Barry’s Guide to Getting Hired: Job Hunting & Applying

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Writing your CV for the first time is the first step in job hunting, and can be a tough hurdle to get over.

The act of applying however is probably the toughest part. Most people will kick this off by looking for vacancies on recruiter sites, large job boards such as Monster, Reed, Total Jobs and so on, and company websites. They’ll then send through their regular CV with their standard cover letter, and wait for something to happen.  If it doesn’t, they then complain that the recruiter/job board/company weren’t any good and never got back to them.

If this scenario is familiar to you, then you need to work at being a more active job hunter. Here are five tips to help get started:

1) Don’t just apply to companies that have open vacancies on their sites.

Something like only 15% of vacancies are ever actually posted, leaving 85% of all jobs filled without ever officially going out to the public.  If you know what companies you want to work for, then send in your CV – even if there isn’t a relevant position posted.

The problem here can be that if there aren’t any relevant vacancies open, then your CV may disappear into a bottomless database, or fall into the hands of someone who doesn’t have the knowledge to help get it to the person who needs to see it.  The best way around that is…

2) … seek out your potential hiring manager, and contact them directly.

Nobody knows better the skills gaps and team needs in a department better than the department head. They already have the experience to pick out a good CV, or can tease out your skills if your CV is unconventional. They’re also motivated to push you through the recruitment process if you’re what they’re looking for.

If you feel that it’s a bit too direct to contact them and ask for a job, it doesn’t hurt to say that you have respect for them and that you’d be grateful to meet up for a quick cup of coffee for some career advice (maybe don’t phrase it exactly like that). Most people don’t mind giving up time for something like this, and are often secretly quite flattered.

If you don’t know who the hiring manager might be, then do a LinkedIn or Google search.

3. Don’t copy and paste your cover letter.

I know writing individual cover letters isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, but they are essential to get right. Reading a ‘standardised’ cover letter will make the eyes of the person reviewing your CV glaze over faster than when they hear a judge on X-Factor say that voting somebody off is ‘the hardest decision they’ve ever made’.

Your cover letter should simply say why you are interested in the position, and why you’re the best candidate. The first part should be fairly straightforward, and if you’re having trouble with the second part then draw out a brief summary of the relevant skills/experience you have and tie them to the main requirements from the job spec.

This is also relevant to your CV – tailor it to the job you’re applying for by highlighting different relevant parts of your experience.

4) Follow up on your applications.

Don’t just apply and forget about it; if you don’t hear back, find out what’s happening. Showing the level of interest may be the thing to push your CV back to the top of the pile. Worst thing that can happen is that they tell you you’re not being considered, which doesn’t leave you any worse off than you were in the first place.

5) Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date.

This one’s a no-brainer. Most of you are probably inundated with recruiters contacting you on LinkedIn offering positions. If not, then you need to spend time on your profile and help them find you. It’s definitely easier than actually looking for work.

Uncle Jerry

My Uncle Jerry passed away last year. He was my great-granduncle on my father’s side and he lived a very interesting life; Jerry served as a member of the Military Police in the US army, and ended up settling as a military instructor in upstate New York.  When I was young he would come back and visit my grandparents, who lived next door to my family home.

I loved spending time with Uncle Jerry; he was a live wire, always ribbing people and encouraging mischief.  When he was home, you could often him playing a few holes on the local golf course in his usual outfit of polo shirt, slacks and NHS glasses. He taught me any number of bad jokes, introduced me to Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups and was the person who truly got me into comics.

Every couple of months I would get a package containing titles including Spiderman, Batman, X-Men, Superman and The Avengers, as well as National Geographic.  These publications had a huge impact on me, and I was so happy for every one of them, as they were almost impossible to get in Ireland at the time. So many of my subsequent interests and pursuits later in life were born out of the fact that he sent them to me, and for that I am very grateful.

I miss Jerry, especially around this time of year, but I’m sure he’s happy and joking around wherever he is.

Barry’s Guide to Getting Hired: Whipping Your CV in Shape

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Job hunting is ranked in-between grouting tiles and getting your wisdom teeth removed in terms of popularity, despite how important a process it is. The majority of people spend more time on writing pieces such as ads to flog their car, their laptop on eBay etc, than they do on their CV. In most cases this is a combination of the fact that people hate writing about themselves, and have never been taught how to compose a CV (bar a short session they got with a career counsellor when they were on their way out of college).

Here are some simple rules on how to properly pull together your CV:

1) Define who you are and what you do.
This should be a maximum of 2-3 lines containing a summary of how you would define yourself professionally, and what it is you are looking to do in terms of role and sector. Do not pad this out with dross about being a good team player, and other business jargon that ultimately means nothing.

e.g. business development manager with in-depth experience in white goods distribution

If you can’t do this then I recommend you have a good think and do some research, as it is very difficult to find a job when you don’t know what you are looking for. Also, if you’re not clear here then recruiters will struggle to identify you as a suitable candidate if the right role does come up.

2) Have your work experience in chronological order, with your most recent position first.
It is surprising the number of people who don’t do this. Under each position make sure you have the start and end dates, and explain any significant gaps – a good interviewer will ask. Don’t forget to write out your core achievements as well as a list of your responsibilities, employers base future performance predictions on what you’ve done in the past.

3) List your skills, and how proficient you are in each one.
It’s all well and good to say that you can use Photoshop or know Java, but what does that mean? Are you an expert, or do you have rudimentary knowledge? To avoid having your time wasted by being brought forward for unsuitable positions, make sure you write out a list of your skills, and list your level of competency in each one.

4) Only include relevant education.
Unless it was particularly posh, nobody cares where you went to secondary school. Or what you got in your GCSEs. Use your common sense.

5) Keep it to a maximum of two pages (in the UK, one in the US).
Think about it, most people aren’t likely to finish the first page of your CV, never mind the fourth. There should be no reason that you can’t keep your CV to two pages unless you are very senior, or some kind of prodigy with an amazing list of accomplishments. To make space, cut down the detail on some of your older positions or if they are irrelevant, remove them altogether.

6) Some housekeeping.

  • You do not need to write ‘references available on request’, or even to list them out – if they want your references, then they’ll ask.
  • Check for spelling mistakes, and make sure someone else proofreads your CV.
  • If you have a LinkedIn profile, include a link to it – they’re going to look for you anyway.
  • You don’t need to include the term ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top of your CV.
  • Use a legible font.

7)…and finally
This is general CV advice.  If you are a creative, then you should think about how this information should be presented alongside your portfolio in a way that doesn’t come across as dry or boring. If you are a developer or a technical project manager, you’ll have to describe your projects in more detail in terms of the methodologies and programming languages you used.

This all feeds in to one core piece of advice; just imagine if you were recruiting for the kind of position that you’re going for, and make sure you write your CV accordingly to include everything you would want to see.

Adidas is in my Neighbourhood

Adidas are continuing to push their ‘Adidas Originals’ gig very heavily with a new campaign. It was filmed down the road from me in Hackney Wick, which is a major hangout area for artists, and located near the new site for the Olympics. Adidas-sponsored celebrities from all over the world (consisting of models, musicians, and Whitney Port) got together to hang out and have a street party.

As much as I want to like it, its just not doing it for me. It feels less genuine than the previous house party ad (below), and not only does it not include any of the local artists, some of whose work is featured in the video, but the story goes that Adidas went so far as to paint over their street art with some of their own. A jab in the eye for the ‘street where originality lives’… Pick it up you guys, I’m expecting the next one to be better.

Location: Karaoke Epoc at Adanami Shobo

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Karaoke is a marmite activity. Here in the UK or Ireland you’ll often roll into a bar, have a few drinks and jump on stage (you may be in drag or in costume), where a ponytailed man will hand you a microphone and you bang out something like ‘Living on a Prayer’ or ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, possibly while shaking and sweating nerviously. While some guys get off on this, the majority of people find it too stressful to be any fun.

Karaoke Japanese-style is a much different story; you and your friends get your own private booth (or you can go on your own, I won’t judge), pay by the hour, have food and drink brought to your room, and sing cheesy songs in front of good friends or work colleagues rather than strangers. It’s more relaxing, more comfortable and much less awkward.  London caters for those with the need to vocally cut loose with quality karaoke joints like Lucky Voice and Karaoke Box, but for that real Japanese experience look no further than Karaoke Epoc.

Karaoke Epoc is housed within Adanami Shobo, an easily-missed second-hand Japanese bookshop in the heart of Soho (especially easily missed because it has kept the sign from the laundromat that used to be in the space). In the front is a a selection of manga comic books, old magazines, slightly yellowed posters, DVDs for sale and rent, and old video games.  However, talk to the older man or the English language student behind the counter and a world of reasonably-priced authentic Japanese karaoke will open up to you.

The prices above are per hour for the times specified, which are reasonable as far as Soho goes.  This is probably due to the sheer age of the genuine (and slightly creaking) Japanese karaoke machines and the fact that the booths are made from some form of painted particle board, but this adds to the experience.  You book the room (max 4 or 6 people) for blocks of time in advance, but providing there aren’t any reservations after you there’s often the chance to extend your time if you don’t feel like leaving.

Once you are shuffled into your not particularly well ventilated but definitely air conditioned room, you’ll be given a slightly confusing remote control and a massive book of songs for the karaoke machine.  The happy surprise about the size of the book will soon be dashed when you realise only 2% of it at most composed of English langauge songs, and what an eclectic selection they are – never before will you have seen Alice in Chains, Frank Sinatra, Lauren Hill and Journey so close together.  Don’t be afraid to ask the staff for help.

Despite what the sign says I’ve never had an issue bringing my own food and booze.  In fact, it’s impossible to imagine indulging in karaoke without at least one person drinking.  Which brings me to the most important point; the singing itself. You only need to know one thing – you do not need to be able to sing. Karaoke is not a singing contest. If you can bang out a tune then great, but karaoke is more about letting off steam, having a hairbrush in the mirror moment.  It is open to everyone; you don’t mock a bad singer, and everyone gets a turn.

Take this, which combined with the dark lighting, sounds of Japanese students singing spilling out from other rooms, and liquor is as close as you’ll get to going to karaoke in Japan without hopping on the next flight out of Heathrow.  And I guarantee you will love every minute of it.

Why you should really take notice of Google’s Nexus One

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You’ve seen and heard the news – Google has launched their new phone, the Nexus One, and it has already gotten more press than all other Android handsets combined. There’s no disputing that the Nexus One is now the best Android phone on the market as it is faster, supports Flash, and has a bigger screen and better hardware than its nearest competitor, the HTC Hero/G2 Touch. However the Nexus One is also made by HTC, and it doesn’t seem markedly improved enough on the Hero to warrant the current levels of Android geek orgasm. Instead – the following points are much more worthy of your attention.

Buying the Nexus One is a revolutionary e-commerce experience
If you’ve ever bought a phone online, you’d be forgiven for the level of shock as soon as you land on the Nexus One’s incredibly simple to navigate ecommerce site. Google’s UX guys have done their homework and made it as clean and uncluttered as the Google main page, with a number of clever features and a minimal number of clicks. The interactive animated tour of the phone is designed to overcome the fact that buyers don’t have the ability to touch it in person, through using intuitive comparisons to understand the phone’s dimensions and how it would fit in their hand.

If you decide the Nexus One is the phone for you, within roughly six clicks from the main page you can navigate through to purchase using Google Checkout. It can be argued that Google’s sales and distribution technique are not a new thing – you can already buy an iPhone from Apple directly without a contract. Due to their positioning however, Google gets an exponentially larger volume of traffic than any other phone e-tailer, which takes me through to my next point…

…Google are Sidelining the Operators

Your average buyer is  more comfortable having a sales assistant there when purchasing a new handset, either over the phone or in person, to explain a purposely over-complicated price plan to them. Google have removed the need for said guidance by allowing you to buy your phone by a) unlocked for roughly £330, and then slotting in your existing SIM on your existing price plan or b) at a subsidised price with a recommended price plan for preferred operator (not that Google is fussed with which operator they make deals with), with the potential to upgrade if you have a pre-existing contract.

There are a host of obstacles need to be overcome to be successful with this approach, which Euan over at Mobile Industry Review sums up very nicely- can Google  handle the logistics pipeline of fulfilment and support to the same levels as the operators? From the looks of the first wave of complaints outlined in this BBC article, probably not.  But that doesn’t really matter because…

…finally Google’s mobile offering is getting some much-needed mainstream media attention

The media comparisons between the Nexus One and the iPhone are primarily based on comparing the OS of both phones, and focus on Android’s ability to customise your phone, having multiple apps running etc. The fact is you can get the Android OS (albeit 1.5 instead of 2.1) on an old G1 – these features are not new or revolutionary – but the recognition and awareness boost that the media have given Google and Android has made this overhyping of the Nexus One irrelevant. For most mobile users this phone release and the resulting publicity has given them their first exposure to the Android OS and shown them a credible alternative to the iPhone.

Converse White Leather Hi-Tops

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These white hi-tops are one of my favourite purchases of last year; I was originally looking for a very similar pair from G-Star, but these have been a more than satisfactory substitute. They are made of white leather, with a white rubber toe and a rubber converse logo on each inner ankle. It’s impossible to keep them as white as they are when you take them out of the box, but the fact that they’re made of leather  means that they are easier to clean than the usual canvas shoe.

I love them because they’re perfect with jeans, and go well with both casual and smarter clothing combos. They also come in black, which are equally cool but I just haven’t taken to quite as much.