I met a graduate a couple of years ago who completed his Master’s degree from a top university in Australia. We will call him Andy. Andy was intelligent, soft-spoken and confident. He approached problems with a positive mindset and always thought out of the box to solve challenges. Andy could not find a job in his field when he completed his degree in 2018. I caught up with Andy and he shared his experiences with me while we took a walk to the shops on one of those cold winter evenings. Andy’s story ran through my spine, as I imagined how difficult it must have been for Andy to think things would pan out quickly as he imagined right after his studies. As Andy was out of school, his source of financial support had been limited, so he needed to get a job as soon as possible to support himself. He also noted that living expenses were high, and needed to get busy as soon as possible. After mulling over Andy’s challenges, I could not offer a path out of current challenges since I was a current student and did not have any experience landing a job in Australia. However, something was evident – Andy needed to find a job ASAP to meet his needs. So my advice to Andy was simple – get started with any job in firms that interest you, do an excellent job in your role, offer free advice and volunteer for tasks that align with your career where possible. Andy, who was about 5ft 10 inches tall and of average build, decided to get a job as a Warehouse Assistant to move and stack boxes up to 15kg. Thankfully, it was one of the busy periods around the end of the financial year, so that kept him busy. When Andy started working at the warehouse, he met other workers who had been sent from the same recruitment agency to the warehouse on an approximately three-month contract. Andy was dedicated and committed to his job. He was punctual, open to learning, and sought opportunities to grow even though this was not his dream job. He focussed on adding value in this role and ensured his employers and contractors had confidence in him. Four weeks into the role, Andy, who was an Occupational Health and Safety professional, realised there were some health and safety gaps in the firm and decided to chat with the manager. Andy expressed his desire to provide advice to ensure the firm maintained industry standards. Andy immediately highlighted some gaps to the manager and demonstrated with clear examples how the firm could improve its health and safety processes. The manager shared these points with a senior colleague, and both individuals accepted that Andy could provide occupational health and safety advice. Andy was asked to spend 1-2 days per week working specifically on HSE-related projects in the warehouse and the other days working as a regular assistant alongside his colleagues. Andy continued to add value in both roles, and the manager was impressed with how Andy had reshaped the health and safety procedures of the firm. At the end of the three months contract, Andy’s contract was extended for a further six months, specifically working on health and safety projects, as the firm was looking to improve its processes further. Unfortunately, Andy’s colleagues who had started at the same time as Andy were let go since their primary project had ended. Andy had also started looking for a permanent full-time role for job security. While Andy was working at the firm, he would continually update his resume accordingly with the new responsibilities and experience. Andy started getting noticed by other employers after few weeks. After two interviews, Andy got a permanent full-time bumper offer with a choice firm. Andy’s manager at the warehouse was instrumental in helping Andy land this role, as he provided a great reference to support Andy’s application.
Andy’s case is one with sheer determination, a positive attitude, and willingness to have a successful career. He found opportunities in every endeavour. He put in his best and was always focused on the positive side of things. He recognised opportunities and volunteered to add value.
In the quest to find a source of income, many international students, graduates, and professionals settle for casual jobs to fend for themselves and their families. Most of these jobs are often menial and require little or no formal training to complete. These opportunities, therefore, appear suitable for students, early-career individuals, or migrants to support themselves. I have met engineers, management consultants, medical practitioners who alluded to doing a job considered out of standards to make ends meet. Employers who require permanent full-time staff will unlikely accept individuals with limited work rights due to visa restrictions.
This article aims to enlighten students, graduate, and early-career professionals engaged in a casual, less-desirable or sub-optimal work on making the switch to their preferred roles using Andy’s “Charity begins at work” approach. There is absolutely nothing wrong with working sub-optimal or low-value jobs to meet one’s needs; however, it may be detrimental not to have an end goal in mind, with SMART objectives to achieve this goal. Below are some steps recommended for individuals to get the best value from their current position, get noticed and ultimately achieve their career goals.
Plan the jobs and the companies
This might seem a bit weird or counterproductive for individuals with urgent financial needs. However, where practicable, it’s always a good idea to take up casual or part-time positions in organisations or companies where your professional skills can put you in the limelight. If you are an Engineer, opt for such jobs in an organisation or company in the engineering sector. The benefit of this is that you will not only understand the business area, but you can also add value indirectly while engaging in your casual, less-desired role.
Choose an organisation that supports growth within the organisation
Since your goal is to transition from a less-desired role into a more desired one, it is essential that you choose an organisation that supports growth and transitioning within the organisation. There are quick and easy ways that this can be achieved:
Take a look at the career page
Glance through the career page of the company’s website to see if you find ads for other roles, as well as casual positions. This is a good sign that they routinely post vacancies on their websites with openness, allowing potential candidates to apply directly.
Look at staff profiles on LinkedIn
It is also good to look up some of the current and previous staff on professional networks such as LinkedIn to see their career journey. It might also be a good idea to contact a former or current staff member to learn about his career journey and potential growth opportunities within the firm.
Attend the interview as if you were being considered for your dream position
Appear confident at the interview and speak like a true professional but focus on the interview for the role you are being interviewed for (do not get carried away). Do not approach the interview as though it’s not important since it’s not your dream role. Prepare as much as though you are getting interviewed for your dream role. Read about the business area, the business sector, your role in the business while highlighting your key strengths. You want to ensure you ace the interview and get your foot in the door.
Ask the HR or hiring manager on interview day about potential for growth
During the interview process in many organisations, a lot of questions border around career growth, career plans, opportunities for improvement. Use this opportunity to let the panel know your long-term career aspirations; however, be careful not to make this your focus or dwell too much on this discussion, as you do not want this to be the highlight of the interview. Ensure the role you have applied for remains the focus so that you can be offered the job. Remember, this is what you ultimately want so that you get your foot in the door before unleashing any other career plans you may have.
Put in your best on the job
One of my core values is “Excellence”. I have a notion that anything worth doing at all is worth doing well. You may not love your current position since this may not be your area of interest. However, you either prepare to do a good job or let the next person have it. Let other team members know you are all about excellence.
Prepare to do a good job or let the next person have it
Engage on Yammer or Workplace
If you have been set up to have access to the organisation’s intranet and apps, it’s a good idea to engage with other staff on social apps such as Yammer and Workplace. Most companies that host their online applications on Microsoft have Yammer. Yammer is similar to LinkedIn but designed specifically for the organisation and its staff. Staff engage internally, and internal positions are often advertised on Yammer or Workplace as well. It’s also a good idea to follow managers in your areas of interest so that their posts can be prioritised in your feeds. Don’t feel intimidated by your current position. Connect with your teammates on Yammer, Workplace, or any other social network application set-up by your organisation. I recommend checking this page daily. Engage in discussions, join groups that interest you, and share ideas with other co-workers.
Don’t be a “regular” – do more than you are paid to do
Be that individual that puts his hands up to take up ad-hoc responsibilities or tasks when they come up. Show the managers you are dependable and complete tasks as soon as possible while delivering quality work. Doing this will instil confidence in you from the managers, and you will begin to gain recognition.
While working in this role, you want to show your worth as much as you can. Study as much as possible to learn about the job and the business. Contribute as much as you can during team meetings. Be the person that volunteers to take on irregular or out-of-scope tasks that come up. It shows your willingness and eagerness to help the team and your responsibility and ownership culture. Think outside of the box and suggest ideas to the team. It’s okay if all your thoughts are not implemented. This is unlikely to happen. You only need a few to pass, and you will be recognised for doing a good job. Make good suggestions to the managers, ask intelligent questions and let them know you can assist in other roles. One additional benefit of this is that you begin to learn something new, and you might be another team member in your choice department.
Keep on top of industry news and trends
As you wish to transition from a current role to a more desired “dream role” within the organisation, it’s a good idea to keep abreast of the latest events in the business and your dream role. Speak to colleagues working in those roles, and attempt to understand their current challenges. Think about these challenges at the end of the day when you have some free time, brainstorm and design solutions you think might be helpful, and proffer these to the team. You want to make sure this is captured as much as possible on email. Opportunities such as this help you get noticed and gain visibility in the organisation, which is what you ultimately need.
Another benefit of this approach is that it helps develop your mindset and problem-solving approach as if you were already working in that role you desire. The manager at your choice department might approach you if they need an additional team member on the team. This will be a win for all, as the HR or hiring manager will be happy they do not have to go through the normal hiring process of advertisement, shortlisting, and interviewing, and you would not have other applicants to contend with. You might just be the one and only candidate to be interviewed for this role!
Apply for current positions in your desired role in other departments
Now that you have contributed positively in your current role, and shown that you can readily take up new and more challenging responsibilities, it’s a good time to start applying for your choice positions as they come up. Remember to keep getting your job done, regardless. Leave no lapses. After all, it’s what you are being paid for. Do not assume that you will be automatically considered for the new role. You still have to do a part by updating your resume accordingly. Remember to include a cover letter and highlight your skills, achievements and contributions to the organisation. If you have made a good impression in the early stages, it won’t be challenging to have your manager be your reference. Do not assume this will be automatic; you still have to speak to them, letting them know about your intentions to apply for an internal role and requesting that you enlist them as your reference. Remember to follow the application guidelines and other requirements specified in the position description, as you might get penalised and lose out entirely if you do not follow these instructions.
Remember to include a cover letter and highlight your skills, achievements and contributions to the organisation.
Let your current manager know
Your manager will most likely become aware of your job application, so it is a good idea to let him or her know just before applying for the position or right after you have applied. You don’t want your manager to hear from another source. More importantly, most internal positions require that current managers sign off to let you go. If you are looking to execute this process without your manager, it’s not a good idea, as you would not leave a good impression. You might also lose your manager’s trust in the process. Let him know you are applying to hone your skills or gain additional skills, take on more challenging work, etc. Whatever your reasons are, be honest about it and ensure you do not tarnish your current position or speak low of your current colleagues. Ensure your manager gains your trust; he is the best internal reference you have.
Ensure you meet the minimum requirements for the job you have applied for and can implement at least 60-70% of the set tasks with evidence from prior and current work experience.
Meet the HR Representative or Hiring Manager
If you have done so already, it’s a good idea to meet and say hello to the HR or hiring manager. Let them know you will apply or have applied for the role. This individual may be instrumental in providing you with first-hand information that you need to land the job and may also answer specific questions that you may have.
Be Professional and ace the interview
Do not assume you will not be interviewed for this role because you are an internal candidate and already familiar with the team and the organisation. Treat this interview or opportunity as though you were applying from the outside. As mentioned previously, remember to prepare for the interview; learn about the business and department you will be working in, your role, strengths, and, more importantly, how you will add value to the organisation. Many individuals take their guards down when they reach this point, thinking the job done (this is a costly assumption!). Also, have at the back of your mind that you might be interviewing with others, which means the recruiter or hiring manager has to consider and choose the best candidate. In addition, you might be held to higher standards or more challenging questions because you already work within the organisation. Ultimately, they want a qualified candidate that can get the job done, so “familiarity” alone may not land you the position. After the interview, it’s always nice to send a good thank you email to the panel, thanking them for their time and consideration. This is an excellent strategy to remain in their subconscious after the interview.