Have you ever applied ‘on spec’ to companies that you would like to work for, to ask whether they have any relevant vacancies? Speculative approaches (where no job has been advertised) can sometimes be surprisingly successful, and the fact that you’re looking for a part time or flexible role shouldn’t put you off. However…
A WORD ABOUT HOW TO ASK FOR A PART TIME OR FLEXIBLE JOB
In a word – DON’T!
Even if you know the company has many part time workers, they will not employ you simply because you want to work part time. When speculative letters are successful, it will be because your skills and experience are relevant and because the organisation likes the interest you show in them. So your letter should concentrate on what you have to offer. Wait until you have a foot in the door before asking about flexibility.
Now that’s said, the rest of this article will concentrate on how to go about writing speculative job applications….
CHOOSING ORGANISATIONS TO WRITE TO
Speculative approaches can be time-consuming, so it’s always best to target companies carefully. Think about the sort of company you want to work for, and for which you have good skills to offer. You might, for example, want to prioritise:
- organisations that you particularly admire and respect
- organisations that you know have a good record for offering flexible working
- all companies in a certain industry within reasonable travelling distance
Whatever your criteria, your first step will be to identify the organisations you want to contact – take a look at the research resources further down this article.
WRITING YOUR SPECULATIVE LETTER (OR EMAIL)
To stand the best chance of success, bear in mind the following:
- Try to contact the head of the department you’d like to work in - don't contact the HR manager only. If the company is small (fewer than about 50 staff) the best contact is probably the managing director or chief executive officer.
- Always write to a person. Never to 'Dear Sir/Madam'. Find out the name of the best person to contact.
- If you have been put in touch with the organisation by someone you know, and who is known by the person you’re writing to, use the connection! Start your letter by saying something like “My colleague, John Smith, suggested I get in touch with you….”
- Before you write your letter or email, find out as much as you can about the organisation – for example, look at their website, Facebook, Twitter and what’s being said about them elsewhere online or in the media. Your letter will have more impact when you give an interesting and convincing reason why you are attracted to working for them.
- Always enclose your CV. This should be a generic CV for the type of work you want to do, as there’s no specific job spec to tailor it to.
- Need more help? Take a look at the speculative letter template at the end of this article.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
You won't hear from most of the organisations you write to, but maybe 10 to 20 letters may produce a result. So contact as many organisations as you can find time for - provided you are genuinely interested in working for them. It's fair to say that the greater the number of targeted approaches, the more chance of success.
Follow up on any approaches you make. Make a call to discuss your letter, say, 7 days after you write. Expect to make more than one follow up call. You can also follow up by email, but it may be less effective than phoning.
When you get a positive reply, you’re more likely to be called for a speculative 'meeting’ than for a specific job interview. Treat the meeting as seriously as you would an interview. However, the outcome might be ‘we like you, but we have no specific vacancies right now’. If this happens, and you feel you have got on well with the interviewer, keep in touch with them. Reply to them immediately, thanking them for their time and asking them to get in touch if a job crops up. Then write again, maybe 2 months later, to remind them of your CV and ask if there are any opportunities yet.
RESEARCHING COMPANIES TO WRITE TO
Here are some ideas on useful sources of information:
- Company websites, Facebook pages, LinkedIn and Twitter.
- General web searches e.g. via Google.
- Local online forums. These contain information about local businesses and what is happening in your area. You may be able to join in a conversation thread and mention that you are looking for a particular type of work, or you might find information about local networking groups.
- Specific interest websites. For example, in the charity sector the site www.charitychoice.co.uk allows you to search charities by activity and location.
- Job ads can sometimes give you a reason to approach a company speculatively about other possible job opportunities. For example, if a company is recruiting new sales staff, they may also need a new sales team administrator.
- Business pages of national press, especially the Financial Times (from the local library if you would rather not buy) are useful to search for recent articles on a sector or company.
- Trade associations and professional bodies can provide lists of members and industry information. Joining any such body will open up a range of contacts in your industry. Many organise networking events. Some offer reduced membership rates for those on a career break. Go to http://www.taforum.org/Members for a directory of trade associations.
- Chambers of Commerce represent groups of local businesses in an area and can be a good source for contact names. www.britishchambers.org.uk
- Kompass is a directory of which companies produce what products and services. http://gb.kompass.com/
- Job fairs, exhibitions and conferences are held frequently all over the country, particularly in London in venues such as Olympia, Earls Court and the Business Design Centre. Information on trade fairs and exhibitions can be found at http://www.exhibitions.co.uk/find-an-event
TEMPLATE FOR A SPECULATIVE LETTER
Dear Dr/Prof/Mr/Ms/Mrs (name of employer):
Start with something complimentary about the organisation e.g. You are one of the leading companies/organisations in… say what field… and I am writing because of my interest in opportunities in the ….. project management/marketing/IT …side of your business.
I believe I could make a valuable contribution… (describe your key skills)
You will note from my CV that I have worked for… (mention relevant organisations/companies)
With these organisations I have had particular experience in…. (mention one or two relevant achievements)
Thank you for taking the time to consider this enquiry. I would really value the chance to meet you, and understand that such a discussion would not necessarily mean there was any career opportunity in the immediate future.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Enc (enclose CV)