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Try the Michael Heseltine approach

You need a clear set of goals when deciding where to apply, writes Chris Bunting.

Choice is a fine thing, but reading the job ads can be a "depressing" experience. At least this is how Alison, a 28-year-old primary teacher who works in South-west London, describes it.

"You heard all these stories about how easy it was to move to London and get a job," she says. "But I was going for lots of jobs and not getting them. I was getting interviews but I kept getting rejected. Eventually, I sat down and realised a lot of the jobs were not what I really wanted anyway, so schools just weren't convinced by me. It wasn't until I focused on what I really wanted that I got anywhere."

This is a classic mistake, says Helga Edge of The Perfect CV, a careers consultancy. "The more opportunities available to you, the more important it is to have a plan. Before you even look at the job ads, you need to look at yourself and what you want from them," she says.

Part of the problem, she explains, is that the very act of entering a selection process can feed into a skewed sense of need to get a job - "It's just ego," she says. "After you've applied, naturally you want to be selected. So applicants can become set on jobs which they applied for quite casually."

She recommends the Michael Heseltine method of career planning. The former Conservative minister famously mapped out his career on the back of an envelope while at Oxford - "1950s: millionaire; 1960s: MP; 1970s: minister; 1980s: Cabinet. 1990s: Downing Street." He nearly achieved all five.

But first you should be sure that leaving your current job is really the best move. Jean Heslop, headteacher of Mixenden and Cliffe Hill schools in Halifax, says: "I always reckon on three years in a job: one year to learn it, one to get it right, and one to enjoy it. If you go too quickly without achieving your goals, people might ask why. There may also be questions if you stay too long. Or you could stay in the same school for 20 years and find lots of opportunities for development. In the end, individuals must decide for themselves and take responsibility for their own development."

If you do decide that a move is necessary, Ms Edge reckons that a Zen-like focus is called for as you contemplate the job ads. "This is a chance to think about some really quite profound questions about who you are," she says.

So ask yourself what you want to be doing in five years' time? Or 10? Or even why you're a teacher at all. Try to pinpoint your main professional goals, but also the motivations and goals in your private life. And write them down. Your aim may not be as grand as Mr Heseltine's, but they will get you started on the right track and provide you with that all-important sense of focus.

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