Finding a job is never easy and it can be a hard and lengthy process. That said, job searching is also an opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills and challenge yourself. This module will give you key skills and tips for your job searching process.
- Why is it important to target your search?
- Where to find potential job opportunities in the water and climate sector?
How to prepare your resume and cover letter?
The first step to finding a job is to ask yourself the right questions.
Here are a few questions to reflect on:
- What type of job would suit me? What kind of job ? In what kind of company? What salary? What geographical area?
- What are my non-negotiables?
- What are my skills? My professional skills? My qualities?
- What are my weaknesses and qualities?
- What are my motivations?
Arguably the best way of finding a new job is by using and expanding your existing network. Things like symposiums, workshops, special projects, start-ups are ideal for meeting the right people and create (hopefully) lasting connections. When you are in the early stages of your career, don’t miss out on volunteering opportunities or projects that give you the opportunity to collaborate and learn from people in your field. Especially during your job searching process, volunteering is a great way to gain skills and experience while meeting new people and building your network.
In the global Water & Climate landscape, events such as the World Water Forum, Stockholm World Water Week and even the Conference of Parties offer great opportunities to meet hundreds of new people. That being said, these big events can sometimes be a little bit overwhelming (not to mention expensive as well) and young professionals need to be well guided and mentored to maximize their experiences.
LinkedIn is also a great platform for online networking. 77% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find talent (TopResume, 2021).
Once you have built these connections, it is important to foster them! Remember, it is not about the quantity of relationships that you built but rather the quality of these relationships.
Targeting your search
The water and climate sector is very vast with various different career pathways, as we saw in Module 4.1.
As you embark on your job searching journey, it is important to be clear about what you are looking for and to be able to express it clearly. In Modules 1-3, you were given some tools to better understand your own strengths and weaknesses. You were also guided through a self-reflexion exercise to better understand which type of job or career might be best for you and were able to identify your non-negotiables; the things that are most important to you, that you are not willing to compromise on. These elements will help you target your job search.
That said, while searching for a job, it is very important to stay open to opportunities that might present themselves, even if they are not exactly what you are looking for. In a podcast called “Diving into Water and Sanitation Careers” Dr. Roberto Lento, Professor Emeritus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Board Chair of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), gives advice to young professionals by telling them to “have a general plan but be really flexible in responding to opportunities. Nothing that I have done has been part of a plan. If anything, I had a general desire to be involved in international development (…) but so much of what I have done is a result of being flexible and recognizing opportunities.”
So there you go, being flexible and recognising good opportunities is essential for building an exciting and fulfilling career.
Finding potential job opportunities
1. Active Searching
One of the most common approaches to job hunting is actively searching for job postings and openings. The offers fluctuate, reacting to many factors like region, political situation, seasonality, demand and others.
It is good to choose the right job portal for the work you are searching for. Even though people often start with the biggest one operating in the region, such as Indeed, sometimes it’s worth exploring more niche sites, as they tend to focus on a specific industry or profession, possibly hiding some great offers. The advantage of searching via job portals is the option to use elaborate filtering using tags and keywords to quickly skim through a multitude of offers in a relatively short amount of time. Another useful feature on some portals is the ability to create a personal profile which enables you to expose yourself for the HR specialists and head-hunters to search for you.
On a global scale, in the Water and Climate sector, one of the most popular job searching portals is Josh Water Jobs. The Josh’s Water Jobs platform aims to “connect the immense and diverse talent in the global water community with the wealth of career opportunities available worldwide.” All the jobs posted on this site are related to water, “which includes water policy, governance, law, economic, management, finance, advocacy, science, communications, WASH, and more.”
On a more local level, there are several platforms that exist in the water and climate sector as well. For example, in France, two interesting job portals are EAUMPLOI (eaumploi.com) and Emploi Environnement (emploi-environnement.com). What platforms exist in your country? We’d love to hear from you and add your local and regional platforms to this list.
To find job openings that fit within your targeted search, you can also identify key organisations, companies or public institutions which you are particularly fond of. Most organisations will post their job openings directly on their website and some may have weekly or monthly newsletters. You can also set some alerts on a number of these sites which will notify you when a job corresponding to your profile is posted.
Finally, many organisations will post their job openings on Linkedin as well. Linkedin is a great tool to find job openings and opportunities in your field as well as to connect and network with people in your field. When striving for a good networking opportunity, your go-to website should be LinkedIn. The biggest professional social network even offers a lot of help on how to find the best way to get known. Whether it’s via the official website group, its curated networking cheat sheet or the extensive networking-related blog articles.
2. Spontaneous applications
Spontaneous Applications refers to a situation where your chosen organization doesn’t advertise the job you seek, however, you choose to approach them anyway. Having no direct competitors is a great advantage. You should prepare each spontaneous application carefully and individually and target as specific a job profile as possible.
There are basically three main steps when going for spontaneous application:
1. Start by assessing what you can offer to any employer, and what you want to offer. Think about the things that your potential employer would find useful and valuable, and see if you can offer them . Essentially, you are looking for answers to these questions:
- What am I good at?
- Do I have any evidence?
- Why would anybody recommend me?
2. Look around and scout for some information. You want to find out what opportunities are in your sector, where they are and what are the key things that organisations are looking for. Take genuine interest in the companies and the sector, but don’t forget to talk to people. Direct contact is the fastest and most reliable way to get where you want to be.
3. When you reach out to the organisation, remember to make it your message short and to the point. A quick message explaining your interest in the organisation along with five bullet points about you that are relevant to the business is more than enough. Remember that these people receive dozens of emails daily and prefer to make quick decisions.
The actual content of the email needs to be specific. Don’t waste time telling them that you are organized and detail oriented. Instead, provide real examples of how you successfully applied your skills and qualities in a previous situation and show how you could also be valuable to them. Find a way to stand out amongst all the other emails they may receive from people in the same situation as you (creativity is key!).
Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to take a chance. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance!
Searching for a job can be a really hard process; find opportunities to stay busy; learn new skills, volunteer, start new projects and initiatives.
3. Prepare your resume and cover letter
According to an article published in The Muse in 2021, the average time spent by recruiters to scan a resume is 6 seconds (Saven, A. (2021).
A good resume should be clear, well presented, well organized and structured. The same goes cover letters. In addition, it is essential to include keywords, as some companies use specific terms related to the position to search for resumes in the resume database.
Your resume should allow the employer to read the information directly and easily they are searching for.
- Include a catchphrase/introduction rather than a title: directly highlight the asset of your application, or the position that interest you.
- The photo: be careful, depending on the country, including a photo of yourself is not the norm (e.g.: UK = no photos). Make sure you choose a professional photo that makes you look trustworthy and personable.
- Details of your experience: go to the essential, put forward what the recruiter is looking for above all. Only communicate on what is relevant. It is important to adapt your resume to the position for which you are applying for and to send the exact same model resume to everyone.
- Instead of describing the tasks you have performed, it is more relevant to describe the results obtained.
- Be concise.
- Talk about your extra-professional activities: do not underestimate this part. This section adds value to your application, especially activities that allow you or have allowed you to develop various skills.
- Think of including a URL to a website, a social networking page or any other platform in line with your skills, achievements etc
- Always convert your resume to PDF format to avoid a bad layout.
The types of skills to be highlighted
- Knowledge: this is the theoretical knowledge acquired during your education and professional experience.
- Know-how: this is practical knowledge, mastery of a position, skill, market, product, etc. These skills are expressed in action verbs: managing a team, using photo software, training newcomers, etc.
- Professional skills: these are a set of ways of acting and useful relational skills. They are very important for the recruiter. These skills can be adaptability, organizational skills, ability to work in a team, autonomy, rigor, sense of responsibility... During the job interview, remember to demonstrate these skills with concrete examples.
Mistakes to avoid
- Emphasizing responsibilities rather than results: candidates often list their duties and tasks but do not mention the results obtained. Knowing the outcome of something you played a part in is very relevant and interesting for the recruiter. For example, for partnership research, put acquisition of 12 new partners.
- The absence of action verbs: instead of "responsible for" use "training and monitoring a team of 6 people".
- A resume without numbers: numbers add credibility. Organization of events = organization of 5 events in 1 year.
- Neglected sections: especially languages. Writing "fluent English" is not enough, you need to be more specific. Use the language levels of the European scale (A1, A2, ....C1, C2), or use the American scale (elementary notions, limited professional competence, general professional competence, advanced professional competence, bilingual or native language). + add your language certificates, tests and diplomas (e.g. TOEIC and TOEFL scores)
- Education before work experience: people with little work experience tend to put their education at the top of their resume. But what interests the company first are your professional experiences or any other practical experiences (internship, volunteer work, etc.).
- A lack of visual hierarchy: A resume that is too full with no information that stands out or with the wrong information put forward. The goal is to draw the recruiter's attention to the essential: your duties, accomplishments, skills. Do not put the names of companies in bold if they are unknown. On the other hand, make them stand out if you believe they are a decisive element.
- A resume that lacks readability: space out paragraphs and use lists with bullet points.
- A resume style unsuited to the company: choose a classic resume with sober colors if you are applying for a job in administration for example. On the other hand, a more modern font and bright colors for a spontaneous application to a startup or for a communication position in an NGO.
- A resume longer than one page: the resume should not exceed one page!
- An unprofessional or unsuitable photo: a photo that is blurred, badly framed, badly exposed, too dark or too light, etc.
- A resume with spelling mistakes; use an automatic spell checker or have a friend or relative proofread your resume.
Mistakes to avoid
- Not mentioning the company: it is essential to mention the name of the company and to explain why you want to work there. It is essential to find out about the company's activity to be able to explain what you like about it.
- Saying what the company already knows: there is no need to tell the recruiter what the company does and what its values are. Instead, show that you have understood the project in your own words, and above all explain why you support it, how its values correspond to yours, etc.
- Not adapting your letter to the requirements: the criteria required for each position are different: it is useless to have a standard cover letter that you send to everyone. You must go through the offer carefully to make the recruiter feel that you are perfectly suited to the position.
- Not giving concrete examples: simply listing a set of skills that you "say" you have will not convince a recruiter 100%. Illustrate your words by linking them to your qualities and concrete facts.
- Making it too long: the summary is essential! Do not exceed one page and the shorter the better. Think about making paragraphs and airing out as much as possible to make your letter pleasant to read.
- Not proofreading: a single mistake can be eliminatory. Have a third party proofread your letter.
- Being too modest: Own your strengths and sell them with confidence and communicate what you can bring to the position with honesty.
“When I saw this job, I redesigned my CV and my cover letter. I read the job description and looked at my own experience, my own qualifications and how these two connects. I made sure my cover letter was very clear about how the job description says connects to what I’ve done or what I’ve studied. I tailored my CV and cover letter for this role. I looked for people on Linkedin that worked for the embassy and reached out to them to know more about their work as well.” - Nsuku Nxumalo, Strategic Water Sector Cooperation Officer at the Embassy of Denmark in South Africa, and a member of the World Youth Parliament for Water during an interview with Josh Newton on the Diving into water and sanitation careers podcasts.
Organisation: Something that is often neglected during the job searching process but is essential for getting results. When actively searching for a job, you could be applying to dozens of jobs per week or per month. It is essential to keep track of the jobs you have applied for and to note all of the details of each position and each application (company, position, missions, dates, etc.). If you receive an unexpected phone call, it is best to be prepared and to have in mind the job description or opportunity. Other tricks for helping you get organized is sorting the application and response e-mails, to ensure that they can be easily found by archiving them in a separate folder.