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How to get your foot in the door

How to get your foot in the door

Unless your ultimate ambition is to start your own business, you’ve probably got a dream industry you secretly fantasise about applying your business course knowledge to. Maybe you’d love to break into the movie business, so you can hang out on set with the stars and one day put an Oscar on your mantelpiece. Or perhaps you’d like to be a big cheese in football, dreaming up new revenue streams to help your favourite club win the Champions League. Or it could be that the tech world is calling you from California. . .


Whatever industry you want to end up in, though, it all starts with the same challenge: getting your foot in the door. If you’re going to move up the rungs of a business, you have to break into it first – and that’s almost always easier said than done. But it’s certainly not impossible – especially if you follow these sensible tips.

1. Get some knowledge

First of all, you’re going to have to do some research. What kind of entry-level jobs are out there? Are they all in London? Where are they advertised? What kind of skills are they looking for? This is your chance to Google around, talk to people, do some training, etc. In other words, learn as much about the industry as you possibly can from the outside. Whatever happens, it’ll be useful knowledge in the long run.

2. Get some knowledge

The next stage is to start moving into position. This might involve relevant volunteering work, some serious networking or the shameless use of connections. Looking for a design job and hear that a cousin of your mother’s hairdresser is “something in fashion”? Send her a message on LinkedIn. Been to a great local gig and want to work in the music industry? Ask the bar staff to point out the promoter and offer some free help with marketing next time. It’s time to show you’re serious.

3. Target your CV

At this early stage it’s unlikely that you have a great deal of directly relevant work experience to advertise on your CV. What you can do, though, when you see a job you fancy is to highlight what are known as “core skills”: perseverance, leadership, the ability to work under pressure, entrepreneurial skills, etc. Your job in Costa Coffee might not make you stand out from the crowd, but the fact you were shift leader just might. Or that time you paid for a holiday by wheeling and dealing on eBay, demonstrating an entrepreneurial streak many employers will love. Savvy recruiters are on the look-out for attitude as much as experience.

4. Think small

You might dream about working for an industry giant, but the way in is almost always via a much smaller operation. Which, if you think about it, is entirely logical: smaller companies don’t have so many employees that they can promote from within so they’re more likely to be looking outside for new blood. Also, smaller firms tend to need their staff to be versatile, which is a great way of learning the business and adding skills to your CV. If you’ve done your research (see Tip 1), you’ll probably have uncovered some likely places.

5. Be canny

Job-hunting is always competitive, especially when the prize is a place in a much sought-after industry. But with a bit of thought, you can turn the odds more in your favour. Look out, for instance, for wanted ads that hang around a long time or even are posted twice; this could mean the employers are starting to get desperate. Equally, don’t turn your nose up at jobs in unfashionable locations; this might weed out the competition (and you can always return to the bright lights later in your career).

6. Be persistent

From Claude Monet to JK Rowling, Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs, almost all ultra-successful people have experienced rejection and failure along the way. So don’t expect your very first application is going to result in your dream job. Nor, necessarily, your second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth. But if you hang in there, keep honing your skills and boosting your CV in whatever way you can, you’ll have every chance of getting where you want to be in the end. Good luck!

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