A potted history of making your own luck.

Prompted by debate elsewhere over CVs, interviews and jobhunting in today’s job market.

Over the years I’ve had more job interviews than I can remember from punting around my CV. The number of jobs I’ve actually had from all these interviews is precisely two. I found that a lot of companies wanted the moon on a stick, but didn’t want to pay for it. More often than not they expected a candidate to come to the role ready trained, ready qualified, ready experienced, but no-one was particularly keen to actually provide any of that to applicants. Over the years I’ve had a lot of unusual jobs, mostly got via networking and getting to know people. Do favours when you easily can, because there are a lot of people who appreciate it and will return the favour at a later date which can be very useful. There is no substitute in the jobs market for working hard to better yourself and move up taking opportunities whenever they come. Some people claim not to be lucky. That’s rubbish. Luck is about recognising opportunities when they come and making the most of them. ‘Lucky’ people are merely those who look at what’s going on around them and make the most of it.

My Father was a transport manager, though he had moved on to become a consultant by the time I came out of University. He gave me a piece of advice: “Get an HGV licence, because you will always find work driving trucks when the job market is a little thin”. He was right, and I’ve odd-jobbed trucking through agencies all through my working life when between other jobs. Even now I escape from the keyboard to go rig-jockeying once every couple of weeks, because it makes a change and everyone needs a hobby. Having an unusual skill that you can fall back on is very useful, and it looks interesting on your CV too even if it isn’t relevant to the job you are applying for – it shows a prospective employer that you actually do something interesting outside of the daily grind. I also added sailing and power-boating qualifications and a CPC National certificate in my spare time too, just because they seemed like fun and they made me a more interesting person to employ. It also meant that when I did time freelance at the BBC, I had the advantage that I could drive any of the OB vehicles which was something that none of the other people applying for the job had.

I did unpaid work experience whilst I was a student. It involved a summer of commuting into Manchester at my own expense to work at an ad agency penning adverts to sell tat to the country. I never got a job out of it, because it turned out that the company was happy to get a steady stream of work experience people through to work for free, such was the demand for jobs working in what was actually a fun industry to work in. That taught me a lot about how a lot of companies work in the UK.

I kept networking, and that’s meant that over time I could bin all of that and work for myself as a writer. It doesn’t make mega money, but it’s enough to live on and I’m happy doing it. That’s taught me the biggest lessons of my work career: A job that you are happy doing is worth a lot more than one you hate, even if the one you hate earns more money. It also taught me that success doesn’t come knocking on your door hand delivered on a silver platter by a flunky. If you want to be successful at something, you can be but you have to work hard and make it happen.