Finding Hidden Opportunities: A New Approach to Job Hunting – Part 2

Written by Youssef Ramadan

There I was, towards the end of my pre-third-year summer, determined to start job hunting using this new method, but almost overwhelmed with all the information I had acquired, and not quite knowing where to start. Lots of questions were going through my mind. How would I be able to reach out to organisations when I had no contacts there? What sizes should the organisations be? Which sector should I start with? How can I ensure a consistent and repeatable approach?

To navigate this, I initially “brain-dumped” all my questions and potential solutions onto an excel sheet, and broke this big task into smaller, more manageable ones. I decided to start with choosing a sector I wanted to target, which would be my first tip to anyone looking for a job; start with the sector you would like, map out and test the process, then repeat what works with other sectors that you are interested in. In my case, I knew I was interested in renewable energy, and more specifically, I chose solar energy, as I had been lucky enough to have some experience in that sector, having attended a “shadowing” week at a solar panel manufacturing plant in Bahrain.

Next, I thought about which size the organisations I wanted to target would need to be. My reasoning was that it would not be efficient to target large, well-known companies, as they tend to have rigid recruitment processes, through graduate schemes and summer internships for example. On the other hand, start-ups and early stage Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) were more likely to be responsive, as they tend to require the help of talented individuals who make themselves seen to them. This is in addition to having a more flexible recruitment process (if at all), with less levels of hierarchy involved when a decision needs to be made regarding recruiting new employees or interns.

With those two issues cleared out, I set out to tackle my next challenge, which was finding contacts within these solar start-ups and SMEs. For this, I turned towards LinkedIn, as it allowed me to search for professionals while filtering by role in the organisation, company sector, location, and company size. I ran searches with keywords such as “solar energy”, choosing the UK, France, and Spain as locations (in separate searches, not all at once), and selecting a company size of “1-50 employees”. As for those professionals’ roles, I targeted CEOs, Managing Directors, and heads of technical departments, as those seemed to me like the people who would be involved in making the final decision as to whether to take someone onboard.

With my parameters ready, I set out to “connect” with as many relevant professionals as possible, moving the conversation from LinkedIn to email whenever anyone responded, and going as far as translating my CV into French and Spanish for the European companies I was targeting! Initially, I was very excited, especially as some CEOs replied to my emails after accepting my LinkedIn connection, since I (again) didn’t believe they would. Nevertheless, after the initial hype, I found more and more people kindly responding yet mentioning that they did not currently have anything available, but would keep me on the record for whenever an opportunity arose. While this was somewhat comforting, I knew that if I wanted to achieve something by the end of this, I would have to change my approach…

A couple of months later, the academic year slowly came to a start, with students registering and receiving their ID cards, and schools organising their respective induction weeks. During that “quiet” period, I met someone at a gathering at my friend’s house who drastically shifted my way of going about creative job hunting. In fact, as we discussed the matter, he explained that he had found an opportunity to work as a trainee at a local manufacturing facility here in Leeds. As simple of an idea, it pushed me to question the way I had been doing things, as all the companies I had targeted were scattered around the UK and went as far as Europe, making me realise I had not even considered that there might be opportunities right at my doorstep that I had overlooked.

With this in mind, I adapted my approach to local companies, and went on to look for firms nearby in google maps. For each company that I found, I went onto their website to learn more about them, and noted their address so I could present myself in person at their office the next day. Following my friend’s advice, I proceeded to print a few copies of my CV, and kept them ready for what was going to be a long and interesting day…

The next day I grabbed my CVs and headed towards the city centre to find the first solar company on the list I had made. A few long hours of walking later, I was disappointed to find that most of those companies did not actually exist anymore (as I later learned that the solar industry was hit hard by subsidy cuts a few years ago), and for the one company that was still running, all of the employees were away. Nevertheless, I remained determined, and the sun had not set yet, so I decided to take a bus to the last 2 companies on my list before going home and calling it a day. While the first of the 2 companies turned out to have also shut, I was pleasantly surprised to find the CEO of the other company there in person! As he was on a phone call outside his office when I arrived, I waited patiently for him to finish, feeling both excited and very nervous, and reading my CV over and over to make a good first impression once he was done…and soon enough, he was…

Read more in: Finding Hidden Opportunities: A New Approach to Job Hunting – Part 3


Youssef Ramadan
Hi! I’m Youssef, a fourth year Mechanical Engineering student, currently on my placement year. While I am Egyptian, I was born and raised in Bahrain, a small island in the middle...
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