When thinking about your job hunting, do you ever think to yourself: “I know it’s really competitive. So I’m wondering if there are other options?”
On one hand it’s a good sign that you’ve done some research, and have a more cautious and realistic view than some people who assume they can just walk into a job. Having a Plan B is quite helpful. On the other hand, it sounds as though the reality check could be talking you out of Plan A altogether, which is perhaps a bigger problem.
Competition in perspective
The job market is competitive. That’s normal, but if it’s your first time in the job market it’s unfamiliar and can seem off-putting.
So think of something more familiar to you. You secured a place to study at the University of Manchester. That was competitive, and you beat the competition. And before that, you did well in your ‘A’ levels or other exams – that was also competitive, because not everyone does well. So think of this – you are the competition for other people.
Here’s another thought: Would your degree mean so much to you if it was easy, if you didn’t have to strive hard to attain it? Securing a job isn’t that much different. We take pride in our achievements when we know we’ve earned our place.
Are you talking yourself out of what you really want?
When you study at university, it’s a great opportunity to widen your horizons, see the world and others differently, have experiences you wouldn’t have otherwise had, and make a positive impact on your future. A good experience of university will stretch you (in a good way). To take full advantage of that, it’s important to be aware of when we are actually putting up our own blocks and unconsciously saying “I’m not sure I’m good enough”, or “this happens to other people, not to me”. Or even “That sounds a bit unfamiliar or scary, I’d rather stick with things I’m more certain of.” That’s your comfort zone talking.
If you think you might be getting in your own way, here’s a technique you can try, which is called PITs (performance interfering thoughts) and PETs (performance enhancing thoughts).
- Start with a blank sheet of paper, and draw a line horizontally down the middle to create two columns
- Think about this competition that you’re concerned about. What thoughts and feelings come to mind? Write them down verbatim in the left column – don’t interpret or rephrase things, or judge your thoughts, just get it all down on paper
- Take a look at what you’ve written, and consider each one in turn. Ask yourself: How do I know that’s true? What evidence do I have? What assumptions might I be making? Are these thoughts helping me? Some of the things which come out of this exercise might be things you need to look at further, however at this stage we might notice that some of our thoughts are groundless, or based on things someone once told us, or that contradict our other thoughts.
- Now ask yourself: assuming I really did want to pursue a career in XXX (insert occupation of interest), what could I tell myself so I worry less about ‘the competition’? If there is a chance that Y will happen, what could I do to overcome this? Write these thoughts down in the right hand column. These will be your new mantra, a more constructive way to approach these concerns. Chances are you’ll end up with some practical steps you can take too.
Practical steps you can take in a competitive job market
There may be other people applying for the same jobs or further study that you are, but you can’t control that. Focus on what you can control:
- Looking for how you can develop your skills and experience to make yourself a strong candidate. If you haven’t managed to gain much experience yet, here’s some advice on how to get a job with no experience.
- Working on crafting a great application – showing your motivation and that you can do the job
- Practising how to talk about your skills in an interview
- Get feedback on where you could improve
- Make more applications
- Do your research, and apply to smaller or less well known organisations as well as the larger ones
- Try to make contacts in the sector/industry. See your section on networking and social media
- Create a plan B in case plan A isn’t successful, despite your best efforts.
You might also be interested to know that sometimes recruiters contact us to report that they aren’t receiving enough applications – so don’t be put off applying for a job you’re interested in, your application might be just the one they’re waiting for!
If you would like some advice on your job hunting and managing concerns about the competition, call the Careers Service to book a Careers Guidance appointment on 0161 275 2829.