Post Graduation Blues: Jobhunt

Looking for work after Graduation

So you’ve graduated and started your search for work, it may be the case that your peers and classmates have successfully acquired a position in a blue chip firm already. If you have the opportunity take advantage of that situation, it may be worthwhile examining their application to benefit from their approach. Analysing their application may reap dividends but bear in mind that anything further could prove to be futile: most graduates who achieve early success to obtaining a position cannot adequately advise you in your pursuit simply because they cannot appreciate your hardship.

I’ve encountered many graduates who seem a little despondent when asked about their pursuit of work over the last few years. As a consequence, I’ve offered many of them my advice having felt that their approach was a little bit like firing of an Uzi and hoping it hits the target. After numerous personal emails and advice, I thought it would be better if I blog my thoughts on how their pursuit could prove a little more fruitful.

Read the bullet points and if you care to do so, read the corresponding explanation if you think it is relevant to your circumstance:

  • Know what you want to do.

Whatever your subject may be you should have some idea about the field you want to prepare to work in. Some degrees carry additional weight and many firms would be very happy to employ graduates of hard subjects (Maths, Physics, etc). Similarly, there are many jobs who would happily employ a candidate based on their achievement as a graduate because it is their benchmark of potential or ability. As a consequence, try and focus on a field that you would like to work in, create a list of primary/secondary/contingencies for fields of work.

If you are not sure what you would like to do, have a look at the Penguin Guide to Careers, most library’s should stock one and if not you can request it. Consider what you enjoy doing or even what you found easy but do not get caught out by settling for the easiest possible career path if you want to progress.

Mature students tend to be more focussed on their career path especially if they are career changers, but never forget the benefits of advice…

  • Utilise the university careers service

The University Careers service can support you in many areas and they vary at every institution. Book an appointment to find out what you can and cannot do, one of the biggest mistakes is overlooking the support that a careers service can provide.

Services can range from CV guidance, to refining searches and identifying jobs, job lists and much more. They will also give you information on employers, developing skills and could put you in contact with potential suitors.

Remember, careers services are also available in your local boroughs and towns.

  • Careers Fairs

Sign up to careers fairs and do not consign them to the trash bin. Gradmail, TargetJobs, Prospects and others are all valid sources of finding information and employers to talk to. If you are serious about getting a job, you need to log on, register and attend these events. What you will find is an exhibition hall where employers are waiting to talk to you about their recruitment processes, their company and what jobs are available. Take every opportunity to register with employers because they could match you to a position that becomes available in the future.

  • Update your CV

And make sure it’s not just one! Make it relevant to the job you are applying for if you have many.

Whether you have acquired any work experience or not put everything in your CV. If your work is relevant and extensive, lead with your job roles – this is especially relevant to mature grads. If on the other hand you have minimal experience, lead with your degree and grade adding any subjects of particular relevance OR strength. If you were awarded for the best dissertation make sure you note it in your CV, additionally if your institution is a specialist in the area of your studies, mention that too.

Cover letter are just as important and they are used to highlight KEY competencies required by the potential employer. DO NOT submit a CV with a paltry cover letter. Look at job descriptions, job specifications wherever you find them and try and adapt you cover letters to it.

  • Agency Work

Many people struggle to find relevant work immediately but do not despair, it is important to build up two things: work experience and; skills.

Agencies may not pay as healthily as a direct employer but there may still be a remote chance of turning a temp/agency contract into a permanent move. Furthermore, the typical graduate is not in need of an astronomical salary, as your career path matures you will command and possibly require more money but do not make it the prime factor in your search.

The skills that you acquire here can be translated into your CV to make it relevant and it will undoubtedly be helpful in your efforts of understanding the big old rat race. Young people are finding it very hard to secure employment throughout Europe, so use all means possible to get a suitable job. Your university should be able to help you with agencies.

  • Expand your skills (Interning)

Internships have had a very bad press but their benefit is amazing and they are getting a lot harder to finalise/gain. Similar to agency work in acquiring experience but I suggest you select internships based on relevance to your career path, most pay appallingly some only pay for travel and food. If you can afford to do it, find an internship that will help you understand your industry or environment.

Ratemyplacement is a fantastic place to find out about internships, they are usually conducted in your sandwich year but they are equally available to you in smaller firms after graduation.  There are other sites that are equally helpful so Google ‘internships.’

Now this is very important, if you get the opportunity to network make 100% sure that you do it. Keep your wits about you and develop your social skills because it will offer you three basic opportunities: a) Develops communication etiquette in the workplace (b) creates an extensive contacts list (c) could secure a permanent position.

  • Graduate Schemes

These schemes are absolutely fantastic if you are successful but they are also incredibly competitive. In more recent years students at Oxbridge and Redbrick institutions are having great success but don’t let that put you off, getting far in these schemes are actually sellable assets (based on high calibre candidates and the fact that you contended with them means that you are a highly valued candidate). Again, if that seems pretty rubbish as an asset, do not underestimate the experience!

On the schemes themselves they are probably the best route into the working environment and many companies consider them essential recruitment programmes. They are essentially training schemes which develop your skills and (most) offer you a job at the end. The salaries are varied but again the benefit of the schemes far outweigh the salaries, in any case an average of 25k is a good base for a new, young graduate.

Scour the internet for graduate schemes, go to individual company websites and ensure you look at the top grad scheme lists supplied by the Times and Guardian.

  • Cold-Calling

Call companies that have positions that you would like to be in and be prepared to work for nothing. YES, work for nothing. Sometimes it pays off. Emails are good but calling gives you greater results because it puts a person on the spot, the amount of positive responses I have got via phone has been incredible.

If for example you wish to work in the field of economics, calling a think tank might prove to be incredibly helpful but you need to negotiate on the phone. Tell them that you are a graduate, mention particularly strong traits and that you read up on this company and would love to try and work for them. Keep your questions open-ended, therefore don’t ask if they have any jobs but ask about what they can do for you. If it isn’t proving successful be a little pushy but polite, remember this is your life you are trying to arrange so look out for number 1!

  • Postgraduate Education

If you are unclear about your path don’t do the stupid thing and select a Masters course for the sake of it. Make sure you have direction and focus, why are you pursuing this avenue, will it benefit you, can you secure a job as a consequence?? These are all questions you should be asking.

Postgraduate education can secure you further internships in some cases but be sure that your end-goal employer is aware of your ability. It does in some cases help you to stand out against the crowd of undergrads but it is by no means a sure bet.

Don’t be scared about taking a backward step but ensure that there are ample opportunities to progress. Sacrificing salary within reasonable limits or sometimes even an outright risk could pay off but you need to draw up a risk analysis and consult a professional for thorough advice.

Preparing for Interviews and Assessment Centres

If you’ve failed to prepare, be prepared to fail.

Congratulations on getting through, now you need to work hard- and when I say hard I mean as much effort as when you did your dissertation or stayed up in the library revising for an exam. Interviews, assessment centres and psychometric tests are put in place to put you under pressure: There is a method in the madness of your last-minute booking for an interview (etc.) so make sure you are more than adequately prepared.

Practice, practice, practice psychometric tests until you’re blue in the face, the chances are once you’ve secured a job you won’t need them again so you may as well dedicate this part of your life to them!

Read up on the company you have applied for, as a preliminary question you will almost definitely be asked about the reason you have applied to the company and/or for this particular role.

Save your question responses on your applications, it will help you to consolidate your answers when/if asked later.

Use the internet and forums to find out about assessment centres, for example if Exxon Mobil has invited you to an assessment for an upstream position in manufacturing, Google it!! There is bound to be some helpful advice available online.

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