Careers Advice: the Seven Questions to Ask Yourself NOW

As we all know, looking for a job – let alone a role in the creative industry – is pretty difficult at the moment. Endless application forms, dead-end interviews and a general lack of demand can make the process of finding employment demoralising and depressing – but nil desperandum!

Here, Tanya de Grunwald of careers site Graduate Fog and author of How to Find a Graduate Job in a Recession shares her advice.

Being custard pied on a regular basis? I know, it’s tough. But, whether you’re receiving rejection letters or not hearing back at all, the smartest graduates use this opportunity to gather clues about how to make their job hunt even more effective – thereby increasing their chances of not being rejected next time.

Until you land a job, you should constantly be asking yourself  ‘What could I be doing differently that might yield better results?’ There is always more you can do to increase your chances. Accept this and you free yourself to start trying new, more effective strategies – and stop repeating the mistakes that were wasting your time and energy. If it’s not working, stop doing it. Try new techniques that might be more successful.

So next time you get rejected (or don’t hear back at all), take the hint and reassess your strategy. Here are some useful questions to ask yourself:

Do I need to change my approach? Remember, different methods succeed in different industries. If the ones you’re using aren’t working, change tack. Maybe it’s time to stop looking in the obvious places – and start investing time in finding vacancies that fewer people know about. (My new book How to Find a Graduate Job in a Recession shows you how to do this).

Do I need to cast my net wider? It could simply be that you’re not applying for enough jobs or meeting up with enough contacts. Is it possible you’re spending too long on each application form, or wasting hours tinkering with your CV when it’s already great? Use your time more productively by increasing the number of ‘live leads’ to follow up, or spending more time networking. Remember, if you’re applying for vacancies, you should have between 10 and 20 on the go at any one time. Don’t be sentimental – if you haven’t heard back after three weeks, consider that application dead.

Have I chosen a dying industry? If you’re having no luck, it could be that there are very few junior jobs in your chosen area, or that the jobs that do exist are unpaid. This is a symptom of an industry that you should avoid at all costs, not matter how much you feel it is your ‘dream’. Again, my new book will show you how to make a new – and much better – plan, so you’re looking for a job in an industry that will reward (ie pay) you properly. If you’re not ready to give up just yet, by all means keep trying – but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Am I applying for too many jobs? When you’re getting desperate, it’s easy to start using a scattergun approach by firing off too many applications – and letting standards slip. Remember, a rushed application is a wasted application. Do it properly or not at all. Take the time to research the company thoroughly (not just a quick 10 minutes on Wikipedia), and show that you understand enough about the business to be genuinely interested in the role. Re-read unsuccessful applications you have sent. Be honest – would you employ you? It could be wise to start being pickier about what you apply for and take greater care over each application.

Am I targeting the right employers? Go back – are you sure they all do exactly what you think they do? Do you fully understand the nature of the advertised jobs? Make sure you aren’t selling yourself for a job that isn’t what you think it is.

Do I meet the job requirements? Sometimes the job description will have some wriggle room – and exceeding requirements in one area can make up for a shortfall in another area. But sometimes they really mean what they say.

Do I need more contacts? You can always make more – remember, it’s a myth that contacts are something you’re either born with (‘Daddy’s friend got me the interview‘) or you’re not. Anybody can build a network of contacts from scratch. The more friendly faces you know, the more people you can call on for advice or tip-offs about unadvertised or hard-to-hear-about vacancies.

For more careers advice, visit

Tanya de Grunwald’s new book, How to Get a Graduate Job in a Recession, can be bought here for £6.99.


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