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5 strategies to turn your online education into a job

By Michael Crump | 15 January 2017

You can turn your education into a real job - you just need to know how. Your first job after study will often be the most difficult you’ll ever secure, as you're just building up your confidence and skills. It’s likely you’ll need to prove yourself without as much industry experience as some other candidates. 

Fortunately there are strategies and skills you can implement to increase your chances of receiving job offers from your chosen industry. Here Skillstalk outlines the best suggestions to help you move from online learning to a paying job role. 

To start with, remember that often, the main reason you’re undertaking online study is to get a job, or to achieve a personal goal. Your educational qualifications may see to it you’re considered, but it’s the following types of skills that will secure your most coveted position.

6 ways to use online learning to land your next job

  1. Embrace the power of networking.
  2. Create your brand.
  3. Map out your own direction.
  4. Master your resume.
  5. Embrace the interview game.
  6. Start early for the best results.

1. Embrace the power of networking.

If you’re going to take one point away from this entire post, make it this one. If you’re looking for great employment opportunities focus less on applying to every listing on job sites and more on networking.

US recruitment luminary Lou Adler, author of books such as Hire with your Head, claims job hunters should only spend 20% of their time responding to job postings with another 20% dedicated to maintaining their resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and the final whopping 60% focused on networking. Check out 9 tips to get the most out of LinkedIn and read How to Get the Most Out of LinkedIn to get started. 

As a first stop, make sure you have a LinkedIn profile, currently the most powerful online tool for networking. Fill it up with your background achievements and ensure you have an appropriate high-quality photograph. This is your professional online presence.

Next, keep your eyes out for any career fairs. Attend as many relevant ones as you can, dress smartly, and start talking. You never know whom you might meet. If you can’t get to any career fairs, research all the relevant associations and look into membership. They often facilitate networking events. 

Finally, chase down all relevant leads. Perhaps a family friend has some insight on your target industry or maybe you have a relative working for your dream company. Don’t pressure them to find you a job. Instead buy them a coffee and discuss their industry and what they do. The more people who know you’re out there looking, the better your chances of being recommended.

2. Create your brand.

Branding is no longer the domain of large, unmistakable brands. With the digital age dictating how we communicate and with information so readily available, it’s imperative you take control over how companies perceive you.

In the flesh the indicators are obvious. Dress to match the industry you’re entering and take meticulous pride in your appearance. In the ‘blink’ age where people make snap a judgement about those they meet, you can’t be too pedantic or fastidious. If you’re set on entering the professional services industry, you may want to consider what "soft" or "interpersonal" skills you'll need. Read How to Create a Personal Brand & Why You Should

Now, more than ever, your branding exists online. As mentioned, it’s important to have a professional LinkedIn account, but it’s equally important you maintain your brand across social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Make sure all your privacy settings are in place and think carefully before you post any inflammatory content that could harm your image. 

3. Map out your own direction.

‘Know thyself’ is a mantra that new job seekers need heed. Many students don’t put much effort into working out who they are and what they want in the corporate environment that would see them excel. 

Omitting to know this gives you a bad start throughout the entire process of a job application. An interviewer wants you to have more than a basic understanding of the business. They want you to have a macro perspective of the industry and how their company fits within it. Above all, they want you to know what you’re signing up for and that you’re still eager to be part of their team. Have a look at It’s Never Too Late for a Career Change: Here’s Why

This is where industry research becomes vital. Apart from information gathered in the networking stage, jump online and research, starting with the main players in your industry and working along to the smaller boutique participants. Then when you network with someone you’ll be able to ask better questions, like “have you heard what the culture over at Company XYZ is like?”

Perhaps you want to work for a large multinational and are happy to endure longer hours and a taller corporate ladder for the promise of greater financial reward? Or maybe you’d flourish in a smaller organisation with minimal office politics?

Once you start to narrow down what you look for in a company, don’t be afraid to ask for work experience if an opportunity presents itself. A lot of companies will turn you down based on issues related to insurance and pay, but it doesn’t hurt to ask the question. Nothing beats learning about a company by getting boots on the ground. And if they like you, you’re chances of getting a position will skyrocket.

4. Master your resume.

While exclusively relying on a resume to get you a job is not the only way to go within some industries, there’s no denying it’s still a critical part of the process. Whether you’re replying directly to a job listing or a senior manager has staked his reputation on your abilities, your resume needs to deliver. Start by having a read of 6 Ways to Fix Your Resume & Score An Interview

You use a resume to accomplish one thing – to construct an irrefutable argument as to why you’re the best candidate for a job

That means it has to be flawless. As becoming proficient at things takes time, starting to master your resume while you’re studying is of the utmost important. Without a doubt, the biggest mistake made by applicants is that they fail to tailor their resume for each role. A cookie cutter submission will be ineffective and shows a lack of sincerity.

Rather, your resume is a direct response to a job listing so reuse the listing’s strategic keywords. If a listing emphasises the need for customer service, make sure you demonstrate, by way of an achievement, how you benefited an employer using your skills.

If you’ve landed your opportunity through networking, include keywords in your resume that relate to the company’s values and culture.

Achievements are important to list. While you may have limited work experience as a student, consider highlighting community, sporting, school, or study achievements. Just make them concrete and interesting. “Placed in top 15% of course” is far better than “completed diploma”.

Presentation is also critical. Don’t try to be too creative, but strive for clarity and present information in an orderly fashion, starting you’re your qualifications that prove why you have what it takes to perform the role. Reports vary, but most experts agree you only have between 15-30 seconds to convince a reader you’re a contender before they hit delete and commit your resume to digital annihilation. Make sure the mandatory elements of your application are presented first!

Finally, run an Australian English (not American) check on the entire document, then give it to someone you trust to review before you send it off.

5. Embrace the interview game.

The last thing you want is to make it all the way to the interview stage then blow it. If you’ve got experience with interviews you’ll know no two are the same and it’s best to over prepare.

Success is about understanding interviews for what they are – a sort of strategic test with their own rules and etiquette. Firstly, aim to arrive in the area with plenty of time to spare. You don’t want to arrive at the interview flustered due to a train or traffic delay.

Secondly, be well prepared. This means having a firm understanding of what you can offer and why you’re applying for the job. It also means being acquainted with some of the tougher questions an employer might ask, such as “have you also applied to one of our competitors in the past?” or “what would be your ideal job?”

A quick Google search will bring up a litany of grenades that may be tossed your way during an interview. The key is not to lose your cool and remain positive, appreciative, and relaxed. Start by reading the post 8 Common Interview Questions & How to Answer Them.

After the interview, if you still want the job, send a thank you email for their time and reiterate your enthusiasm for the role. A few days later call up and ask for feedback on how you went. While follow-up tactics won’t help your cause if they’ve decided you’re not right for the role, it may be advantageous if they’re still mulling over their decision.

6. Start early for the best results.

Landing a job straight out of online study often overwhelming. It’s competitive, and might be a bit intimidating. But it’s something every graduate has to face and the majority find success over time.

As you can see from the above, there’s a lot to it. Start working through how you might approach it all now while you’re studying to ensure you can turn your education into a productive and enjoyable career.

Want to continue your learning?

If you're not yet ready to hit the job market, consider brushing up on your skills. Upskilled offers around 100 online courses in leadership, marketing, business, HR and so much more. All are available in a flexible format. Search around 100 online courses here. 

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