Working your notice period

My company is making me redundant and I am working my notice period. Trouble is, there is no work to do! I have asked whether I can go home (ie take garden leave) but I’ve been told I must come into work every day throughout my notice period in case they have work for me. I feel very uncomfortable sitting with a book while everyone else is working. What can I do?

Unfortunately, if an employer insists on you working your notice period, then you have to work it, or you may forfeit your right to redundancy pay. At least you are allowed to bring a book: we know of some employers who won’t even allow that.

However, there are some rather more constructive ways to use your notice period.

Under redundancy law, you are entitled to take ‘reasonable time off’ in order to find another job. This means you should be able to spend time at your public library or home researching and applying for jobs, and attending interviews, seeing recruiters, or networking at conferences and industry events. What is ‘reasonable’ isn’t laid down in law, but most employers won’t object to you spending one or possibly two days a week doing this. Be careful to state that this is what you are doing, though, so that you are not perceived as simply not attending.

Your current employer may also have online, video or book-based training courses which you could ask to do while waiting for them to give you some real work. Look especially for topics that will enhance your CV.

September 13th, 2009 | Posted in redundancy | No Comments

Volunteer for many reasons

I am getting so bored at home while I’m out of work. I’ve heard the local hospital radio need DJs. Do you think voluntary work is a good idea, or is it just a waste of time?

We would advise anyone out of work for more than a few weeks to take on some voluntary work. It immediately alleviates the embarrassment of being asked in interview of ‘what were you doing while you were out of work?’ by showing you have some initiative, and are a self-starter. The discipline of getting out and doing some regular work helps with motivation and energy, and the sense of achievement will keep you buoyed up during your job search.

When choosing what kind of volunteering to do, think about what will impress a prospective employer most. Organising children’s entertainment or helping out on a radio station is fun, but it’s not very business oriented, so balance it with experience that will give you transferable skills: anything which involves organising, solving problems, dealing with customers, organising or motivating people, devising or inventing something, or diagnosing, reporting on or trouble-shooting something.

Officially, if you are on Job Seeker’s Allowance, the Job Centre say you can only volunteer up to 16 hours a week. However, if you gain agreement from a ‘decision maker’, you can work unlimited voluntary hours, provided you meet the terms of your Job Seeker’s Agreement, and can be available for work immediately.

In the UK, there are two big organisations which publish volunteer opportunities – Do-it and Volunteering England.

September 12th, 2009 | Posted in unemployment | No Comments

Redundancy as a graduate

I graduated in business studies last year and started work for a recruitment company in London. I did really well in the job, but after 5 months I was made redundant. Since then, I’ve and been out of work. Now there is another year’s graduates looking for work. What can I do to improve my chances?

It’s a really tough time for graduates with so many employers in trouble, and many large companies withdrawing their graduate schemes. However, you have a real advantage over last year’s grads in that you have some real work experience, so make sure you maximise this.

Put a ‘key skills’ section on your CV so it’s the first thing recruiters see, and describe your skills using the words and phrases you see used in job ads. When you register on job search web sites, make sure you complete both the CV upload and all the individual boxes on your profile, cutting and pasting from your CV to fill boxes like ‘key skills’ and ‘experience’. Doing these things mean that recruiters will easily find you when they use word search to look for candidates for vacancies.

Consider doing some voluntary work. Not only will it give you a reason to get up and out of the house each day, but it’s good to be able to show, in interview, that you took the initiative and achieved something.

Stay in contact with the friends and classmates you graduated with. Not only can those of you who are still looking support each other, but some of your friends may be able to tell you about vacancies in their organisations, and (now that they’re working) give you a reference.

Above all, don’t give up. Make sure you are applying for at least five jobs a week, even if they aren’t in a field you’d want to stay in. Experience and motivation are the key – and transferable skills can come from the most unlikely jobs.

September 12th, 2009 | Posted in graduate, redundancy | No Comments

Graduate internships

I am a graduate who’s been out of work for several months. My dad has suggested that I become an intern. What is an intern, and how do I become one?

An intern is a graduate employed by an organisation, usually on a voluntary basis, for a period of time. Most internships last between a week and three months. The organisation benefits from free resource to staff an office or carry out a project, while the young person gains valuable experience for their CV, often some free training, and possibly a work-based reference. Internships are very popular in the USA, and quickly gaining popularity in the UK.

Part of the value of an internship is in the reputation of the placement employer. For this reason, it is important, just as with any job, to do your research well. Intern specialists, UK Student Life, has a list of UK organisations which can help you find work placements.

One exciting development is the concept of ‘Enternship’ – a placement with a company which has a particular emphasis on entrepreneurial activity, such as setting up a branch of a company or a spin-off. Enternship is the brainchild of graduate, Rajeeb Dey, who was named the winner of the O2 X Young Entrepreneur of the Year for 2009. Find out more on the Enternships website.

There has been a lot of controversy in the press about whether interns displace real vacancies, and whether interns are unfairly used by employers. To avoid this, consider ‘time boxing’ any offer of internship, so that the employer gets your services for no more than three months. Ask what training you will receive, and make sure you are not working unreasonable hours. If you are asked to continue on after the initial period, it would be reasonable to ask for some form of payment, even if it’s only expenses. Unless you’ve made a specific arrangement to do a long internship, the employer should really be thinking about making an offer of permanent employment rather than extending an internship beyond three months.

September 12th, 2009 | Posted in graduate | No Comments