Need a helping hand?

ON your own, job-hunting can be a tedious and repetitive process – scouring the papers and websites for suitable adverts, firing off CVs, posting them, and then sitting back and waiting anxiously for a possible interview to turn up. But what about the emp

ON your own, job-hunting can be a tedious and repetitive process - scouring the papers and websites for suitable adverts, firing off CVs, posting them, and then sitting back and waiting anxiously for a possible interview to turn up.

But what about the employers crying out for workers whose vacancies you never see listed? What about all the ads you skim over, thinking your skills won't be suitable for the job? Wouldn't it be nice to have somebody talking you up to companies for you before you've arrived for the interview?

Whether you're looking for employment in a particular field of work, or if you have no idea what sort of position you're after, there are people who can help you as you search for your dream job.

Starting out in the job market is one of the toughest situations in your working life - you have got no experience to demonstrate your aptitude, and no real idea of what it will be like in the routine of regular employment.

While some people have graduate entry-level jobs lined up for after their exams, rising numbers of students mean there aren't enough of these openings to go around - less than one in three will secure a position designed for graduates. In addition, many of these jobs are in the fields of accountancy, management consultancy and investment banking - sectors that simply don't appeal to some people.

If you're about to leave university and have little idea of what sort of job you want or where you should be looking for it, it's worth taking a trip to the careers centre. Advisors here are aware of your lack of experience and will be able to help you as you search for your first job.

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You can talk to a specialist in a field you would like to get into, or if you really don't know what you want to do, take a computerised test that will match your skills to areas you might enjoy. Centres also offer practical help with topics such as writing CVs and interview techniques once you have decided on a career path. Best of all, services are free to students and recent graduates, so you can use them even after you've left.

Perhaps you've left a job because you didn't enjoy what you were doing and fancied a change, but have no idea what you would like to try instead. Getting advice from professional career consultants can help you see how skills you've already picked up can be applied in other areas - some of which you may never have considered before.

If you request a full career profile, consultants will use tests to help them assess your personality and skills, as well as finding out what sort of jobs most attract you most, before offering advice. These can include psychometric testing, which assesses your ability to carry out verbal and non-verbal tasks, and personality quizzes that show how you relate to other people and the sorts of jobs in which you would be your happiest.

Once they have looked at the results, consultants will talk you through what they reveal and highlight the aspects of your personality that are most important to you when searching for a job. They can also help you search for companies to target and places to start looking for jobs in any new areas they may have identified.

Consultancies also offer advice on interviewing, CV writing, getting through tests set by employers and even dealing with stress in the workplace. While they charge a fee for their services, it's money well spent if it leaves you with a better idea of the kind of roles you should be applying for and how to secure them.

Working in an area that requires specialist knowledge and skills, such as IT, medicine or publishing, means you're fully aware of what employers require, but finding openings that are right for you can still prove tough. If you're looking for work in one of these fields, consider joining a specialist recruitment agency.

You won't be charged to register with these recruiters - companies pay agencies to advertise their positions and find applicants that might fit their requirements. An agency will often employ several people who work with jobseekers at different stages of their career (one for first or second jobbers, one for executives and so on). While you won't be turned away for having too little experience, it's important to be honest about what you do know so you won't be put forward for anything you can't handle.

The great advantage of specialist agencies is that they will receives details of jobs that won't be advertised to the general public, so the number of jobs you'll find out about will be dramatically increased. Having contact with the firms directly also means agents are likely to have a much better idea of exactly what the job entails and how well you will be suited to it, rather than you trying to guess what skills a firm is looking for from the contents of an ad, which means they can highlight your relevant qualities to prospective firms.

A downside is that because they have so many clients, agencies may not immediately remember you when a position comes up, so it's worth checking in with them, too, regularly by phone (or, if you live close enough, in person) to see if anything has come up, and to remind them of your existence when a suitable ad comes in. You can also use agency contacts while applying for positions off your own bat, by ringing them to find out details of the company and what sort of employer they're likely to be.

It's important to remember that none of these advisors can guarantee you a job - you will still have to find the openings yourself. But meeting professionals whose principal aim is to match people to jobs can only benefit you in the long run, whether it be by giving you confidence in your own abilities, suggesting more places for you to look for positions, or simply by opening your eyes to more new and exciting possibilities.