Steps Ahead of the rest!

Hello everyone,

I know it has been a while since I last wrote on my blog but now I am getting back into the swing of things! Moving home and juggling lots of exciting business ventures have kept me incredibly busy over the past few weeks.

At this time of year, we often spend time thinking of the perfect gift or the right cards to send so in the new year, why not make a resolution to help others? In this blog post I wanted to emphasise the importance of helping the next generation into employment and how we as HR professionals can make a huge difference.

I’ve worked in partnership with the CIPD Steps Ahead programme (in conjunction with Jobcentre Plus) for the past couple of years and from experience I have found that it can really change a young person’s life by supporting them into employment. As HR professionals, we have a lot to offer the next generation by utilising our support and mentoring skills, whether it is helping structure the right CV, assisting with interview skills or even just helping boost their confidence. This could make a significant impact on the skills gap shortages that has been so highly publicized in the media of recent years.

The scheme is aimed at job seekers who are between 18 – 24 years of age and has a success rate of 73% for those who have completed the programme. As a mentor I dedicate around one hour per week, per mentee (you can have up to three mentees at one time) and I tend to work remotely but as part of the scheme you can be paired up with local job seekers. It depends on your time and ability to commit to supporting them.

The responses and feedback I’ve received from the people that I have successfully helped into employment has been staggering, they are generally really motivated and want to build a solid foundation for their career. On the other hand, it is also great experience for anyone in HR to get involved in as it can take you out of your comfort zone and provide a rewarding experience which will be another string to add to your bow.

One of my successful mentees is Rick. He was a recent graduate, is incredibly clever but he lacked confidence to go for a role he really wanted. We worked together over a period of six weeks (as recommended by the programme). We started by identifying his chosen career path before building upon his existing CV to target those specific industries. Even this step seemed to boost his confidence significantly! I received a wonderful email from Rick this week, giving me vital insight into how the Steps Ahead programme has helped him into employment as well as the challenges he faced when starting to look for employment after university; I will be uploading Rick’s journey onto the blog to raise awareness of this fantastic programme so watch this space!

A common problem that I have encountered when speaking with my mentees is a lack of specific guidance they receive whilst they are still in education. They explained that there were not adequate support mechanisms in place to support the transition into the world of work. They advised that a professional career advisor is someone they would like to see regularly before they are due to leave college, graduate from university or leave school as they would then be able to understand how to correctly structure a CV, prepare for the world of work and assist with interview techniques. I feel that this is a strong enough case for more professional people to get involved with programmes like Steps Ahead in order to support the talent of the future otherwise we run the risk of further skills shortages in years to come.

My advice to young people would be; do not be afraid to go out there and seek the job you dream of, just as long as you have strong ambition, motivation, the drive to succeed and are prepared for some doors to close on you, you will make it. Many successful business leaders have had their ideas rejected countless times Richard Branson is a great example of this!
Preparation is key, if you have that big interview, an assessment center or even a telephone screening with a potential employer, make sure you are prepared – first impressions really do count. Here are some handy tips if you are looking to get back in to work or if you yourself are supporting someone to get their dream job:

1. Be professional – dress appropriately and avoid slang language and be careful with email addresses! This is a pet hate for employers and gives off an incredibly negative impression, use your first name and surname to set up a professional looking email address.

2. Check your CV. Some CV’s I have received in recent years (and I kid you not!) have been written in “text speak”, some have had emotion icons and some have even been multi-coloured, you may want to stand out but this will certainly not land you an interview so do be mindful on what you put on your CV and keep it simple

3. Create a profile on Linked In (think of it like a business Facebook) – Did you know that over 70% of jobs are not advertised? By using Linked In you can network with other like-minded professionals plus you can automatically upload your CV to the site, a lot of recruitment agencies use the site as well as companies to recruit directly so it could significantly increase your chances of landing that dream role!

4. Do your research! Ensure you have researched the company, understand their values and more importantly what they do! The amount of people I have interviewed over the years and they’ve not known what the company does is astounding and not really a points winner so do make sure you know what you’re talking about before you go in!

5. Make sure when you are being interviewed that you maintain eye contact and tell the story of the situations you have been in. Don’t let the phrase “competency based interview” scare you off, they just want to understand your experience and capability. Always use the STAR approach; Situation (describe the situation you were in) Task (what you needed to accomplish) Action (what YOU did, avoid using “we” as it is your overall contribution that interviewers are looking for) Result (what was the final outcome, what did you learn from the experience?)

6. If you are rejected from a role, make sure you obtain feedback so you can develop from the interview process, always remember that it may not be the right company at that point but it may certainly be in the future so by obtaining feedback you are ready for when that time comes!

More details tips and useful information can be found at Barclays Life Skills – this site is fantastic to help assist those with improving their professional profile or if you need to boost your confidence with job interviews:

If you are interested in supporting this fantastic program whilst raising your own profile, please visit: Alternatively if you would like to be mentored as part of the programme, please speak to your local Jobcentre Plus advisor who will put you in touch with a remote or local mentor.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog, thank you for reading it and I’d welcome any suggestions that you’d like to see in future posts, just leave me a comment below.

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