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Nov 012010
Image by DaveBleasdale via Flickr

What’s the most important part of a typical job application? Is it your CV / Resume? Is it the  years of experience you’ve built up? Is it your unique blend of skills and expertise? The correct answer is none of the above! While all of those things are crucial components of the perfect job application, a really successful application is about getting you invited for interview. The For that, the single most effective weapon in your job-seekers arsenal is your covering letter. Why you need a great cover letter for your job application The term “covering letter” implies that this is perhaps a less important document than the material it accompanies. Not so! You see, when you’re applying for a job, your covering letter is much more than just a note to accompany the enclosed documentation. It is what the recruiter is going to read FIRST. It’s not so much a covering letter, it’s more of a sales letter.

Sell yourself with your covering letter

Your cover letter is the first opportunity you have to really shine… and to impress upon your employer just how perfect you are for the job. It’s worth spending a bit of time getting this right: Continue reading »

Apr 232010
Job Seekers

Image by John McNab via Flickr

Finding a job in today’s employment market is hard work. To increase your chances of success, it pays to have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, and a well-thought out plan of how you’re going to go about getting it before you dive in.

1. Know what you want

If you want to find the right job, the first thing you need is a clear idea of the area you want to work in. This could be a broad career discipline… like marketing, accounts or computer programming; or maybe you want to work in a particular industry, like pharmaceuticals, food or manufacturing. If you don’t really know what you want to do, try making a list highlighting the things you like doing, or that you feel are particular strengths. Now look at your list, and consider what sort of career might dovetail with your list of preferences and strengths.

Once you have a high level idea of the area you’d like to work in, refine it a step further by researching various job titles in your area of interest to see which roles are a good fit with your skill set, your temperament and your personal development goals… you want something fulfilling that will stretch and challenge you, and that will allow you to grow and progress.

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Jul 162009
the joys of working from home

Image by Ben McLeod via Flickr

Summer holidays are always a challenge for parents. Juggling the kids, summer camps, childcare, jobs and sundry other things is, frankly, exhausting.

When you work from home some of those things become easier… but there are a host of new problems to overcome. What do you do, for example, when you’re in the middle of a conference call with clients and your five-year-old erupts into your office bawling that her eight-year-old sister has whacked her? How do you meet pressing deadlines when you’ve got a seemingly perpetual stream of minor interruptions to deal with? Nettle stings, lost ferrets, sibling rivalry, outright warfare… you name it, it happens in the day of a work-from-home parent, and during the summer holidays it happens more.

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Jul 132009
05 Start Work

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In the first article in the series we looked at a few of the things you could do before starting a new job to get things off to a flying start. This week we take a look at some things you can do over your first few days, weeks and months to help you settle in and become a valued member of your new team quickly.

  • Pleased to meet you: in an ideal world the person you report to on your first day will introduce you to everyone on your new team. If not, don’t sit back and wait for people to come to you – be proactive and introduce yourself. And don’t forget to smile!
  • Question everything: don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you start a new job you’ll have a lot more questions than answers. Remember that the only stupid question is the one that remains unasked. The quicker you can fill the gaps in your knowledge, the more confident and productive you’ll become.
  • The induction is your friend: formal inductions are usually part of the HR process in larger organisations. In smaller companies this varies, but you should make sure you get some kind of induction into the company, your new job and exactly what it entails. If there’s no formal induction programme in your organisation, try asking if you can shadow someone else on the team for half a day – you’ll learn much more than you will trying to work things through on your own.

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Jul 102009
My Work Space

Image by ForestForTrees via Flickr

Employee Assistance Programmes, or EAP‘s, are becoming increasingly popular in the Irish workplace, and are helping organisations to comply with new health and safety legislation, improve productivity and retain their key staff. But what exactly are they, where did they originate and how do they benefit the average employee?

In a nutshell a modern EAP is an independent, confidential counselling and referral programme offered to employees by their employer. In very basic terms the service provides an independent channel of support to helps employees identify and address professional and personal issues before they start to impact on their performance at work.

Continue reading »

Jul 062009
New Job

Image by shaymus022 via Flickr

When you start a new job it’s only natural that you want to impress. You want to show your new employer that they’ve made the right decision in hiring you, that you’re a competent and productive member of the team.
But starting a new job, while exciting, can also be one of the most nerve racking things you’ll ever do. You’ll be well outside your comfort zone: the new kid on the block, entering an environment where relationships have already been forged, and where there’s a well established social as well as organisational hierarchy.
In any new job, the first few weeks will be as much about dealing with the unfamiliar and unexpected as they’ll be about applying your skills, knowledge and experience. Here are some suggestions to help you prepare for that all important first day.

Continue reading »

Jun 192009
US Whig poster showing unemployment in 1837

Image via Wikipedia

Today around the world thousands of people just like you are losing their jobs.

It’s an enduring, if unpalatable fact that due to the economic circumstances we’re living through workers are being made redundant through no fault of their own. That’s generally accepted, and being made redundant in itself won’t necessarily tarnish your impeccable employment record. But when it comes to your CV, just how much leeway do you have? What’s an acceptable gap between periods of employment, and when does the dreaded label of "long term unemployed" start to rear its head?

Six months! That’s the magic number, according to research carried out in Britain recently.

The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) surveyed more than 1,000 managers on the topic. The results show that being unemployed doesn’t carry the stigma that people losing their jobs so often fear. At least not at first. In fact more than 80% of them said that the current employment status of applicants was completely irrelevant, as they didn’t consider it an accurate reflection of ability or performance given the current climate of mass redundancies.

But there is a limit to this benign outlook: spend six months or more out of work and a quarter of employers say they’d be less likely to give you a job, considering you to be "long-term-unemployed" at that point. Of course it’s not as cut and dried as that: studying for relevant vocational or academic qualifications, getting involved in voluntary work or perhaps pursuing your own entrepreneurial enterprise in the interim can bridge the gap, and demonstrating that you’ve been keeping up-to-date with developments in your industry while out of work can also help your credibility.

The ILM also warns those who’ve lost their jobs against splashing some of their redundancy cash on an extended career break; managers typically described candidates taking a gap year to travel or volunteer overseas as "unattractive" in the poll.

"Unemployment isn’t necessarily an indicator of ability, especially in the current climate when hundreds of talented individuals are being made redundant through no fault of their own," explained Penny de Valk, chief executive of ILM. "The good news is that most employers will treat unemployed applicants exactly the same as other candidates.

"The research shows that it is important for job seekers to try and get back to work as quickly as possible. They should use their time not only job hunting but finding ways to put themselves in front of the competition. The most effective way for job seekers to boost their future employment prospects is to play to their strengths, freshen up their knowledge and skills and keep up to date with developments in their sector," she added.

When you’ve been made redundant, picking yourself up and getting into the right frame of mind to look for work can take time – and in one of the most competitive job markets in decades finding a new job can be a long and drawn out process. So start early, and stay focussed. It’s tough out there — and that six month window identified by the ILM could slam closed much sooner than you think!

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Jun 092009
03-online learning and resource production

Image by leighblackall via Flickr

Not so long ago learning new skills meant taking time out to go to college, enrolling on a training course or wading through mountains of books, but the internet is changing all of that.
E-learning is revolutionising the way Irish people learn. Now all you need is a PC with a broadband internet connection and you can “attend” a course on practically anything from the comfort of your own home.

What is E-Learning

E-learning is an exciting new form of distance learning that harnesses the power of the internet to deliver interactive course material online. The beauty of E-Learning is its flexibility: you learn at your own pace, at times that suit you, from any computer with an internet connection anywhere in the world.
You don’t have to travel to the classroom – the classroom comes to you. Course material is available 24/7, and with newer e-learning technologies you can even attend “live” online classrooms and interact with your tutor and “classmates” in real time.
In fact, you can cover almost anything you can accomplish in a traditional classroom or training room, all from the comfort of your own PC.

Continue reading »

Oct 152008
“Adult Education” cover

Image via Wikipedia

Taking an extended period of time off work isn’t that unusual. People do it all the time, for all sorts of reasons. Some of the most common situations are parents staying at home to raise a family, caring for relatives at home, recovering from illness or injury, studying, spending time overseas or taking early retirement.

Whatever your reasons for taking time out from work, over time your circumstances will change and you may find yourself wanting to re-enter the workforce. The thought of returning to work after a period of absence can be simultaneously daunting and exciting.

Sure, work will throw up a slew of new challenges, give you the opportunity to test yourself, to channel your talent and ability in new directions – but it will also bring additional responsibility, and after so long out of work you may find your confidence flagging. Will you be able to cope with the transition….

It’s important to remember that while some of your work-related skills may have dulled over time, you can always re-hone them. You are still the same person, and have all the same strengths that you had before – only now you have a suite of new skills and experiences that you’ve picked up along the way. A lot of those skills will transfer seamlessly to the workplace, so essentially you have more skills and experience behind you now than you ever had before.

If you feel your skills are outdated consider retraining. Many community colleges run adult education courses that can help you pick up the skills you need to broaden your employment horizons. State organisations like FAS ( can also help, and offer courses specifically tailored to help people get back to work. Talk to your local FAS office for advice on identifying and acquiring the skills you need.

As well as examining your skills you’ll also need to consider what sort of employment you’re looking for. Do you want to work part time or full time? How will your work fit in with your family arrangements? Do you need flexible working hours? Do you want to work in the same field as before, or are you looking for a change? It’s important that you have a clear idea of the kind of job you want before you start looking.

Once you decided on the type of job, do some background research on the industry. Even if you’re re-entering familiar territory, you may be surprised by how much has changed. Read a few trade magazines, look up industry websites and familiarise yourself with current trends.

When it comes to searching for a job, while tried and tested methods like scanning vacancies in the local press can yield results, it’s often easier to go through recruitment agencies. Recruitment consultants are employment specialists, and generally have a good understanding of the current employment market in their field. Many will also be able to offer valuable advice on things like polishing your CV and improving your interview technique. And don’t forget the internet recruitment sites. There are literally thousands of jobs just a mouse-click away – and you can often apply instantly online.

Going back to work is never an easy step – but it can be an incredibly rewarding and worthwhile one. Good luck!

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