30/05/03 22:15:04

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< 1. Why should I read this?

< 2. What are my skills and qualities?

> 3. What kind of work can I do?

> 4. What are my goals? How do I acheive them?

3. What kind of work can I do?

Take a flexible attitude
Just because you've been a car mechanic, a secretary or manager for most of your working life, doesn't mean you've got to confine your job search to these employment areas.

Flexibility is an essential quality for job-seekers in today's employment market. Employers place it high on their list of recruitment criteria because the ability of the workforce to adapt to new and ever-changing situations is a key characteristic of successful organisations. But, as we shall see in this chapter, flexibility is also a key requirement for successful job-seekers. Flexibility is key in three areas of the job seeking and career planning process. increase your chance of job success if you take a flexible approach to:

identifying work opportunities
selecting the kind of work you will do
deciding the hours you will work

Identifying job opportunities
Most people think that the only way of identifying a job opportunity is to trawl through a newspaper's Situations Vacant columns. But wading through job ads is not the only way of spotting work.

You can take a more entrepreneurial, self-starting approach by simply taking a look around you. If you're in a company, can you see a job that is waiting to be done which no one is doing? Sometimes there are jobs where you thought there were none and sometimes there are jobs just waiting to be created. Can you spot a gap you would like to fill?

Perhaps you can see quarter of a job that needs doing. If it takes you in a direction you would like to go, why not suggest you add it to your own job. Eventually, it may develop into a full-time post in its own right. If it doesn't, you'll still have acquired extra skills and experience in a work area you're keen to enter.

Or, perhaps you can see an opportunity outside your normal field of work. If you have some entrepreneurial flair, why not research the possibility of starting your own business to provide the missing product or service.

Alternatively, you may be able to see some gaps in your local services - there's a need for a literary development officer or a disabled access officer or playleader, for example. If you have some relevant skills, think about putting together a proposal for the job to your local council with suggestions as to how the position could be funded. If you lack the confidence to approach the council or have no ideas about funding, think about some personal development or business training. If you have relevant skills but think your application would be stronger with formal qualifications, again think about further training.

The ability to identify opportunities often rests on a person's ability to think laterally. Lateral thinking is a tool some people use which helps them overcome obstacles. The idea is, if something is blocking your path, don't try to go through it, go round it.

If your job bores you, the best solution in a tight jobs market may not be to leave the company but to investigate doing new work in a new department. Again, take a look on what's going on around you. What is the company trying to achieve? Are there new projects you could work on? Could you make a contribution to your employer's expansion plans? If you don't know the answers to these questions - and, in a large organisation, you may not - take a closer look at the staff newspaper or the annual report and accounts or see if there is any group you can join at work which might introduce you to the people or information you need.

Also, talk to your line manager. Tell him/her about your aspirations to be, say, a public relations officer or training adviser. Explain how you think your current skills equip you to do the job and discuss what extra training or qualifications you may need. Perhaps the firm can help. Investigate in-house training schemes and other company-sponsored training and development options.

Selecting work
Just because you've worked on a car production line, or stood behind a counter in a bank for 10 or 20 years, doesn't mean you have to spend twenty years in the same type of job.

Take, for example, the woman who is a skilled production line worker in an engineering firm but hankers after a more creative job in design and research. She need not rule out the move just because all the engineers in the department are men. If she talked to her line manager or personnel she may find that her firm is one of a growing number which is trying to attract more women engineers. And if her firm is not interested in her skills and enthusiasm then she could always approach one of the other engineering firms who are prepared to train women with potential.

Not only can people consider different types of job, they can also consider different industry sectors. Many of the skills that are valued in, say, car manufacture are the same skills which hold value in other industries. People with strong team-working and communication skills who are committed to delivering satisfaction to the customer, are receptive to change and determined to do a quality a job, are in universal demand by employers.

If you fit this bill, a good exercise is to browse through all the job sections of the local and national newspapers. As you look through, there should be at least one interesting job which you may have ruled out previously. Now take a good look at the skills required and how well your own skill set matches these requirements. If your current skills set falls short, think about what kind of training you could do to get the job you want.

If you are returning to work, a flexible attitude to where you work is important. It may not be possible to return to your old job.. Instead, you need to look for other opportunities that will help you into work and build your confidence.

Why not think about voluntary work, for example. Not only could you acquire new skills and new contacts, but you could also demonstrate to employers that you still have the work "habit" and you are someone who likes to put something back into the community. Again, in an increasing number of companies and colleges, this is a quality which is becoming more and more valued.

Flexible working hours
If you are a parent with young or disabled children, a major concern will be how you can combine caring for your dependents with a job. With more women going out to work, more fathers becoming full-time child-rearers and more parents left to bring up children single-handedly, the conflict between life at home and work has been exacerbated for an increasing number of employees. Even adults with grown-up children are not always free from the conflict. As the population ages, many find themselves caring for their own elderly or infirm parents.

Fortunately, many employers are now recognising the difficulties employees have in combining work with their caring responsibilities and have increased their range of family friendly policies to ease the burden. While workplace nurseries are still quite rare, an increasing number of companies offer some financial assistance with childcare costs while many others provide lots of advice and other assistance to employees looking for childcare solutions. Some companies also have eldercare schemes which benefit employees with dependent parents and older relatives.

Another way employers can help employees combine their work and home lives though is by offering flexible working arrangements. These arrangements allow employees to have a working week which departs from the traditional 9.00 - 5.00, five day a week job. In many companies, there are now more people working part-time (from choice) at all levels of seniority, there are more people job-sharing and more people working flexitime. There are also more people freelancing, working from home or working on term-time only contracts, useful for parents who want time with their children during the school holidays.

If family-friendliness is a big concern for you when hunting for a job, look for jobs with employers who have a strong commitment to equal opportunities. Are they members of campaigns such as Opportunity 2000 (a campaign to improve women's employment opportunities) or the Employers Disability Forum? Do they discriminate against older employees in their advertisements? Do they offer a range of flexible working options to employees?

We've seen in this chapter that a flexible attitude and approach is important in job-searching. You need to be flexible when identifying possible job opportunities, you need to be flexible when thinking about the kind of work you can do and you may also need to think about working flexible hours. The next step is to start setting goals and making plans which will take you into your chosen work.

< 1. Why should I read this?

< 2. What are my skills and qualities?

> 3. What kind of work can I do?

> 4. What are my goals? How do I acheive them?

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