Are you familiar with the challenge of landing a job in health and safety? It’s a common predicament: you need a job to gain experience, but you require experience to secure a job. This creates a classic catch-22 situation. However, there’s a strategic way to break free from this cycle and improve your chances of securing that coveted job in health and safety.
What have you done?
The pivotal moment in your search for a job in health and safety often arrives when you’re invited for an interview. By this stage, your potential employer is already aware of your qualifications. So, it’s crucial to understand that they’re not primarily interested in hearing about what you could do for them; instead, they want to know what you’ve actually achieved in the field of health and safety.
This is where your past experiences become invaluable. You need a wealth of stories, anecdotes, and situations that can illustrate your ability to deliver positive outcomes in health and safety. But what if you’re new to the industry and lack substantial experience? How do you bridge this gap?
Let’s delve into a strategy that can help you overcome this challenge.
Perhaps you’ve heard advice suggesting you work for free to gain experience. However, I would argue that this is not the wisest approach. Generally, people tend not to value what they receive for free. This is a lesson I learned firsthand during my tenure as a health and safety consultant. When I decided to offer my consultancy services for free, I received no responses. Only when I began charging for my services did my phone start ringing!
The act of offering free work sends a message that you undervalue your own skills and expertise. If you don’t place a value on your own services, it becomes challenging for others to perceive their worth. Therefore, my advice is clear: refrain from offering free services or discounted rates. Instead, start by offering your services at their full value.
You have value to offer!
If you’re worried that you lack the extensive industry experience that seasoned consultants possess, remember that the NEBOSH Certificate qualifies you to offer valuable services to certain businesses.
While high-hazard sectors often rely on specialists and in-house teams, many low or medium-hazard businesses struggle with health and safety. They face challenges navigating this complex area. These businesses seek assistance from individuals who can provide solutions that may seem straightforward to you due to your completed studies.
Consider a scenario where a client operates in a low-hazard sector but is overwhelmed with other business operations. They may require guidance and direction to establish compliance and effective health and safety practices. This is where your expertise becomes invaluable. You don’t need to compete directly with well-established consultants; instead, believe that your services can match the quality of larger consultancy firms.
Your role might involve establishing basic health and safety management systems, conducting risk assessments, or handling near-miss investigations. These tasks are well within your capabilities after successfully completing the NEBOSH certificate.
Transparency is key. Be honest about your strengths and limitations with yourself and your clients. You don’t need to highlight your shortcomings in the initial meeting, but you should clearly communicate what you can do and how you can do it effectively.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you doubt your ability to deliver a client’s request, it’s essential to acknowledge it. Say, “I may not have the expertise to handle this task ethically and effectively.” However, offer some free advice and guidance on health and safety to ensure you don’t leave the client feeling their time has been wasted.
To maintain ethical conduct, I recommend following the IOSH code of conduct.
Additionally, securing professional indemnity insurance is strongly advised. It’s a modest investment that safeguards you in case a client follows your advice and encounters an issue, subsequently attempting to hold you accountable.
With these steps in place, you can begin your journey in health and safety, working as a freelance consultant and gaining the experience required to secure a full-time position in the field.
This approach breaks the cycle of “I need experience to get a job, but I can’t gain experience without a job.” It provides you with a background and talking points for interviews when you’re asked about your past experiences in health and safety.
At this stage, you have options. You can pursue a full-time position or continue along the freelance path. The choice is yours. This approach broadens your horizons and liberates you from the previously inescapable loop of inexperience and job hunting.