As a graduate looking for your first graduate position, it can feel like the corporate universe just refuses to give you a return on your educational investment. Thousands of pounds spent on tuition fees, all those late nights fighting sleep to get that assignment written, endless days of hangovers as you struggle with the stress of student life and the pressures of living alone, potentially, for the first time.
I asked the Manager of our Graduate Development Programme, Gemma Ford, how she felt graduates could best set themselves up for securing that all important graduate job. Gemma regularly liaises with our placed graduates and through her experience in our resource team has an insight into the hiring process. Gemma understands the struggle graduates can face when looking for work, as well as in the early stages of their careers, and is always happy to share her thoughts.
So, do you need a little guidance to help you on your way?
1) What is your CV missing?
This really depends on what the employer is looking for. Try looking for clues in the advert, on the company’s website and social media. Then, rather than forcing your potential employer to find the relevant parts in your CV, draw attention to them in some way. It’s also vital that you cover the basics. Be vigorous in your proof reading- typos and spelling mistakes can very quickly disengage an employer. Take the time to do a professional job, and don’t make the layout too busy.
2) How can you best represent your skill set?
Focus on the job and what the employer is looking for – add a “highlights” section at the top of your CV that is tailored to each role you are applying for. Ask yourself “Why am I the right person for this job?” and make sure you answer this question right at the top of your CV. If you describe yourself as ‘ambitious’, ‘personable’ and ‘a good communicator’ think about how you have demonstrated those things; you may be asked to justify them at interview!
3) What could it be other than your CV?
If you are getting to the interview stage, even if you have no relevant experience, try to make connections between your academic or extra-curricular activities and the job. Reflect on your past experiences and find those essential transferable skills all employers are looking for. If an employer can see that you are bright, willing to learn and have a good work ethic, then that might be the tick in the box you need to get that job!
4) How can you make university work for you?
While you are at university you get so many opportunities. Try to get involved in as many as possible, and again, make the most of them. Do a placement year, if your university offers one, join a society / sports teams and take on a leadership role. This is what will make you stand out! These roles can also provide you with great examples to use at interview. Remember- transferable skills!
5) What more can a graduate do?
If the job hunt isn’t going too well, don’t panic. Think about useful things you can do to fill your time. Get involved in as much as possible and make the most of any temping work – use it to demonstrate the competencies that employers are looking for – problem solving, leadership etc. There is a difference between simply doing data entry for 6 months and doing data entry for 6 months, being the best at it and improving the process to make it more efficient. Consider how you can demonstrate your value and encourage your employer to give you a great reference and, more importantly, to give yourself something fantastic to talk about when you next go to interview. Temping isn’t just something to do to pass the time and make a bit of money. It’s an opportunity to prove yourself to your potential future employer before even stepping through the door, so use it to your best advantage.
Think about the jobs you are applying for: are they the jobs that LOADS of other graduates are applying for? Is the competition simply too fierce? Try to broaden your search and consider different locations if you are fixed on a particular role or industry. If you are unable to relocate you may need to be more flexible when it comes to role or industry. Smaller, less well-known companies recruit graduates too. It may be that with these roles comes greater responsibility, quicker opportunities for progression and greater exposure to the whole business.
6) When should you start looking?
ASAP. This will enable you to understand the market and what employers are looking for and could give you an early indication that you may need to do something extra in order to get the job!
Companies do recruit graduates all year round however, so don’t panic, it’s not too late!
7) How can Discovery Graduates help?
We will give you access to well-matched graduate jobs with genuine opportunities in a variety of business sectors, with employers who are committed to developing your skills. We offer advice, training and feedback on how to get the right graduate job through effective interview and CV techniques.
We provide feedback following Assessment Centres. We will also help you strengthen your CV and develop your interview techniques