Category Archives: Making Money Mondays

Making Money Monday: Dealing With Agencies – Part Two

Rainbow

Apparently there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow...it's just getting there that's the trouble.

We’ve seen the frankly unavoidable pitfalls of dealing with employment agencies. So, how do you work with these beasts and ensure you’re getting the most from them? Simples.

1.) Remember you pay their wages!
Most agencies get commission on placing a candidate (usually a percentage of your final salary) so they’re working for you as much as they’re working for the recruiter. That doesn’t mean you should adopt diva-esque tendencies, but remembering this when they’re trying to bully you into something which simply isn’t suitable should give you the guts to say no.

2.) Pester them.
In defence of the agencies, the recruitment industry has suffered redundancies as much as any other, which often means the agents have impossible workloads. Be prepared to keep on top them, call them – have they got anything new, any feedback for you? Can’t get through to them on the phone? Email them. Chase, chase, chase – so you’re front of mind when that perfect role comes through.

3.) Give them a clear brief of what you do and don’t want.
This should enable them to match the right job to you. But be realistic. It’s still a tough market out there, so don’t give them an impossible task. Separate your requirements into ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’.

4.) Do call them when you come out of interview.
It seems cheesy, but the feedback you give to them allows them to ‘sell you into the client’ if it’s a job you want.

5.) Stand up for yourself.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ if the role isn’t right. Remember recruitment is sales in disguise and sometimes you feel pressurised into going for something which really isn’t suitable.  Don’t let anyone tell you what you want to do – you tell them!

What experiences have you had with recruitment agencies? What advice would you give to someone trying to deal with them?

Making Money Monday: Dealing With Agencies – Part One

elephantIs it just me, or is the term ‘agency’ simply shorthand for ‘middleman who will get in the way and make something which should be straight-forward incredibly complicated’. Estate agency. Design agency. Employment agency. I’m hard pushed to find any positive examples.

Things is, when you’re searching for a job these days, there are very few companies who do direct recruitment. Preffering instead to put their staffing needs in the hands of an agency. I truly hope employment agencies treat the recruiters better than they treat the candidates, otherwise I really cannot understand why companies would use them?!

I would be lying if I said all of my experiences with employment agencies had been negative, just the vast majority of them! And the experiences which have been good have been because of individual agents who go above and beyond, not their firm excelling in anyway.

Here are some of my experiences…

The I’ll keep talking at you until you say yes one…
Always a favourite. You’re not sure about the role they’re trying to put you forward for. They ramble on without pausing for breath (and allowing you to ask a question or interject) until you relent and say yes to the interview just to shut them up. If this happens to you – stand your ground and tell it like it is. If it’s not the job for you – tell them. If you end up being talked into something which you later regret, don’t be afraid to contact your agent and tell them that now you’ve thought it through it’s not for you.

The do you have two heads or a hunchback test.
Most agencies will want to see you in person before they put you forward for any roles. Some handle this better than others. A good meeting is where they take a full brief from you, so they can find something which fits in with your aspirations. A bad meeting is one which is blatantly a form filling exercise. I had one pre-meet with an agency where they told me to be enthusiastic in interview. I really had to stop myself from saying ‘No shit Sherlock’.

I’ve got the perfect role for you. Is Outer Mongolia commutable?
Always a favourite. One of my clear objectives with my job hunt was to cut my commute time, so when an agency called me to ask if Northampton was too far away (66 miles fact fans) I rolled my eyes and politely answered ‘yes’.

The we’ll put you forward for a job which you know nothing about whilst you’re on honeymoon one.
Yup, despite telling the agency I was away on Honeymoon they continued to phone me. When they couldn’t get hold of me (thank goodness I had put my phone on silent, there’s quite a time difference between Birmingham and Singapore!) they decided to put me forward for the job anyway. I had no clue and it caused considerable confusion when another agency put me forward for the same job later (with my permission). I never worked with the first agency again as I didn’t trust them.

The we’ve not really taken the brief properly one.
Initial conversation: “Yes, it’s a Marketing Executive role. We’ll put you forward for it.”
Feedback: “Erm, apparently they’re looking for a Marketing Director, sorry about that.”

The back fill/side fill one.
Too many questions about the role  you’re leaving, or the other interviews you’re attending means they’re more interested in creating opportunities for themselves instead of you.

There’s also the times when they can’t get your name right, when they ring you twice in the same day about exactly the same job, when they text you and ask you to ring them (erm, I’m not working but don’t worry about my phone bill?!). There’s the times when you say you can’t make that interview time and they lay on a huge guilt trip, when they don’t give you any feedback post interview, when no matter how hard you try you simply can’t get hold of them (agencies are the world champions of phone tennis).

As I say there are exceptions to the rule and those exceptions have been the ones which landed me my temping work and my current role. Which shows if it’s done properly – it works!

Before I go, I want to leave you with a final anecdote about dealing with agencies. Before I left my previous job an agency called me with an ‘exciting opportunity’ (aren’t they always?!). As he was talking me through the role he began to tell me about the various ‘elephants’ of the job. Obviously he meant ‘elements’ – I was dying to laugh but he was taking himself so seriously that I just couldn’t. Bless.

Making Money Monday: I’ve Got a New Job

Celebrating

Doubt my celebrations will be quite this elegant... but hey!

I’m not going to lie, there were times during the past four months of my job search, where I wondered what the heck I was thinking, leaving the security of a full-time permanent job, even if I did hate it. The same agencies who had rolled their eyes when I told them I had a three-month notice period when I was employed, now looked down their noses at me:

You left? Without a job to go to? You’ll have to explain that to any potential employers.

It’s a difficult market at the moment. That was a brave decision.

They didn’t say as much,  but the intonation was there – you’re bonkers!

Thankfully they were wrong on a number of counts. For one, most potential employers thought I was really courageous for having the guts to resign from a job I wasn’t happy in. They also found it refreshing that I came with, well, no notice period at all – after all how many companies are good at timely recruitment? Oh, and now I have a job, which, on paper at least, is much better than my last one. Result, oui?

That’s not to say I would recommend handing your notice in without having a new job lined up. The recruitment agencies aren’t wrong – it is tough out there. If you’re thinking of ditching the day job it’s not something you should enter into lightly. With the experience of hindsight, here’s my advice to anyone thinking of jacking it all in…

Make sure you have enough ‘rainy day’ savings
Most of my mine had been blown on a big white frock, plus matching accessories, so I was really fortunate that Mr Love of my Life took his vow of ‘for richer or poorer’ seriously and was able to support me. That said, I wish I’d had a bit more stashed away so I could have made more of a financial contribution to the household. Relying on a man to pay for things feels kinda Stepford Wives to me. And, while he doesn’t mind, I’m keen to repay the money as quickly as possible.

You’ll feel like your life is ‘on hold’
Even if you’ve got savings behind you, if you don’t know when you’ll be earning next, you’re unlikely to want to blow them. So forget about buying new clothes or shoes. Treating yourself to meals out, spa days and everything else you take for granted when you’re picking up a decent salary. Get used to saying: “That sounds fabulous, we will have to do it when I’ve got a job.” Also be prepared to have to say no to a few invites from friends – the good ones will understand and pop around yours for a cost-effective cuppa instead.

Silver lining: It does make you realise how much money you spend on pointless stuff (er, designer coffee in my instance). I’m hoping this *lightbulb* moment will mean I spend a whole lot less now I’m earning.

Cancel any unnecessary contracts
Another good way to try to cut your expenditure in the short-term. I put my Contact Lenses by Post service on hold and also cancelled my subscription to Love Film.

Claim the benefits you’re entitled to
Use the benefits checker to see what you could receive and don’t be ashamed. If you’ve been working – you’ve paid into the system – now it’s your time to get some back! Although if you’re a professional and you have to sign on, expect to feel confused, rather than inspired following your trips to the Job Centre. Bless ’em.

Getting a new job takes time and it is tough!
You’ll need to be thick-skinned and determined. Companies have all the power now and can take their pick of potential job-seekers. Don’t take rejection to heart and get feedback to find out why you weren’t succesful. Be prepared to spend hours scouring the internet, newspapers – anywhere – for jobs.

Consider temping
I’ve been working as an admin temp for the past six weeks. The pay isn’t great, but it’s easy work, pays more than I would get on benefits, keeps my brain active and gives me experience of working within a new sector (education). Temping is also ideal if you’re attending lots of interviews – need to take a day off? You can – without having to fake a mysterious doctors appointment which takes all day (Er, yes – that’s right they wanted to check my whole body, and  I only went in to get my ears syringed)!

Be prepared for lots of housework
Being unemployed highlighted to me that I would make a rubbish housewife! But you can hardly sit on your arse all day whilst your other half is at work, can you? I’m so much happier now I’m working and we’re sharing the chores again – I don’t even mind doing a little bit more – but doing it all, for me at least, was soul-destroying!

Enjoy the freedom
One of the lovely parts of not having a regular nine-to-five has been the amount of freedom it has given me. I’ve been able to meet up with my Yummy Mummy friends during the day for coffee. I could avoid the busy weekends and do my Christmas shopping during the week. I was always available to wait in for parcels. Small things, but not to be over-looked.

Compromise, but not too much
The dream job with the higher salary might not be out there at the moment. You might have to take a salary cut, a side-ways move, or travel further to your place of work. Be clear on what you’re prepared to compromise on and if you think a company is taking the mick – don’t be afraid to walk away. I did.  

Be prepared for people who think you’re on holiday.
When I told some people I couldn’t see them at a certain time because I was signing on, job-hunting, or attending an interview they looked mightily confused. It was as if they were thinking ‘but you don’t work, shuffle those things around and see me”. Don’t be afraid to stick to your schedule.

Be prepared for tears
As well as supporting me financially, Mr Love of my Life has also supported me emotionally. It’s amazing how much your career defines who you are and when it’s not there, well – who the heck are you? Whether it’s your lover, your mother or your sister-from-another-mister – you’ll need someone on hand to give you a pep-talk, or a shoulder to cry in those moments of doubt, rejection and down-right blah-ness.

Take the time to think about what it is you really want
It’s easy to lose track when you’re attending meeting after meeting and replying to a plethora of urgent emails, but away from all that – how do you want life to be. Start imagining and it might just start taking shape.

Shop around and request free samples
You still need to buy some stuff, so make the most of the extra time you have and check out various sites for discounts and freebies.

Skive!
Sometimes you’ve just got to make the most of the situation. You can sit in your PJs until 2pm, watching SATC box-sets and reading glossy mags and your Bloglovin’ feed – so indulge yourself and do it! So long as it’s only occasionally it’s OK. Nobody likes a martyr!

Are you thinking of taking the brave step and ditching your job? If so, good luck!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Making Money Monday: Writing the Perfect Personal Statement

Procrastination

Imagine the scenario. You’ve found a job opportunity which makes you heart sing. Everything about it seems perfect. You’re full of beans as you start the application process, until… it’s time to write the personal statement, or cover letter, telling your prospective employer exactly why you’re the right person for the job. If you’re anything like me, that’s the point where you down tools and head off to make a warm beverage.

Trouble is. Procrastination isn’t going to get you the job. What you really need  is to carefully craft your cover letter (or personal statement) so you get a seat in front of that interview panel. Here are my top tips…

  • In most cases a ‘Cover Letter’ will actually be a ‘Cover Email’ which accompanies your CV on an email, or when applying through an online portal such as Totaljobs.
  • Cover Letter Vs Personal Statement – A Cover Letter will generally be shorter and written in the traditional format of a letter or email. A Personal Statement may be a little longer and will be a piece of continuous prose. But remember – they are both an opportunity to sell yourself!
  • Before you put fingers to keyboard, revisit the Job Description, or Person Specification. Make a note of your skills and experience which show you’re truly the right person for the job.
  • Do a first draft, preferably in something like Word so you can do a spellcheck.
  • If it’s a cover letter/email remember to address the person correctly (‘Dear Mrs Employer’ for a letter, ‘Hi Mrs Employer’ may be OK for an email).
  • If you’re writing an actual letter, follow the normal business conventions (your address and contact details top right, the companies address below this aligned to the left (with the date below it), remember when you’re signing off its ‘Yours sincerely’ (unless you’ve addressed the letter to ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, in which case it’s ‘Yours faithfully’ – although generally speaking if you want to work there, you should know who you’re addressing the letter to). Keep the letter to no more than one side of A4 and don’t forget to sign the it.
  • If you’re emailing, you can be less formal. Unless the advert specifies otherwise use your ‘cover letter’ as the main body of the email with your CV attached (if they ask for separate cover letter, save it in Word and email it across as an attachment).
  • Stay on topic – sell yourself to the max, by using some key points and relate these to the job spec, but don’t waffle on forever.
  • Tell them why you want to work for them and why you would be perfect for the job.
  • Group topics together. Don’t start talking about your IT skills – jump into people skills and then go back to IT – make sure it flows logically.
  • Make it easy for them to get in touch. Put your telephone number and email address at the foot of your email signature.
  • Check, check, check and check again… before you..
  • Hit send and keep your fingers crossed!

Good luck! x

Making Money Monday: Applying For a Job

Jobseeking man with sandwich board

We’ve covered how to make your CV sparkle, how to search for a job – and how to claim Jobseekers Allowance in the meantime. But now? It’s time to jump in with both feet and start applying for those exciting opportunities.

The days of printing out your CV, attaching an appropriate covering letter with a jazzy paperclip and mailing it to your prospective employer are sadly gone. Even hand-written application forms (although still necessary for some professions) are on their way out. Now it’s all about the online.

Job adverts in newspapers direct you to the recruiters website to download an application pack. Online job search engines want you to use their own application process. Companies request you to email your CV in with a covering letter. Agencies need you to email your CV in before they’ll register you.

I tell you, we are living in an online world. Fortunately I’m an online kinda gal.

The first thing to say is don’t despair if you don’t have access to the internet at home. If you need to file an application, head to your local library where you can ordinarily use the internet for an hour-or-two for free (you even get some gratuitous people watching thrown in – bargain!).

The second thing to say is don’t get sloppy. You still need to write stunning cover letters and stop-them-in-their-tracks personal statements. Just because it’s online doesn’t change that. In fact, it means you’ve even less excuse for typos, spellos or any other nasties – that’s what spellcheck is for, remember!

I’m going to focus on cover letters and personal statements in a future blog post, but for now here’s some tips on how to apply for a job online:

  • If you need to fill in an application form – copy and paste the appropriate information from your CV to avoid mistakes. If for some reason you can’t do that, print out a copy of your CV and key the information in from that. Do what it takes to get it right!
  • Keep the Job Spec/Person Specification in mind as you complete your application. Make sure you’re ‘bigging up’ all of your past experience which makes you perfect for this role.
  • Spellcheck, spellcheck, spellcheck!
  • Make it easy for the agency/your new workplace to get in touch, by including your telephone number and email address at the foot of your email signature.
  • If you’re emailing remember to actually attach your attachment (probably your CV)… and make sure you’re attaching the correct attachment too.
  • Check it again before you hit send.
  • Remember, if you’re really struggling with the online application, there’s usually a phone number on the job advert somewhere – so let them know the issues you’re having and see if there’s an alternative way for you to apply.

Good luck!

Making Money Monday – How I’ve Afforded to Ditch the Day Job

I’ll warn you, this isn’t very feminist friendly. It’s not even very ‘independent women’ (although… ‘the shoes on my feet? I’ve bought it’*). As many of you will know I left my old ‘day job’ back in October 2011, as I was incredibly unhappy, and, well, life is too short to do something you hate day in, day out – particularly when you have to travel for an hour-and-a-half each way to do so. I should have stashed away lots of money to tide me over, whilst I looked for something new. That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s what they say. You know those magazine articles/newspaper experts/ TV shows… I hadn’t done this. I had a bit of money stashed away, an optimistic and determined spirit, and an incredibly supportive husband.

Housewife

Image: brittopic.blogspot.com

I realise I am supremely fortunate. Mr Love of my Life could see that my old ‘day job’ was killing my spirit, and meaning he had to lend me a shoulder to cry on, on a far too frequent basis. With a combination of his salary and savings; and my Jobseekers Allowance and wages from temping, we’ve been able to muddle through. What should appease those ‘you should never rely on a man types’ out there is:

a.)     I would happily support Mr Love of my Life if the tables were turned

b.)     I am keeping a record of how much he is subbing me, so that when I am in ‘proper’ employment again I can repay him

Save money, spend his
It’s also worth noting that it’s not ‘business as usual’ at ‘Budgeting Towers’. We recognise that we need to prioritise the essentials over the frivolities. So, mortgage and bills are taking precedence over decorating our lovenest, going out, buying clothes and, well, anything else which is non-essential really. We’re looking to shop smart and spend less. I’ll blog about some of the ways we’re saving money in my Thrifty Thursday posts. I must admit I’m getting bored with not having any money now. Although whilst I’m desperate to gain a well-paid job again, I’m also hoping my newly found money-saving nous remains.

love you

Photo: weheartit.com

And, until that day comes (hopefully soon), I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to Mr Love of my Life. Thank you for remaining true to our vows… for richer, or poorer. I owe you big time and will love you forever.**

*NB Beyonce, I love you honey – but what is going on with that lyric? I can’t decide if grammar or syntax are at fault, but either way, don’t get teaching Blue Ivy to construct her sentences in such ways.

**Apologies for the PDA. But I am sure you will agree it’s deserved in this instance.

Making Money Monday: Your CV

Congratulations_on_the_new_job_cardOK, so you’re searching those online nooks and those offline crannies for that new job, but in order to be succesful you’ll need to make sure your CV is up to scratch too.

I’ve had to trawl through CVs when doing recruitment at my various ‘day jobs’
(Strangely had to do it quite frequently as my last ‘day job’, not that there was a high staff turnover or anything?!) and whilst nosing through someone’s career history and personal interests is intriguing at first… I can tell you it soon becomes tedious. Copious amounts of caffeine are required. Colleagues constantly interrupt you, and you forget what you were reading, automatically moving onto the next CV in the pile. Yep, when it comes to a CV, you really do need something which stands out. Here are my top tips:

1. Keep it short
There’s a general rule that a CV should be no more than two sides of A4. From my experience, this apparent ‘general rule’, is ignored by approximately 90% of the population. Seriously, keep it petite. Think of a CV like an online dating profile, you want it to give people an idea of all of your best bits, but you don’t want to give the full game away. You want there to be a reason that they want to meet with you, when you will astound them with how amazing you are, so:

  • Create intrigue
  • Use bullet points and clever formatting (e.g. bold, italics, spacing)
  • Make every word count

2. Tell me a story
Don’t take this literally. Starting your CV with ‘Once upon a time’ would put most recruiters off.  But if someone is looking to employ you they want more than a list of the companies you’ve worked for. Yes, you want to include your ‘duties’ within that position. But, really you want to do more than just that. This is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

  • list your achievements within your previous roles (e.g. cost savings, exceeding targets, new procedures). Show that you made a difference and how.
  • if it’s appropriate, use an objective at the start of your CV. This is your opportunity to show where you want your career to go next. The next chapter in your story if you like.

3. Don’t be too wacky
Unless you think it will go down well with the company you’re approaching – keep it strictly business. I remember a CV with photographs of the candidate hugging a tree made it around the whole of one of my workplaces – for all of the wrong reasons – back in the days before viral, this was the way offices used to get their Friday afternoon chuckles. Needless to say this candidate never got invited to interview.

4. Keep it standard
The company you’re applying to needs to be able to open your CV so they can read it. Obvious, I know, but you’d be surprised! So make sure you save it into a standard format, ideally Word.

5. Proof-read it
Make sure you’ve got your telephone number and email address correct. Ensure there are no glaring typos. Get someone else to read through it for you, chances are if you’ve been looking at it for hours, you’re no longer going to spot the mistakes.

6. Make your interests, er interesting
Sure, include the norms… socialising, reading, yada yada. But remember a few ‘out there’ hobbies make you stand out from the crowd. When one candidate listed one of her hobbies as ‘British Military Fitness’, we had to get her in for interview because we were intrigued. As it happens, she got the job!

7. Put it in a logical order
What have you done most recently, gained a new qualification or been in employment? If you haven’t completed any qualifications for a few years they should probably sit behind your employment history, as that’s going to be more relevant to a future workplace.

There’s loads of info on this topic scattered all over the web, so if you are looking to do a CV re-write it’s worth having a nose around. This is just my (lucky?) seven tips. What advice would you give?

In terms of my job hunt. Well my CV seems to be opening doors. I’ve had a number of interviews and second interviews over the past few weeks. I’ve actually got another second interview today – keep your fingers crossed for me! The market is slower than usual and there’s not as much choice around as there would ordinarily be, but there are jobs.