Thursday, 19 June 2014

Skillstep: Week 4

Another week of the Skillstep course, at the Henshaws
Resource Centre in Manchester, has now been fulfilled!

The week began with roleplaying activities on Tuesday during Maureen's session. Each member undertaking the course had the opportunity to act within 3 different roles and become an interviewer, interviewee and observer giving feedback for improvement for others in their group, as well as discussing what worked during their practice interviews. We had to prepare prior to the session, thinking about our answers to typical interview questions as well as providing 2 of our own to use while performing the interviewer tole. We were recorded on a video camera for evidence regarding our portfolio for accreditation. In the afternoon, we briefly touched upon goal-setting and the SMART targets, which is something we will continue to develop further in our fifth session next Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Alan Bennett from the National Careers Service visited us to discuss careers advice and how to maximise our chances of securing a job in today's career climate. He began his session by first of all explaining job centres, their function and what they can provide for disabled people - as well as going into detail of different job-searching websites such as Universal JobmatchIndeed and Fish4Jobs. Alan then talked about the importance of an up-to-date CV and the different types that can be used - Functional, Chronological and Combined - and the benefits of each one. This led into a Powerpoint presentation of some badly written CVs and how they could have been improved - for us to then take these suggestions and tips away with us and apply to our own CVs, to ensure they are as concise, accurate, relevant, targeted and easy to read as possible - to sell our skills and experience.

Alan shared some handy tips - such as marrying our skills to the job description, perhaps even having different versions of the CV for each job that you are applying to, having a punchy first paragraph to grab the employer's attention, to ensure that the first two paragraphs are as striking as possible (as these are the most read parts of the CV itself), making sure to print the document out onto white paper with a clean, sharp font (no Job Centre yellow paper!) and not exceeding 2 or 3 pages; the longer the CV is, the less chance it has of being read in its entirety. It's paramount to use the same font throughout, be consistent with the layout, use specific wording, proof read and spell check for mistakes, divert from use of photos or graphics (these can be provided in a separate portfolio if you are a photographer, graphic designer, illustrator, etc.) and review and update the CV regularly.

This led into the 'Don'ts' of CV writing: don't include your salary in each job section, don't be dishonest (employers very well may check what you present as factual), don't give the impression of flitting between jobs regularly and not being committed in the long-term, don't include irrelevant information (for example, your nursery and primary school - as seen in one of the badly written CV examples!) and don't overuse the same phrases, such as "I am". Alan talked us through Cover Letters and Spec Letters, what they are used for and how they could be useful to us to attach to the front of our CV when applying for a job.

Towards the end of Alan's session, we explored transferable skills and interview skills. We began by examining interview skills first, which echoed most of Maureen's session from the previous week. Good preparation is key - whether it's planning the journey to the interview, preparing your outfit, researching the company or developing your answers beforehand. You may be faced with competency-based questions, in which there is only so much preparation you can do, but try to research as many varieties of questions as possible to display confidence and competence during the interview process. Transferrable skills are those that can be used no matter the job title - such as communication skills, organisation skills and time-keeping. Another job may require a more specific skill set, but these general transferrable skills can be applied to any job and it is important that we develop them if we do not have them already.

We each had a 30 minute individual session with Alan where we went through our own CVs and career options. He typed up the information to be transferred into an action plan that will be presented to each of us in the near future. My CV is up-to-date and absolutely fine with no need for improvement, and I discussed with Alan my desire to go back into further education in the near future, after I have trained for my Guide Dog, to build up my portfolio and qualifications.

On the final day of the week, the IT session with Linda and Neil, I finally completed all of my Level 1 Entry tasks for my portfolio! There were 29 tasks altogether, which included Entry Level and Entry Level 1 tasks as proof of basic knowledge of using a Windows Computer and Microsoft Word whilst using assistive technology such as JAWS or ZoomText. In next week's session, I will sign the remaining pieces of work that I've completed during the past 2 weeks, that haven't been signed by myself yet, as proof that I acknowledge and agree with the marking process by Linda, and have those completed for both my own portfolio and for Linda and Neil's copy of the portfolio too.

You can find out more about Skillstep by clicking here and can register your interest to the course via e-mail.