Step-by-Step Guide: How to land your first 9-to-5 job.

Perhaps you’re stuck in retail? Serving tables? Or doing shift work and want weekends off like the other “adults” in your life?

Landing your first professional 9-to-5 job can be tough when you don’t know what it is you want to do, or have a vague degree, or no degree at all. One of the biggest challenges you’ll face if you apply for full-time professional jobs is not having visibly-relevant experience and being screened out by junior-level HR folks.

Here’s one strategy to land your first permanent 9-to-5 job.

STEP ONE: Turn your focus towards temporary admin/office jobs.

After struggling to break out of the retail industry for three years, I landed my first 9-to-5 job as a temporary admin for the executive recruitment division of a Fortune 500 company. The opportunity shortly turned into a full-time offer and kickstarted my career as an executive headhunter.

You might turn your nose up at this kind of work but administrative professionals are the unsung heroes of every organization, and every job from entry-level to C-Suite has some form of administrative responsibility. Basic admin skills are something you’ll need to lean on no matter what job you get.

Side note: if you work in retail or do shift work, it’s likely you’ll have some availability during the week. You can sometimes pick up 1 or 2-day assignments to start building your resume and, more importantly, your network. It’s what I did — I switched my retail hours to evenings and worked both jobs for a while.

STEP TWO: Create a tightly-formatted and polished résumé/CV.

In most cases, résumés, CVs, and LinkedIn profiles don’t get you interviews or jobs (connections and referrals do) but they’re still considered a formality for most interview processes. They’re particularly important if you have no professional experience, or are quite junior.

Why? A nicely formatted and visually-appealing document is a good way to show off and prove your admin/computer skills.

If you need a template my free 5-day email course has one you can download or I can write your résumé for you in 90 minutes.

STEP THREE: Interview with “Temp Recruiters”.

Temp recruiters get paid by companies to provide capable and reliable workers, usually for short-term assignments which typically range from 1 day to 3 months.

Some of these recruiters specialize in providing talent for short-term office assignments. For example, when a receptionist goes on vacation, or a major project is in the works, a lot of companies engage a temporary recruitment agency for extra hands on deck.

Temporary recruiters’ biggest concerns are:

  • Reliability (show up on time for your interview and every assignment — and put away your goddamn phone).
  • Capability (commit yourself to completing the task at hand, no matter how dull, boring, or labour intensive — this is about playing the long-game).
  • Integrity (be honest about your skills and take the work seriously, no matter how junior the task).

What’s in it for you:

  • Temporary assignments can often turn into permanent ones (like mine did).
  • You will build your network of hiring managers and industry professionals.
  • You will gain relevant 9-to-5 experience which can help you break out of shift work and into the professional world.
  • You can get experience working at major companies and this brand experience on your resume is very valuable.

STEP FOUR: How to work with temp recruiters.

  • Prepare for the interview just like you would any other interview (Google basic interview prep).
  • Try to partner with temp recruiters who have been in the industry for at least a year. Longer tenure sometimes means bigger client lists and better opportunities.
  • Not all temp recruiters are equal. You’ll want to interview with lots of them to get a sense of their professionalism and the typical assignments they work on. Don’t judge the first one you meet.

Reliability is key. If you’re sloppy, late to your interview, or late to your assignments then you don’t deserve a 9-to-5, and likely won’t be called again.

Building a solid reputation as someone who shows up on time and isn’t glued to their phone 99% of the day is how to get better temporary assignments with better companies. When you partner with a temporary recruiter you represent them and if you mess up you make yourself AND the recruiter look bad.

Example questions to ask your temporary recruiter:

  • What roles and industries do you specialize in?
  • What is your biggest concern when you send candidates out on assignment and what can I do to address any concerns?
  • How can I improve my skills so that I can be considered for longer assignments or positions more closely related to my career goals?
  • What can I do to ensure that I get considered first for new assignments?

How to Search for Temporary Recruitment Firms:

It’s easy. Google “Temporary recruitment agencies in [insert city]”. For example:

STEP FIVE: Give 110% and leave a lasting impression after every assignment.

Good temporary candidates get snapped up quickly for permanent positions. At my last firm, we worked with a candidate who was studying for their HR certificate. This candidate adopted the strategy of taking on multiple temporary assignments during their course breaks — not only to get experience but to learn about different cultures and find the best hiring managers in the city.

They gave 110% for each company — no matter how entry-level the tasks were or how much the company sucked — and on the final day of each assignment they made sure to shake hands and thank everyone they had worked with, especially the direct hiring manager for their desired role (in this instance it was HR Managers).

Before this candidate graduated from their course they already had 3 permanent offers from top companies due to the relationships they had built and the impressions they had left.

These companies didn’t even post the positions because they already knew this person’s work ethic, culture fit and they didn’t need to interview them. This is another big aspect of “the hidden job market” — being promoted from temporary to permanent.

Pro Tip: How to Leave a Lasting Impression:

In addition to the above, I coached this person to leave a handwritten thank you note at the end of the assignment. This helped “anchor” this candidate as an upstanding professional and made them top-of-mind — so much so that multiple clients would specifically to ask for this person and would sometimes try to offer higher hourly rates to “outbid” other companies they were currently on assignment with.

I’ve personally sent thank you cards after every interview I’ve been to and it’s definitely been a factor in helping me land almost every job I’ve gone after. Make no excuses about this if you’re serious about building your “personal brand” and do it even if you’re insecure about your handwriting!

Recap — at the end of your temporary assignments:

  • Thank the person you reported to (whoever provided you with training/intro/direction).
  • Thank the key people who you interacted with and ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn, especially potential direct hiring managers.
  • Leave a handwritten thank you note (and some chocolates if you want — they don’t have to be expensive ones).

But I don’t want to be an admin professional…

That’s not the point — you gotta think about the long game and use these opportunities as stepping stones to help springboard you on to the next stage of your career. Temp opportunities have low barriers to entry and can help you break into the 9-to-5 world.

Remember that overused saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”

Well this is about building the “who”.

If you have any questions feel free to comment below.

Good luck.


How-to stuff about finding meaningful work and negotiating salaries from a pro recruiter —

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