Ways of Looking for Work in the UK Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Ways of Looking for Work in the UK

0 Conversations

A man looking for work in a Job Centre

Looking for work can be daunting, especially if you've not done it for a while. Perhaps you've been in full time education, or maybe you've only recently become unemployed. You may work in a job sector which means that work is advertised in very specific ways, such as the Nursing Times, but most people have to look for more general work locally.


Local newspapers are good for local jobs. There will be a designated day – usually a Thursday – that is job day (although some have a section all week). Snap it up as early as you can, read through and try to get in contact quickly. Some small companies may not have a formal recruitment process and may just take on the first person who fits their criteria. You may be able to find a local paper's job section on their website. That may also tell you who the most active recruitment agencies are in your area - look them up.

National newspapers tend to have high-profile jobs advertised, where they expect people to relocate to take up a position. You may get lucky and find one in your area, but only if you live in an area where large companies are based.

Although not strictly newspapers, trade-specific magazines and websites will often advertise work in that trade. Find out which they are for your profession and try to get access by subscribing, buying copies or by asking friends who work in similar trades.

Shop and Office Windows and Notice Boards

Often, shopkeepers and small business owners will dispense with advertising costs by just putting up a sign in the window. Firstly, it costs them nothing, and secondly it means that anyone who applies at least knows where they are and probably what they do. They may also have a specific vacancies notice board (you may have to hunt for it - ask at their customer service desk). This especially applies to large companies like supermarkets.

Highly skilled and high-profile jobs are rarely advertised in this way, but for retail it's pretty standard. If the trade you want to get into has a shopfront, then get down to your local high street.

Ask Employers Directly

In that vein, never be afraid to go to a business estate or up a high street with a sheaf of CVs and ask every single business if they have work going. It shows you can be proactive, that you are committed to finding a job, and that you are prepared to put in the work to do so. The hit rate may be low as most businesses will advertise if they have a vacancy, but remember, it only takes one employer to say yes. Plus, if you're the only person who has bothered to knock on their door, that's your competition sorted!

Tried another of those methods today by walking up to a fellow selling tickets for guided bus tours and asked him whether they were looking for guides. He introduced me to his boss, who wrote down my name and number and asked whether I could start straight away or would like a training tour or two first!

Word of Mouth

Ask anyone you know if they know of any openings. You may find that they have heard of a job going or have a friend or relative who is looking to take someone on. Sometimes it's not what you know, it's who you know. As long as you ask politely most people are supportive.

If you're looking for a professional job, you really need to consider organised networking. Sites like LinkedIn allow you to keep contact with former colleagues and find information about prospective employers - you might find that you are a friend of a friend of someone who is about to interview you, and you can get some valuable information or get your friend to put in a good word for you. They also have groups you can join to discuss work-related topics, and indeed many employers and agencies now post jobs there. LinkedIn is fast becoming de rigueur in the employment world - employers will look you up on it, so keep your profile professional - oh, and be careful what your Facebook profile says too, if you're identifiable through it.

Other places to build up good network contacts are at training courses, and also at trade fairs and exhibitions for the industry you're interested in. These trade events are often free to attend (find them and register through the websites for the exhibition halls). Dress smartly when you go, talk to people on the stalls and exchange business cards.

Ah yes, business cards. Get a copy of Microsoft Publisher (or similar) and design and print yourself some before you go. Print them on to labels, then stick them to blank business cards (available from stationers). You can also design and order them online or at a local printing shop, but it will cost more.

Recruitment Agencies

Recruitment agencies can be hit or miss, but they are worth their weight in gold when employers only recruit through an agency (and yes, this happens a lot, especially for temporary work and office-based recruitment). If you're not on their books you won't have a chance.

You will need a CV, and it is likely that you will need to sit some tests and answer questions about your job history so they can match you to the right job. It is also highly advisable to keep in contact with them – once a week is probably a good estimate. Drop in to their office just to say hi or call or email them. Don't pressure them in a negative way, though! Be polite and pleasant and you will be at the top of their minds as someone who is dedicated to job-seeking. So when that call from an employer comes through and they want someone tomorrow, they know that you are willing and waiting to hear from them.

JobCentre Plus

Use them. They don't just have the Job Points available with vacancies, they can also offer courses and support for unemployed people. Ask your advisor if there is anything on offer in your area. They might know of recruitment fairs, or employability courses, of college courses, or work experience schemes – if you don't ask you may not find out!

They may also be able to refer you to a specific employability skills company, who can offer job searching and application advice. If you're still in education, this sort of advice may be offered by your school, college or university Careers Advisory Service.

Get yourself trained up in a skill which is in demand. JCP has a budget to train you, so make sure you take advantage of it. Ask for it immediately - it's harder to get it the longer you wait. And do your research before you ask for it: work out what courses you need, how much they cost, what job adverts are asking for those skills - and bring all the evidence in to the Jobcentre. They won't do it for you - you must take the initiative.


Apprenticeships are on the rise again, and not just among the young; over-25 apprenticeships are far more common than in the past. Jog over to Apprenticeships and see if there is anything available in your profession - it's not just for manual jobs, they have options available in most work areas.


Volunteering may seem like a silly idea. Not only are you not earning when volunteering, you're also no longer looking for work full time, thereby cutting down on your opportunities.

Don't rule it out on income alone though - you may be eligible to claim Jobseekers' Allowance while volunteering. Check the rules with your local JobCentre Plus. Usually if you're not earning, you can continue to claim as long as you can quit as soon as a job is available and you continue to seek work at the same time.

There are an awful lot of benefits to volunteering. Number one, it keeps you moving. Unemployment can be depressing, especially if a lot of your job seeking is coming to dead end after dead end. Volunteering gets you out of the house and keeps you used to turning up to work on time, interacting with people, and remaining positive.

It also shows that you aren't prepared to sit down and let stuff come to you, you are an active person who wants to work, even if it isn't exactly what you want to do. Employers want people who want to work.

You gain skills, depending on the job you want to do. Volunteering in a charity shop may not be your dream goal, but it might give you recent experience of working in retail. You may also manage paperwork, giving you experience of office work, and answering the telephone could give you a foot in the door when it comes to call centre or receptionist work.

Finally, it's that word of mouth thing. You may get to hear about vacancies that are 'for internal candidates only', or simply not well advertised. You work with new people who might also hear of job vacancies. If you do a really good job and you get lucky, you might also find that the organisation will take you on as a paid member of staff rather than as a volunteer.

Having been mostly volunteering for a year now, I can state that there's another benefit - you get access to those jobs in the organisation that are for 'internal applicants only'. I've applied for several of those now, and been shortlisted for interview.

Internships and Work Placements

If your chosen industry is hard to break into, then sometimes unpaid work is the only way forward. Internships or Work Placements are usually unpaid (unless you get lucky) and are necessary in some jobs, as employers won't take you seriously unless you have experience. You can normally find these advertised in trade magazines or on companies' websites. Word of mouth is also very useful in positions of this sort. It can sometimes be who you know, not what you know, which is frustrating if you're trying to break into a new industry. Keep on trying!

Through the Internet

The Internet: it's both useful and irritating. On the one hand, there is a lot of information out there. On the other hand, there is so much information it can be overwhelming.

There are a lot of job websites. Monster, reed, jobsite, fish4jobs – just put 'job websites' in a search engine and you'll see that there are loads out there. Top tip – don't put your CV up there and expect a recruitment person to call you, especially in the current climate. It's an employer's market and they will have so many applicants for a job that they have no need to trawl the internet looking for a CV that takes their fancy.

There are websites that deal with vacancies for specific locations (geographic or in a specific business park) or work sector, so see what you can find for your area. If you can, then go directly to the employer or the recruitment agent in question. Only use the website itself if you have to, especially with the more generic ones.

You might be lucky and find that the employers accept a CV (if you think your CV is good enough, of course), but most companies these days like to make you fill in long-winded application forms about how well you can work under pressure and work in a team, that sort of thing (which you'll then be asked again at interview, of course). On the plus side, you can save these answers in a document somewhere and keep them for the next job application - just tweak it to fit. If you're applying for several jobs with a large company, you may find they'll save your personal details so you don't have to retype them for each job.

Beware jobs that are 'nationwide' – they are usually generic openings and while they might have an opening in your area, it may be in the form of a franchise or other high-risk opportunity. Similarly, if that working-from-home opportunity looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Aside from vacancies advertised on job sites, check out the websites of companies you want to apply to. They will often have a recruitment section on there and they may not advertise anywhere else. Think of it as their online shop window. You have to make the effort of going to them before they will consider you. If you're on Facebook or Twitter, check to see if employers have accounts; they may talk about upcoming vacancies on there.

Is the Internet worth it? Probably. But never allow yourself to take the easy option of just applying for a job by sending them a CV. Customise that CV, write that cover letter, call them to check they have received it and put as much as you can into every application. Ten good applications for jobs you are suited for are far more likely to find you work than 100 half-hearted applications. Expect to put a couple of hours into each application and you won't go far wrong. Oh - and double-check that your attachments can be read by the recipient!


Finally, there is another way - working for yourself. All businesses started as an idea. Take a look around and see if there is a market niche you can exploit. This isn't the easy option, as self-employment can often feel like it eats your life, at least in the first couple of years while you get yourself up and running. There is a wealth of information available on the Internet about going it alone. A good place to start is the Directgov website, which gives some basic advice and links to some support organisations.

When To Look

Most of us aren't afforded the luxury of choosing when we seek work, but if you are able to choose, you may need to think about when would be the best time to look.

Have a think about the work you are looking for. You may be in an industry that works seasonally. For example, fancy dress shops are very busy around Christmas and New Year but ease up the rest of the time. Have a think about your industry and try to gauge if you are applying at a time of expansion or when they are holding back.

While many industries aren't affected by the seasons, think of when other people are applying. Education tends to finish in around June, so students will be applying for a lot of jobs around that time. If you can, try and get in before them. Similarly, many go back into full-time education around September, and those jobs may fall vacant again.


Don't forget that you may have skills you've acquired in unusual ways, such as through hobbies or helping friends. Make all your applications easy to read and easy to see how you fulfil their criteria, and show that you are enthusiastic (even if this is the 23rd job you've applied for that week).

I got my current job [in medicine] partly because I was cheerful and keen at the interview, and everyone remembered me when I started three months later because I'd mentioned 'injecting reptiles' in my 'skills' heading on my CV.

And possibly the most important part: make sure you take time for yourself. While jobseeking is very important, make sure you also allow yourself time to look after your health and wellbeing. A happy person is far better at being positive about themselves, and a person who is positive is more likely to find work. Don't let it get you down!

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Conversations About This Entry

There are no Conversations for this Entry

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more