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Tips for graduate job seekers
With the end of year nearing, many of you have finished or will be wrapping up your last year of study, meaning you’re now preparing to take your first steps towards the world of work. For brand new graduates, the start of your career journey will be an exciting and rewarding experience.
But in order to be successful – that is, land a great job in your chosen field – your approach must be focused as well as flexible.
Looking back almost a decade, there are certain factors or insights I wish I had known as a graduate. Particularly with the knowledge you’ll be competing against hundreds of other fresh graduates for the same role, it’s key to have an edge in order to successfully enter the workforce.
Here are some key considerations for graduate job seekers.
Entering the world of work isn’t as scary as you think it’s going to be
Up to this point, you’ve probably been quite comfortable living and enjoying student life for a few years. Jumping from student to employee can be a scary prospect, as you’ll be working with experienced adults who know what they’re doing. However, a good workplace culture encourages continued education for their staff and on top of this, roles are continuing to change due to technology and other disruptions. In other words, your colleagues will effectively be learning alongside you so don’t be intimidated. Plus, workplaces understand your newbie status and will help ease you into the role. Speaking from experience, it will take a few months before you feel settled and build up confidence at work. And this applies to every new role you start.
Believe in yourself
It doesn’t matter where you studied, don’t feel inferior to other grads who attended the top universities or schools. The prestige may be appealing to some employers, but it’s well-known that businesses are hiring for better culture fit over skills and experience. I’ve worked in several companies where my colleagues have come from all sorts of backgrounds and studied at various universities or institutions. Our varied experience comes together brilliantly on team projects, as we are all able to share different insights as opposed to sticking to a status quo or having very limited ideas.
Further to this, it’s important to be your own cheerleader. You can have as many supporters backing you and hyping up your uni achievements but if you don’t believe in yourself, this can sometimes be reflected in the language you use in your CV and cover letter, or during your face-to-face interviews. Your passion and confidence need to come through so shut off the negative thinking and start to visualise the outcome you want.
Be flexible and look outside the box
Again, competition will be fierce for certain jobs – if you’ve got your eye on a certain role, changes are several other grads are also planning to apply so don’t set your heart on it. It’s important to keep your options open: for the role itself but also your salary expectations. Lots of people end up in their dream role by having started in a different department or in a slightly lower-paid position, but the progression was clearly defined. So think about roles in the context of where you want to be in 3- or 5-years’ time.
Additionally, for every role you want to pursue, there are many more out there that you’ll likely miss if you keep to a narrow wish list. For example, lots of graphic designers will want to work for an advertising agency – the most obvious path. But what about being a graphic designer for a restaurant group? It pays to expand your thinking when targeting potential employers.
Start looking yesterday
If you haven’t already started searching for graduate job opportunities, it’s only going to get harder from here on in. Internet job boards, trade publications, newspapers and your network are great sources of potential openings, in addition to applying to businesses directly. Not only will you get a good indication of the type of roles available, including the skills required and salaries on offer, but you may be amongst the first to uncover a great gig. It’s also a good idea to sign up for job alerts through a recruitment firm so you’re instantly notified of the latest jobs on your mobile.
Don’t underestimate preparation
Where possible, identify companies and graduate recruitment programs so you can make contact prior to completing your studies. You could also engage a recruitment consultant who could meet you for an initial one-on-one to discuss your job requirements and potentially place you.
You should also start drafting your template cover letter, have your main CV ready (to be tailored and personalised for each role you apply for), and rehearse common interview questions to refine your technique. Thorough preparation will give you an edge, as you’ll be able to move more quickly and seize opportunities faster than other graduates. If you leave everything to the last minute, the hiring manager may interview someone ahead of you and could offer them the job.
Increase your employability with overlooked skills
Don’t dismiss any casual or part-time work you undertook while studying – succinctly weave the strong examples of the skills your learnt into your resume. In addition, any internships, work experience, sports teams, extra-curricular or volunteering activities are great examples to also include. These experiences help shape you as a person, and therefore, as a prospective employee. Practical skills, leadership qualities, teamwork and soft skills will impress your interviewer, giving you a great head start and point of difference.
Build your network
Get involved in professional associations, relevant industry groups and attend events to begin meeting potential employers. Be sure to ask for their business card and add them on LinkedIn, firstly ensuring your LinkedIn profile is professional and up to date. Networking at these functions can provide you with job leads and start to build your reputation in your industry as an engaged, enthusiastic and well-connected young professional.
Also inform your family, friends, lecturers and peers about your job search so they can stay alert for relevant opportunities. Sometimes, it’s all about connections.
Keep at it
When times get tough, a common piece of advice that comes through from my mentors and trusted friends: perseverance. The job search journey has many ups and downs. Many of us won’t get our first choice but something else will always come along. So buckle up, stay tenacious, and remain positive, persistent and diligent.
Taking a proactive approach with the pointers above can help prepare you as a graduate job seeker. Good luck in your search.