When the going gets tough

She earns a fat salary for reading the ITN news. But believe it or not Cambridge graduate Katie Derham hasn’t always been so successful – and she’s got a huge pile of rejection letters to prove it. ‘It took me a year after university to get my first break,’ she once said. Derham had her sights set on a broadcasting career since university days but got nowhere, so she started applying for unpaid or low-paid jobs in the media. She even did a spell as a cleaner.

‘My flatmates paid me to clean the flat, so that I could have enough money to go out,’ she recalled. ‘There was definitely a point when my whole expectations changed and I wondered if I was pointing in the wrong direction.’

If you graduated in June 2000 or earlier and still haven’t found a job to match your skills and qualifications, you can probably relate to how Katie felt. But to emerge, as she did, from this demoralising period you have got to stay motivated and upbeat.

‘Everytime we ask employers what they are looking for, motivation and enthusiasm come high on the list,’ says Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters. ‘Keep yourself going and recognise that every thing you do is a learning experience.’

‘Go to the gym, temp, work part-time or go to the local further education college and learn a new skill like a language,’ he advises. ‘All this sounds better than saying (at an interview) I’ve been sitting at home looking through the newspaper and waiting for the right job to come along.’

Richard Livings stayed motivated in the face of up to 60 rejection letters six months after doing a postgraduate course in publishing and his efforts paid off. ‘I ended up temping in a solicitors firm in Watford as a legal admin assistant. The four or five months with this firm helped me get a job as a contracts assistant in a publishing company,’ recalls Richard, whose publishing role required similar skills used in the previous job.

Now Richard, 26, is the licensing co-ordinator for a major charity and getting this job was a doddle compared to his first. ‘I fell into it by accident,’ smiles Richard. ‘I was reading a copy of The Guardian, while waiting around in a cafe during a break in Edinburgh and stumbled across it. I didn’t put a great deal of effort into finding it at all.’

Just goes to show that job hunting does get easier. But while it’s tough make the process interesting by being bold and creative. Get feedback from employers who have interviewed you. Send off a speculative letter to an employer you want to work for. At least 50 per cent of jobs are not advertised, so you could get lucky this way.

One way of keeping yourself motivated and upbeat is to set goals. In his best-selling book Motivate to Win, author Richard Denny explains that you can do this by defining your target, picturing your achievement and setting a deadline.

Your target may be to get a job in marketing. Make that goal specific by identifying what area of marketing you would like to work in, what type of company and what salary level you require. Once you’ve identified your goal start to visualise yourself in that new role. Visualisation, insists Denny, is one of the greatest principles of personal development and success.

‘Dr Roger Bannister, the first man in the world to run a mile in under four minutes, visualised running four quarter miles and each quarter mile was under a minute,’ Denny writes in Motivate To Win.

Set a deadline for your goal, as you’re more likely to achieve it if you do. Also write your goal on a card or in your diary and take it everywhere. ‘By carrying your goals, if you ever find that you’re distracted or you experience a set back, there they are, written as a constant reminder,’ writes Denny.

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