Job seeking

There are three main approaches to finding a job, each with their own advantages and pitfalls.

Advertised jobs

Finding a job through online advertisements is the most obvious way to find work. Being obvious is an advantage, as it’s quite easy to find opportunities this way, but it’s also a pitfall as everyone else will be doing this. The easier it is to find the opportunity, the greater the competition will be.

Don’t let that put you off though: if you’re the right fit for the job, it won’t matter if 1 or 100 other people apply.


• Exploring occupations – each occupational page lists vacancy sources. For an academic career see Research in academia.
• Vacancies Online – online jobs board from the Careers Service.

Recruitment agencies

Using recruitment agencies can be another convenient way to find work, depending on the sector you want to work in. In fact, some industries, such as the biomedical science sector, can be very difficult to break into without the initial use of an agency.

The advantages of this method are that agencies are free to use and gives you access to a range of vacancies which would otherwise not be open to you. The main pitfall here is to not understand how recruitment agencies work: their aim is to find a candidate for their client (the business) not to act as your personal job-finder.

Use recruitment agencies and you’ll have a wider reach into the job market, but don’t get complacent, you need to look yourself as well.


• REC Directory of Members – search for a member agency by specialism or UK region.
• Recruitment agencies – learn more about how to use recruitment agencies and where to find them.

The Alternative

Direct approach

The alternative approach is to forget about the ‘off the shelf’ job and create your own ‘bespoke’ opportunity to suit your needs. Think about your job hunt in terms of organisations and people you would like to work with or for, rather than squeezing yourself into a job description which doesn’t quite fit.

This could mean researching companies (and research should be something you’re pretty good at by now) or it could mean finding people via their articles and papers. The advantage here is that you may be the only person to contact that person or organisation about work, reducing your competition to zilch and making you seem like a very proactive individual in the process. The only pitfall here is that this takes more perseverance than the other two approaches and it can feel difficult to keep up the momentum of making connections, especially if you encounter initial rejections. Remember to follow up any initial contact to show that you are interested.

By building up your network, making contacts and approaching people you’ll learn more about the sector you’re interested in, what it takes to break into it and hopefully land a job offer.


Get connected – our guide on how, where and why to network as a job-seeking researcher.
• Researching employers – where to look for companies and how to keep up to date with what they are doing.
• Exploring occupations – contains sector-specific employer directories.
• Events – see who’s coming on campus.
• LinkedIn – perfect your online profile and network like a professional with the added bonus of not having to venture out.


Need more help?

For more information about how to access help from the Careers Service, see our Support page.

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> Previous: Placements and internships


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