t bother with all the ‘I work well as part of a team; I am honest and hard working’ stuff … You get the gist. These people may interview eight or more candidates a day, and if you regurgitate the same as the robots before and after you, chances are – unless you’re particularly attractive – you’ll just blend in with all the others and be forgotten about come 5 pm.
You need to try to portray who you are as much as possible
So it’s essential we don’t let our anxieties overpower the reality of the situation and do whatever necessary to steady our excessive worries. When trying to land a new job, we sometimes overlook the fact that the panel are human beings too, and just want to go home and sit with their families – just like the rest of us. So try your best to brighten up ‘interview day’, because it’s not much fun for them either. Failing that, and if you have a particularly imposing and intimidating interviewer, take the advice of a young builder I once worked with: try to imagine them sitting on the toilet. Maybe it works? He did get the job after all …
You always want to stand out. Even if it’s for something a little unorthodox, you want to be remembered for something. If there’s one thing that baffles me in job chats more than anything, it’s those people who respond with an immediate ‘No’ when asked if they have any questions. No? You’ve had several days to prepare for this interview and you don’t have one question to fire back at them after they’ve just grilled you for everything you’ve got? This is your big chance to not only show you have an interest in the workplace you’re trying to join, but also that you aren’t a big panicking mess who can’t wait to dart out and breathe a big sigh of relief. It demonstrates confidence, calmness and composure. Three qualities they are sure to be looking for.
So can you recall the one key statement? Times have changed. You don’t have to conceal that little tattoo on your foot, wear your dad’s old-fashioned ‘interview suit’ or treat the whole experience like you’re being interrogated at the end of a flashlight beam. If anything, they should be grateful that you are sitting in front of them, wanting to work for them. And, most important of all, remember that they want you to impress them and not mess it up. After all, what company or organisation wants to hire mediocre staff? Do what you have to in order to stand out. Good luck!
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