Career Planning

The Careers Service provides an impartial, all-age careers information, advice and guidance service, to help young people and adults make informed choices about their future career paths. Find out below how you can contact one of the Careers Service’s professionally qualified careers advisers.

Career Service

Career Planning

"I actually feel like I am making career progress and really getting somewhere." Gavin Heron, Wright Bus

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Career Planning

children career in IT, careers information, advice and guidance, Rachel Dunlop, NITEC solutions

How to search for jobs

Looking for a job is a full-time job. Get started using our advice on job hunting, networking, jobs fairs and finding seasonal jobs.

Job hunting

Your new job is out there – you just need to know where to look. We’ve got some tips to help you on the hunt.

First, set aside some time each week to find vacancies or fill in applications.

Give yourself some tasks to complete each week. For example, contacting an employer, updating your CV, or looking on a website.

Make sure you note down closing dates for job vacancies, and keep track of what you’ve applied for and when.


Job search

Use our search to find the latest job vacancies across Northern Ireland

Where to look


Our job search is just one of the many available – hundreds of new jobs appear online every day.

Look for job sites about your specific industries or types of work. Check the sites of employers you’re interested in working for. Look up their social media accounts.

Lots of search sites offer an email alert function. This lets you know when new jobs are added under the category you’re interested in.


Newspapers and magazines

Check the vacancies section in your local paper. The business and news sections can also be useful for spotting stories about growing companies and industries.

Look for magazines and trade journals which are linked to the kind of job you want.

Ten ways to use social media in your job hunt

Use your social media accounts to find jobs, network and show your skills. Here’s how:

  1. Create a LinkedIn account

Use this like an online CV to show employers what you can offer. Find out more about using LinkedIn for your job hunt.

  1. Join Twitter

Start following companies you’d like to work for, job sites, and recruiters. Look out for vacancies and news in their tweets. Read our guide to getting noticed on Twitter.

  1. Find ‘your’ network

Got a flair for Pinterest? Could you use Instagram, YouTube, or Soundcloud like a portfolio? Find a place which helps you show your skills.

  1. Write a strong bio

Whatever network you’re using, your bio will be one of the first things people see. Mention some skills and link to your website, portfolio or CV.

  1. Search

Look for job vacancies, and find accounts you can follow. Search on topics you’re interested in or career-related hashtags, like #ITjobs.

  1. Use your contacts

Join your school, college or university alumni groups on Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook. The people you know could help in your job hunt.

  1. Be social

Join Google+ and LinkedIn groups connected with the jobs you want and start contributing. @ mention people on Twitter or Instagram, take part in discussions and Like or Favourite things.

  1. Share interesting things

Add posts, or share articles and videos relevant to the job you want. Show you know what’s happening in the industry

  1. Keep it professional

Either have separate personal and professional accounts, or set yourself some guidelines.

  1. Job-proof your personal accounts

Even if your Facebook is personal, an employer may find it.


Ever heard the phrase ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’? That’s why networking works. Here’s how you can find your way around the hidden jobs market with a little help from your friends.

Why you need to network…..

It’s simple. If you’re not networking, you could be missing out on a lot of job opportunities.

Five networking tips for job hunters

  • Ask for a referral

Even if they can’t help you with your job hunt, they might know someone who can. Ask if they can suggest contacts, and could put you in touch.

  • Try people you know

Family, friends, former employers, former teachers – tell them you’re looking for a job. They could help, or know someone you can get in touch with.

  • Find some events

Look for networking events, job fairs, talks and workshops based round your ideal job. Introduce yourself to as many people as you can, and ask if you can keep in touch.

  • Strike up a conversation

Even out at events, you’re meeting new people every day. You never know where a chat will lead.

  • Be positive

Tell them about your goals and ambitions. Talk about your strengths. Inspire them to help you.

The Perfect Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a short speech you could deliver in the time it takes to travel up a floor in a lift. The aim is to hook someone in and make them want to hear more.

Entrepreneurs use these to get people interested in new products or ventures, but you can use the same technique to introduce yourself.

You need to answer some key questions in your pitch.

  • Who are you?

A good first step is to note down some of your skills and strengths. This helps you think about what makes you special – and what you’d like people to know about. You don’t have time to mention everything, so highlight a few things that you think are most important.

  • What are you bringing to the table?

Make a note of some of the things you’ve done – the experience and education parts of your account might help here. Read over your CV. Try to think of things you’ve achieved, or stress the amount of experience you have.

  • What are you looking for?

You can tailor this part depending on where you are. Think about your goal for the event. For example, if you’re at a jobs fair, you could say you’re interested in hearing about opportunities, or learning more about their company. Or you might be at a networking event trying to meet new people – so you could say you’re looking to make contacts in the industry. It also lets you open up the conversation to the other person.

  • Put it together

Look over your notes and try putting together a couple of sentences about yourself. Don’t use jargon – the people you’re talking might not know about your job, so technical terms could go over their heads. Keep it simple and short. Write it out in a few different ways and see which one feels most comfortable.

  • Practice!

You should know your elevator pitch by heart – so that it rolls off your tongue. Practise so that you remember it. Try to relax and make it sound natural.

Now, get out there and try it!

CVs and cover letters

A CV (curriculum vitae) is a short list of facts about your education, work history, skills and experience. A good CV is essential when looking for work and it is worth taking the time to get it right so you can sell yourself to an employer.

Creating a new CV

Use your CV to make the most of yourself and your achievements. It is often the first contact and impression you will have with an employer.

How you present your CV is up to you. Use the online CV builder at NI Direct to create, edit, download and print a CV, or follow the tips below to create a good and professional impression.

You may also follow the tips below to help you create a good and professional CV.

Presenting your CV

  • print your CV on good-quality, white A4 paper, in a clear font
  • put your name at the top of the page – not curriculum vitae or CV
  • include your address, telephone number and email address at the top
  • show your career history to date, including work experience and employment history
  • present the content clearly and concisely, making it easy to read and understand
  • use positive language
  • aim for no more than two pages
  • ask someone to proof read it to check your spelling and grammar

You do not need to put your date of birth, age, or salary on your CV.

Always put your most recent job first and remember to include dates. Avoid gaps between dates. Even if you weren’t in paid employment refer to voluntary work or other experiences that added to your skills set.

If you’ve had lots of different roles, you may not be able to include everything, so prioritise your most recent and relevant details. Compress earlier roles into short descriptions or just include job titles and highlight the skills and experience you gained across those jobs (such as skills in dealing with customers or communication skills).

If you don’t have much work experience, then you can include details of temporary, holiday, part-time or voluntary work. .

What to include in your CV

Below are some examples of what you may want to include in your CV:

A personal profile

A personal profile is a short statement at the beginning of your CV used to sell yourself and to show your skills, experience and personal qualities. You can include positive words such as ‘can’, ‘adaptable’, and ‘conscientious’. Tailor the statement to the requirements of each job that you apply for, to show the employer that you’re the right person for the job.

Skills and strengths

Highlight your skills and strengths. A skill is something you gain with education and experience, a strength is something you are naturally good at. Tailor these to match the requirements of the job you are applying for.

If the job you are applying for is different from work which you have previously done, then explain why you are interested in applying for this new type of work.

Qualifications and training

Include qualifications you got from school or college as well as any qualifications and training from previous jobs (such as training in health and safety or a certificate in food hygiene). Put your most recent qualifications first.


Your hobbies and leisure activities can help support your application if they highlight responsibilities and skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for, such as organising activities for a club you belong to, or using leadership skills or teamwork as part of an activity.


You don’t have to include references in your CV but you should state at the end of your CV that references are available.

It’s good to have two or more people who can provide a work or personal reference. Ideally, one should be your most recent employer but if you haven’t worked for a while it could be someone who has known you for a long time who can comment on your work skills and qualities.

You should ask the referees to agree to this beforehand.


Using your CV

You can send your CV to a company with a covering letter or email asking if they have any current or future vacancies. You can find names and addresses of companies on the internet, in newspapers, or in trade or telephone directories.

You can use your CV to help you remember all the dates and information each time you fill in an application form, apply for a job by phone or before a job interview. You can also leave a copy with the interviewer(s) if they do not already have one.

Recruitment/employment agencies usually ask to see your CV before you register with them.


Covering letter for your CV

It is good manners and professional courtesy to enclose a covering letter with your CV, giving the job reference and repeating your contact details.

While your CV gives the facts about your employment, the covering letter might explain why you are interested in the job and why it’s just right for you. You must try to give the prospective employer a reason to want to read your CV.

Keep it short and to the point, one A4 page is preferable.

If you have a contact name write ‘Dear Mr Jones’ and end with ‘Yours sincerely’. If you don’t have a contact name write ‘Dear Sir / Madam’ and end with ‘Yours faithfully’.

State what the vacancy is and how you heard about it, for example, ‘With reference to your advertisement in the Daily News on 2 May’.

List the skills you have that are relevant to the job. If the advert mentions motivation give an example to show how you’re motivated. Give real-life experiences or personal qualities which could make you stand out from other candidates.

Sign your name clearly. Check your spelling and grammar and make sure your letter is set out clearly and logically. Ask someone else to check it over for you.

Enclose your CV with the letter or attach it if sending it by email.


  • Preparing for interviews
    What puts one good interviewee above another? Research. It helps you prepare for an interview so that you can give informed, impressive answers. And it shows an employer how enthusiastic you are. How to research an employer Before you go to an interview, it’s important to know what you’re in for. Researching an employer can give you an idea of what you'll be asked about. That gives you a little more confidence going in. It’s also a way to show that you’re interested in the company. Drop in a little information about them in your answers, and you’ll seem keen. It shows that you understand what the company is and who they’re looking for. Check the employer’s website This should be your first stop. Pay particular attention to information about products and services, the ‘About Us’ section and anything related to the job you’re applying for. Check the recruitment section – companies often provide a brief description of the type of people they’re looking for. Take some notes so that you can review them before you go in to your interview. Find them on social media A Twitter or Facebook feed can give you a good idea of what a company’s culture is like. You can also look up your interviewer on LinkedIn to get an idea of their work history and see if you share anything in common. Look for news Google the company or organisation and check the news results. Look for news about the industry they work in, too. Pay attention to the news on TV and the papers in the run-up to your interview. Show that you’re aware of what’s going on. Be wary of mentioning negative news stories – these might not go down so well. Carry out an informational interview If you know someone who works in the same industry, ask them about their job. Ask if there are any points they think are important or skills that you can mention. Ask what questions they think might come up. Find out more about informational interviews on the networking page.
  • Types of interviews
    Competency based interviews When you're preparing for an interview, you need to know what you're going to say. Having a few examples up your sleeve of times when you've done things well is a big help. It's especially important if you're getting ready for a competency based interview. That means you need examples that show what you're able to do. This proves you have the 'competency' to do the job.
  • Be a STAR
    That's where the STAR technique comes in. It's a simple way to help you structure your answers and show off your skills. Find out what will be covered in the interview First, you need to know what you'll need examples of. For a competency-based interview, the employer might tell you what they will be testing. If not, you can get some clues from the job description. Check through this for the skills the role requires. Look for sentences like 'the right candidate will have excellent communication skills.' From this, make a list of competencies or requirements you think will come up. Think of some examples For each item on your list, try to think of two or three examples from your own experience. Don't just think about work. You could also use examples from school, hobbies, volunteering or even your personal life. Now, we can start using STAR to structure your answers. Here's what each of the letters means. S is for Situation This means, think of a time when you used the competency in question. What was happening? What was the problem you were facing? T is for Task What did you need to do to solve the situation? Why did you decide to do that? A is for Actions What actions did you need to take to complete your task? What did you do that was different? Did you need to learn anything new? R is for Results What did you achieve by completing your task? What difference did it make to your employer? Put it all together Now, put your STAR together. Here’s a quick example: I had to give an important presentation to a client at work. (Situation) We had to tell them about a new product – and hope they’d order some. (Task) I researched the product thoroughly. I talked to our design team and found what the most important features to highlight were. I put together a presentation using Powerpoint. Then I practised this in front of my team and asked them for feedback. (Actions) In the end, I impressed our clients. I was able to answer all their questions. They put in a big order as a result. Plus, I was able to work with the same client on future pitches. (Result) Talking about negative results Don’t be afraid of using examples which didn't turn out well. Show what you learned from the experience. Explain what went wrong, why it went wrong and what you would do different next time. Telephone and Online Interviews Selling yourself over the phone or an internet connection can be difficult. You could feel more awkward and nervous than you would in person. But you can still make a good first impression, even if you're not in the same room as your interviewer.
  • Five tips to get you through
    First, prepare like you would for any other interview. Double-check the details. Will they call you? Do you have to dial in or sign in to a system? Arrange somewhere quiet. Let your family or friends know, so that they don’t disturb you and turn off noisy distractions Keep your CV or application form, a list of points you’d like to mention and questions to ask close by Speak clearly and at a steady pace
  • Phone interviews
    If it’s over the phone: Keep your phone line free and warn anyone else who might answer that you’re expecting an interview call. If you’re on a mobile, make sure you’ve got a good signal and it’s charged up.
  • Online interviews
    If it’s online: Look at the monitor and talk directly to the person or people on the screen. Dress smartly. Avoid wearing clothes with patterns or stripes which could strobe on the screen. Take a look around the room. An unmade bed, inappropriate poster or dirty dishes won't give a good impression. Check that your internet connection and software are reliable. Do a practice run and, if you have doubts, ask the employer if they can provide somewhere for you to log on to do your interview. Pay attention to body language. Just as you would in person, you want to appear confident so sit up straight.  
  • Assessment centres
    Assessment Centres Sometimes you’ll have to go through much more than a simple interview to get a job. Assessment centres can help an employer find out more about your personality, and how you might perform if hired. They might use this to choose between people who have very similar CVs or applications. What takes place depends on the employer. Some common tasks, over and above your interview, include: Group exercises - You’ll be given a task to complete or a problem to solve with others in your group. It’s not about who shouts the loudest, but who contributes and works well with others. Presentation - You might be asked to bring a presentation, or even have to develop one on the day. This shows off your communication skills. Role play - You’ll be given a scenario – perhaps reacting to someone who is acting as a customer or colleague. Tests - Many employers will ask you to take an aptitude test or psychometric test as part of the assessment. Remember you’re being assessed at all times – so try to relax, but stay professional during coffee breaks, lunches or meetings with other employees.
  • What should I wear to an interview
    It’s your first chance to make a good impression on an employer, so interview dress is important. Use our tips and dress to impress. You want to dazzle your interview panel with your wit, intellect and ability to do the job. But before you even sit down, they’ve already started forming an opinion. Whether you live by Vogue, or couldn’t care less about fashion, appearance is a big factor in making a good first impression. Keep it comfy The most important thing about your interview outfit is that you feel comfortable. You’re under enough pressure as it is and the last thing you want to be doing is squirming in your seat because you don't feel right First impressions Employers are very open when first meeting candidates. They’re looking for someone friendly and confident who will work well in their current team. This gives you lots of room for manoeuvre with your interview outfit and an opportunity to express your personality. To a certain extent what you wear should reflect the role you are interviewing for. If you’re unsure what's appropriate do some research. Look at the company website and the messages they give about their working environment and their employees. Don't be afraid of colour People seem to be frightened of wearing colour to interviews, but you don’t only need to wear black or grey. Wearing a block of colour – a blouse, shirt, tie, scarf or dress – can be a nice way to stand out and reflect your personality, without distracting from what you’re saying. What to avoid It’s not about being boring, but you don’t want to wear something which makes people focus more on what you’re wearing, than what you are saying, things like big, bold prints or jewellery which draws a lot of attention are things you should probably avoid. Avoid chipped nail varnish, dirty scuffed shoes and stains on your shirt or jacket. You should make sure your footwear is clean and newish looking.
  • Tackling tough questions
    Every job hunter hates them, difficult interview questions like - Tell me about yourself. They don’t want your life story – just the bits that show you can do this job well. Talk about relevant skills, strengths, experience, qualifications and interests. What’s your biggest weakness? The key to this question is that it’s not about what your weakness is. The right answer shows that you’re able to recognise it, and have developed ways to stop it affecting your work. What are your salary expectations? Before the interview, research what similar jobs pay and think about how much you’ll need to make the job worthwhile. You don’t have to be too specific. Ask if there’s a salary range for the job. If they can’t give you one, be ambitious, but realistic. Why do you want to leave your current job/why did you leave your last job? Be positive about what a new job could offer you – career progression, new challenges. Talk about the opportunity to move forward. Don’t say because you hate your boss, you want more money or you’re stuck in a boring role. Do you have any questions? This is where research can help because if you know about the company, there should be things you can ask about. You can also ask them to expand on something they’ve mentioned during the interview. If you’re stuck, basic options are questions about what training and opportunities are available. Which magic power would you like to have? Employers use odd questions like this to see if you can think on your feet, and test your creativity. Try not to get flustered. Take a moment to think. Get into the spirit of the question and show you’re willing to give it a go.
  • The interview top 10
    1. Listen
    Listen carefully to the questions. Make sure your answer tells them what they need to know.
    1. Give detail
    Be specific when you’re talking through examples. Explain what the task was, what you did, problems you faced and how you succeeded.
    1. Know your strengths
    If you’re confident of your strengths and how they apply to the job you want, it’s easier to sell yourself.
    1. Be honest
    Never lie in a job interview.
    1. Ask questions
    This lets you find out about anything you're unsure of. It also shows that you’re interested in the job.
    1. Be positive
    Use positive language, and talk yourself up. Show you’re enthusiastic about the position and your own career.
    1. Don’t dwell on it
    Try not to fixate on things you wish you had or hadn’t said.
    1. Look over your CV
    Interviews put you under pressure and can make you forget important things. Be ready to talk about your experience, achievements and qualifications.
    1. Relax
    Have a quiet evening the night before. Have a bath or watch your favourite film – anything that makes you happy. 10. Be punctual Write down the address and work out how you’ll get there. If you can, do a practice run.  Aim to arrive 15 minutes before the interview.

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