33. Advice on how to start the Job Search before September!

So, the cliff edge is hurtling closer and closer as you delve deeper and deeper into your Masters thesis. You know you have no choice but to carry on, knowing only too well that after noon on the 3rd September you will be living in free fall not knowing what is next. For your friends who have decided to “expand their horizons”, or “want to see the world for what it really is”, or have decided “I’m still young, so I’m going to do what so few people love to do and travel”, I guarantee you, it’s a ruse. £10,000 + living expenses is a lot of money to spend on education, especially if you still have an undergraduate debt. You want to pay it off and you know that unless you magically inherit it from a great aunt or find a briefcase in Kings Cross stuffed full of Russian Roubles you’re going to need a job pretty quickly.

So, what can you do about it alongside the 5-7 academic articles you’ve got to read per day? Get organised! This article is about the approach I started developing in April (4 months before hand-in) in order to offset the pain of the job search come September. I agree, I sound pretty cocky telling you to “get organised!” and believe me, if you knew me, you would know that this is all bravado! But still, I think method helps and by starting sooner rather than later you’ll be able to pick up some momentum in the job searching mission, so you don’t feel like you’re completely floundering after you’ve handed in your thesis. You’ll also save time, as you’ll be able to develop more acute approaches to hunting down a job and iron out any foibles in your Motivation Letter and CV. Remember that you want a job related to what you’re study, but you need an income to support your living, so if you wait too long you risk being employed in a job that has nothing to do with the actual subject you were so dearly passionate about at the beginning of your Masters.

So to begin with, you want to create some kind of record of the jobs/position you’ve applied to and know how many times you’ve called or applied to a particular position/company. This is what I did in an excel spreadsheet:

             The second and more useful thing you want to do is develop your CV and Motivation Letter!S! (emphasis on the plural!). Now, this article is NOT a ‘How to write the best CV and Motivation Letter in the world”, BUT, because you will need to tailor each application to the job criteria, you need to leave room to do this. At the same time, you don’t want to have to write a CV and Motivation Letter from scratch every time, always drawling on about how great you are – or maybe you do, in which case read no further.

But if you’re like me then you’ll want a method to avoid this sycophantic process. Sooo…for my CV, I thought “all the positions I’m applying for are going to be in some way related to the skills I learnt on my course”, meaning I could make 75% of the content in my CV identical for each job. The only bit I will need to tailor is what we in the industry call the ‘Professional Profile’ – basically the first bit at the top that links your qualities with the specific qualities the job offer says are mandatory:



Professional Profile

  • MSc in Cleverness from the University of the Universe (2:1).
  • Fluent in gibberish, balderdash and drivel. Intermediate English.
  • 27 years’ experience of life.
  • Able to remember complex concepts for about 5 minutes.
  • Strong desire to get a job in the field that I spent a year of my life and thousands of pounds study for.
  • Have lived in a rich Western country and, surprisingly, love travelling!


Ha! Look at that: subtly showing off! Well actually yes! Sell yourself, disgracefully if need be! Basically, this bit you can quickly update for each application, whilst the rest can stay the same. For me the rest includes: Professional Experience, Education, Conferences and Workshops and Other.

And last but certainly not least: the Motivation Letter! I created six! But not because I was admiring myself in the mirror and wanted to express awe from every angle, but rather because that was roughly the number of different kinds of organisation I applied to. So, I had 1) a letter for research roles (this spoke mainly about my MSc research expierences in statistics and qualitative research, and also what research I’d been doing since leaving university); 2) a letter for international corporations (I emphasised my previous work experience working for a company in the City); 3) a letter, very similar to #2, but for NGOs, emphasising my volunteering experience; 4) I develop a letter that focused more on transferable skills I had acquired. This one I sent to positions that weren’t directly related to environmental governance (my MSc), but required some understanding of sustainability.

All this process does is saves you time. Personally, I found it soul wrenching searching for a job, but I was grateful that I only needed to spend roughly 45min on each application, because of the methods outlined above. You have to make sure you proof read your application. On a few occasions I rushed the process, sent the application and realised I had addressed Mrs. Smith as Mr. Smith, or not updated the date, or the grammar made no sense. From these organisations I generally got the reply: “Thank you so much for your enthusiasm, but we’ve found someone who actually bothers to proof read their work before applying for their so-called “dream job”. Beware foul lettering! So to Sum Up:

  • Get on with the job search sooner rather than later
  • Develop a process that helps speed things up
    • Keep a record of who you’ve applied to
    • Save time by creating a CV that doesn’t require re-writing every time
    • Write several Motivation Letters from the outset so you can just say “OK, Gazprom = selling my soul = letter #4. And then, WWF = bow to the Panda = letter #2”
  • Proof read your applications – Gazprom, WWF, doesn’t matter, they’re all run by professionals, who are not going to lkie ti wehn you cnnaot selpl thier names!