Careers Advice for The Recession

coinsLooks like this recession won’t be over by summer (latest gloom-laden reports speculate that we’ll be stuck in the doldrums until 2012) so I thought we should face up to how this will affect postgrad careers. I’ve put together 7 pages of careers advice, information and videos to help make sure you’re the ones who buck the trend and get their careers off to a headstart.

I’ve tried to avoid the usual platitudes and focused on practical things you can do to improve your chances. One of my colleagues (Tammy – you can see her on one of the videos) wasn’t sure whether there was anything different about job hunting this year. Her challenge was that many of the things we’re suggesting you should do are what people always have to do if they want to get into jobs in the media, charities etc.

That stumped me at first – she’s not far off the mark. Then I realised that most of you won’t know the lengths which job hunters have to go to in order to get into the creative sectors, so it’s the chance for you to learn about proven strategies which could help improve your chances of getting the jobs you want. So I carried on writing, recording and here it is.

Want a sneak preview? Here’s one I made earlier …

If you have any comments, questions or feedback, go to the Recession FAQ page and let me know what you’re thinking.


How Many Candidates Per Job?

I came across a couple of interactive job market tools on the Reed website today which you might find interesting – or scary, depending on which jobs you’re after.

Reed is one of the biggest agencies in the UK with a strong web presence. Currently, they claim they are advertising over 100,000 jobs from over 9,500 recruiters – but they have over 2 million candidates registered with them. So how do you assess the odds of being the one candidate out of all the others to land the particular job you want? Have a play around with these:

  • Starting at their home page for Candidates, you can see the number of jobs they’re advertising currently, and can drill down to see the numbers by sector and sub-sector, eg Graduate jobs (7585)  in Financial Services (265) and by location eg North West (29)
  • Heading over to their Recruiters page, you can find out their “audience” – the number of candidates on their books for each type of job. It’s not refined to the same extent, but, for example, you can see the number of candidates looking for Graduate Roles in the North West (11,608)

The caveats :

  • they’re not giving you all the data you’d need to work out detailed odds
  • candidates will be looking for more than one type of job
  • obviously, it’s only for one agency and for some types of job/employer, it wouldn’t be the first place they advertised

For all that, it does give you an idea of how popular certain jobs are and how many current ads there are on a large database.

The other tool which I found interesting was their “Market Index“. For each sector and subsector (eg either all engineering, or just electronic engineering), for a given location (eg North West) and for permanent or temporary jobs, it shows the number of job ads they’ve carried graphed over the last 12 months, plus the average salary.


The salaries will be averaged over a wide range of different level roles, so not sure how useful that graph is, but the job count is informative, and shows a depressingly familiar story – apart from a big jump in the number of ads in January for most sectors. (There is also a reassuring upturn shown after the final February figure, but as it appears on all the graphs, I suspect this may be “a quirk” of the way they display the figures – I’ll check again when they give next month’s figures.)

One final caveat, as employers have to pay agencies a fee when the agency finds the employer a candidate, some of the downturn may be a reflection of employers finding enough applicants through direct speculative applications – another good reason to get your CV into likely employers, and not just wait for the ads.

Is There A List of Employers in … ?

A common request we get is : “Where can I find a list of employers in field X in location Y?”

Whilst it’s always tempting to do that “biting your bottom lip and sucking in air” noise that plumbers are so good at when asked when they’ll be available, sometimes we can come up with a pretty good list of just what you want, just by knowing where to look.

Classic starting points are trade associations or professional bodies for the occupation or industry in which you’re interested. Local internet directories promoting a specific field (such as biotechnology) can be helpful with location, especially if it’s a new or growing area of employment where the region wants to promote itself, in the hope of attracting more employers into the area.

And sometimes, well, just Googling the correct terms gets you there. This works surprisingly often – the trick is not to search on “list of employers” but use the industry and broad location (region/country) as search terms, and then amongst the search engine results, spot likely umbrella organisations who might have just such a list. It will probably take a couple more clicks, but this is how I found a list of Spanish aerospace employers this week for a (hopefully!) grateful student.

These “umbrella” websites don’t often have job ads, but you can always check the careers pages of the organisations listed, and if you’re a postgrad with research experience or studying in their field of interest, it’s often worth making speculative applications to organisations where your specialism will be recognised and valued.

To make it easily searchable, I’ll separate out future posts of this type with the type of employer in the title, starting with three I’ve come across, had recommended or used this week.

How To Find Industrial Research Companies In Your Field – Tips from a Careers Detective

If you want to find academics in your research field, most postgrads would know to look at who’s publishing in your particular discipline. Then you can keep an eye on their departments to spot any vacancies for researchers or academic positions which crop up.

But what if you want to go into industry to do research? Although some industry scientists and engineers publish in academic journals, if their research is commercially sensitive, they’re unlikely to publish for all the world to see (and copy). However, you can sneak up on them by doing a patent search. Use The John Rylands University Library‘s patent resources and links to try searching for patents in your field. In some cases, you can even search on location (try post codes) to find out who might be working in your field, in the place you want to live. It might even give you a contact name of a technical manager to write to directly…

A lot of my work is trying to find ways of getting to the careers information that you need. Trouble is, sharing some of my sneaky little tips & techniques with you means you can do all this for yourself – but hey, with no postgrads to see, that will leave me more time to write this blog.