Finding employment can be a real challenge. Job seekers are trying everything they can think of to get a job, but they don’t always hear back from the employers they are submitting applications to. Some applicants may even consider undervaluing themselves to improve their odds of being picked up by an employer, even when these positions/workplaces are not aligned with their education, qualifications or interests. Some new graduates also face challenges for not having enough experience or professional connections in their fields, which can put an early stop to their prospective career-path. These barriers may all exist, but they should not be seen as reasons to stop you from moving forward.

One of the most important questions you should ask yourself before starting your job search is: Am I work ready? As Louis Pasteur said more than a century ago, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” In other words, securing the right job is not a product of luck, but rather of proper preparation. Once hired, an employer could offer specific training to help you ease into a job, but they are not responsible for getting you ready for their world before then. So, how can you ensure you’re prepared for future opportunities? Here are few tips that can help ensure your job-readiness for your future employability:

1. Set a clearly defined career goal

A hiring manager is often looking to hire a candidate who is passionate about the position and will likely be staying with the company for an extended period of time. If you cannot explain why you want this particular job or why you want to work with this employer, you are really just giving them a reason not to hire you. This is why setting a career goal can help you get ahead in your career. A career goal is a specific statement that explains what you want to achieve throughout your career. Setting a career goal is about finding your passion and figuring out steps to reach that point. It is a great way to get to know yourself better and build a plan for your future. The criteria for developing career goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. When you are confident and clear about what you would like to accomplish and why, you are saving time and energy for the real work. Set aside some time to define your goal and you will benefit from a clear mind guiding your job seeking actions.

2. Write a good resume and a cover letter

This seems like a given, but it should not be underestimated. A resume and cover letter are not necessarily the main key to get your foot in the door with an employer, but they are often the first portrait of you that your future employer will see. A strong resume and cover letter are powerful tools to show hiring managers your skills, strengths, and experiences from the past. The point of building a good resume and a cover letter is to make yourself stand out above other applicants and receive an interview based on that first impression. There is no one-size-fits-all resume or cover letter for job applications. You should customize your resume, tailoring it to different types of jobs and employers depending on your chosen field, and you should always write your cover letter to the specific job/employer it is directed to.

3. Be prepared for job interviews

An interview is a get-to-know-you conversation to discover if you are the ideal candidate for the job. The interview experience you create with the interviewer will help them decide whether you are the right fit for their organization and if they will consider you becoming one of their team members. Many job interviews start with an open-ended question like “Tell me about yourself.” Your response to this request will set the tone for the rest of the interview. In other words, you should be very clear of what message you are sending and clarify your qualifications and the reasons why you want the job. Besides preparing a good introduction, you should do some research about the company and the industry. Research will ensure you have a clear idea of who you are talking to and what kind of questions they may have. Do not forget to practise your interview skills before you go into a real one.

4. Have all the basic skills, qualifications, and characteristics employers expect in the field

It is difficult to secure the job you want if you do not have the necessary knowledge and skills to do the job. If you are passionate about being a financial analyst in the future, you should probably get your Chartered Financial Analyst exam in advance and talk to an experienced financial analyst to guide you through the industry. If you would like to work in the childcare field, a Child Care First Aid and CPR training would likely be necessary, and early childhood education would be an asset. When you have all the basic skills and training you need before applying for the job, you will have a better chance to get it. Try to apply for some jobs in your field to see about their job requirements. The more you know, the better prepared you are for your dream job.

5. Improve your soft skills

In the modern working world, degrees and certificates are not enough on their own. Soft skills are just as important as hard skills. Soft skills are the personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. The most common soft skills employers are looking for include strong work ethic, positive attitude, good communication skills, time management abilities, problem-solving skills, teamwork, self-confidence, flexibility, and the ability to work under pressure. You cannot learn soft skills in a day. You need to practise often to develop them. Find the soft skills you would like to improve on and then make a plan to learn and practise them. Remember that practice makes perfect.

6. Build your professional networks

Opportunities will not come to you if you just sit back and wait. In other words, putting an effort into reaching out is just as important as sending applications online to available positions. Based on LinkedIn Reports, studies have shown that eighty percent of jobs are never advertised – it often comes down to who you know, and who knows you, that matters. When you develop a strong network, you will be in a better position to learn about new career opportunities, in addition to learning of potential opportunities before your competition. Attending some networking events and having conversation with professionals in your field will definitely be a big help for your career planning and job hunting.

Are you a job seeker who is still looking for opportunities? Remember: Check all of the above to make sure you are work ready and do not procrastinate. Continuously learn, listen, and keep an open mind. Try your best, stay committed, and your hard work will pay off eventually.