When a two-week spring break becomes a two-month (or more) relocation
Two months ago, I was about to wrap up the spring term of my Master’s in Strategic Marketing and went back to Taiwan for a short spring break. I was looking forward to coming back in two weeks, preparing for my final exams, and embarking on the most exciting journey of the programme - work placement.
Little did I know that a one-week outbreak in Europe would completely change my plan, or more accurately, everyone’s plan. Most of my classmates flew back to their own countries for the sake of safety.
Flights were cancelled, the programmes moved online, rent went up in flames, the impact of a pandemic doesn’t seem to lessen, and the job market froze.
As soon to be graduates, we have been forced to accept unpredictable outcomes like hiring freezes and withdrawal of offers, which has made the exclusion of the post-study work visa for 2020 graduates (coming in 2021) even worse.
I was lucky enough to receive a job offer from an international marketing agency based in London following graduation. I owe this achievement to three key strategies that I have tried, and I believe they can be applied to all 2020 international graduates who are seeking jobs in the UK.
1. Set a clear goal, and make a plan b
Knowing what your end goal is important; making alternative plans is even more so. As the saying goes: all roads lead to Rome. Planning out all the routes to the destination can help you better find resources along the way.
Let’s set “get a job in the UK before September 2020” as the ultimate goal. In order to reach the goal, you can think of the alternative plans as the following:
- Take advantage of the three-month internship or work placement, perform well in the internship and receive a promotion for the permanent role, or alternatively find a full-time, permanent role in your dream company in the UK
- Find a placement that’s not your top choice and consider it a jumping board/ example to show your target companies your ability to work in the UK in the future
- Find a placement or permanent job where you are from/eligible to work who have offices in the UK, and try to get to the UK from this way around
- Go for the Consulting Project on the MSc Strategic Marketing programme where the Business School can match you with UK-based companies and apply for their openings after the project, or use the experience as an example to show future employers your ability to work in the UK
You should make plans of your own and prioritise them according to your preferences.
I also made a spreadsheet for job hunting where I noted and classified all of the companies, roles, locations, contact windows, and when I sent/received applications/responses to keep everything on-track.
2. Know your position and put yourself in the employer’s position
Being a foreigner, I can tell that the companies back in my home country sometimes value my skillsets and background more than UK employers do, in terms of the salary and position. Therefore, I tend to be humbler when seeking a job in the UK while more assertive back in Asia.
In other words, sometimes you might have to compromise to some extent, but you need to find the equivalent benefits back in another way. For example, if the employer is offering a less competitive salary, you can ask for additional learning opportunities to enrich your CV. This way, you can be assured that the difference of pay is the "tuition fee" you invest to learn.
“Reverse engineering” is a good approach when applying for a job. Think about what makes you stand out and what differentiates you. Look for a gap in the market where your talent can chip in. Leverage your past experience and apply it to a job where you can contribute in the most effective way.
Imagine if you were the boss or hiring manager and put yourself in their shoes. It becomes clearer what you need to do to tailor your CV/cover letter as well as the roles you apply for.
3. Build your network with valuable connections
One of the key strategies to get a job in this particular time of crisis is through referral. Nowadays, more and more organisations look for talent through internal referrals, and employees are encouraged to recommend suitable candidates. With regard to the hiring freeze, some roles might not be shown to the public, and being referred is the shortcut to being noticed by the hiring department.
Imperial emphasises networking a lot, even though I found it difficult to talk to strangers and ask them for their help at the beginning of the programme. I still try to step out of my comfort zone and connect with alumni and employees working at the companies I am interested in working for.
What I usually do is connect with them on LinkedIn and immediately shoot them a thoughtful message/email to remind where this connection is made afterwards. This way, it is easier for them to recall who you are when you are reaching out to them for their help.
Last but not least, don’t give up! I applied for nearly 50 roles and I only heard back from five of them, and that was before the outbreak. I know it is frustrating and difficult, but everyone gets rejected or ignored more times than you thought. All you need to do is keep trying and hold your head high. The best is yet to come.