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How to Get Your First Job

Curation Manager

Getting your first job can be a daunting experience, there are so many roles and industry terms it makes it hard to know where to start. But your first job is a gateway to you future career, the skills you learn will be integral for you to climb up the ladder and eventually land yourself your dream job. The team here at WhiteHat didn’t start their careers here, we’ve all worked weird and wonderful jobs to get to where we are today, and the methods we used to get them, although varied, share some common themes.

I asked the team WhiteHat to share their stories with me on how they got their first job. Here’s what they had to say:

George (Sales):

I remember cycling around my local area with a rucksack full of CVs knocking on the doors of all the local businesses asking for jobs. I ended up at a cricket bat factory, making teas for customers, talking cricket and putting stickers on their bats. I was rubbish at the stickering but was good at bringing in and keeping customers.

Anna (Talent):

I volunteered at a charity shop for three months on a Saturday morning, then got a job for a catering company pulling pints and selling chocolates at gigs, after that experience Pizza Express hired me and then I got my internship because I told my boss about the old school Orange Wednesdays and 2-4-1 pizzas!

Chloe (Marketing):

I did a lot of babysitting, and ended up looking after the children of a writer who had published a memoir about how poetry helped her through her postnatal depression. I talked to her really enthusiastically about literature a lot, and she ended up giving me part time holiday work as her assistant. When I graduated, she offered me a full time role which I did for six months! It was a real slow burn and all about gaining her trust/making myself invaluable.

Sophie (Sales):

I got my first job by emailing tons of fashion brands that I loved, and acknowledging that I had zero experience outside of babysitting but would work really, really hard and talked in depth about why I loved the brand I was applying for. I had an interview the next day and started working the Monday after.

Neda (Coach):

I got my first job as a barista by being ridiculous, taking notes at my interview, asking questions and doing research on the company beforehand. Apparently the manager was hesitant about how young I was but was impressed by my over the top notes. I ended up getting a lot of my tutoring opportunities and connections from the regulars who used to frequent the shop and I still keep in touch with a lot of them today! #keenatsixteen

Sarah (Curation):

I grew up in the countryside, so jobs were sparse. I cycled to all the pubs within 20 miles of my house clutching slightly crumpled CVs, promising that despite having no experience, I was very good at washing up at home and it couldn’t be that different! I worked in pubs for the next seven years. At the same time I also set up a dog walking business, where at lunchtime I would walk all the teachers dogs. Pub work and dog walking have been my bread and butter. Even when I got my first ‘proper’ job, I wasn’t earning enough to live in London so I walked dogs from 6-8am and worked in a pub at night.

Abbi (Sales):

I worked at a Welcome Break that my friends worked in - they recommended me. I had to fry fish. I also worked at a music store during the period of time that they were first in administration. I literally had people throw stuff at me because we couldn't validate their vouchers for a couple of weeks. It was horrible but I got some good examples of grit from that which I have used in interviews.

The key takeaways here are:

  1. It’s a numbers game; the more people you talk to, the more contacts you make, the more likely you are to get a job.
  2. You have to be bold. Everyone has to start somewhere, so even if you have never had a job before you must be able to draw upon the experience you have from your personal life and hobbies and relate it to the job you’re trying to get.
  3. Be prepared! The employers will test your knowledge, and you only get one shot at impressing them.
  4. Don’t hide behind a computer. A lot of people had their first jobs in small or local companies. Meeting the owner or the manager and charming them will massively improve your chances of getting a job.
  5. Finally, and most importantly, keep your chin up. Rejection is a huge part of job hunting. You aren’t going to be right for every job you apply for, and you’re not going to nail every interview, but you’ve got to use the feedback and criticism you receive to make smash the next interview. It’s all a huge learning curve. You’ll look back on this time and think “That was really ballsy of me. I really wanted that.” These are the stories you will draw upon in interviews for years to come because these are the jobs that build character and shape the way you work for years to come.

If you’re struggling to think of where to look for you first job, here’s some suggestions:

  • Kitchen porter
  • Waitress
  • Bar staff
  • Paper round
  • Dog walking
  • Nannying/babysitting
  • Gardening
  • Labouring
  • Handywork
  • Decorating
  • Warehouse work
  • Office runner
  • Flyering
  • Mascott
  • Door-to-door sales
  • Service/petrol station
  • Retail
  • Supermarket cashier
  • Self stacking
  • Camp leader work
  • Coaching
  • Catering
  • Volunteering
  • Charity shops
  • Helping with local projects
  • Agency work
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