For school leavers looking for work, leaving the structure and surety of school for the big, bad world of employment can be an intimidating experience. At 17 or 18 the thought of blazing your own professional trail offers up equal amounts of excitement and trepidation; where will you go? What will you do? How do you take the first step?

For school leavers looking for work or for anyone faced with the challenge of finding full time work for the very first time, here are 8 tips that will help to get you headed in the right direction.

Define your goals
As a jobseeker you need a target at which to aim. If you identify the area of work that you hope to enter, your job hunting efforts will be far more focussed and effective. It will allow you to concentrate your energies on something specific, rather than pulling you in all different directions. Writing down 5 things you hope to have in a role might help to affirm a professional direction.

Research career pathways
Once you have an idea of the professional direction in which you want to head, it’s time to map out a pathway that allows you to achieve that goal. Career experts like breakthru are specialists at guiding you through the employment maze and getting you to your end goal.

Develop your skills
Perhaps the best way to begin your professional journey is to enter into training courses that will add to your employability. By gaining qualifications in areas that are relevant to the professional sphere at which you’re aiming, you’ll be proving both your value and your drive to potential employers.

Find support (and use it)
You needn’t walk alone on your march towards employment; there are a wealth of support structures available to recent school leavers who are searching for work. From governmental organisations and private enterprises to family and friends, good advice is everywhere, you just need to ask!

Work on your soft skills
While hard skills – the experience, training and qualifications that you outline on your resume – are vital assets in the search for work, the other side of the coin – soft skills – are every bit as important. Soft skills are personal attributes which allow you to work harmoniously with other people; things like the ability to problem solve, friendliness, personability and adaptability. While these things might be seen as an unalterable part of someone’s personality, they can certainly be worked on, and a well-developed suite of soft skills will shine through in job-hunting’s most crucial step – the job interview.

Get into a routine
It can be tempting to slide straight out of your daily routine post-school. Answerable to no one, late nights, sleep-ins and lazy days on the couch can quickly become the norm. But an extended break from real life can set you in a bad pattern, and one that’s difficult to extract yourself from. To prepare yourself for professional life, be sure to get out of bed by a reasonable time and fill your days with productivity, be that in the form of obtaining qualifications or searching for work.

Develop your network
Networking is an often overlooked part of finding a job. Establishing a professional network will put you in good stead into the future. Humans naturally gravitate to those that they know, and a surprise job offer could quickly come your way should you put effort into your network. Begin with setting up a LinkedIn profile. Once on LinkedIn, search for those in your preferred profession who may be able to act as a mentor to you – a simple message could open a huge amount of doors!

Be clear and honest
If you do get to the interview stage, it’s vital that you are open and honest with the interviewer. You should admit that you may not have a huge amount of professional experience, but that you are ambitious, motivated and keen to learn. Potential employers will give an honest, if inexperienced, candidate far more credence than you might imagine.

Sure, the journey for school leavers looking for work might be daunting, but armed with these tips and a positive attitude, the professional world is your oyster.

Could you use a hand in finding your dream job? Contact the breakthru team now for help!