“Opportunities won’t just come to you. Don’t be afraid to ask or fail.’ – Cydney, university graduate, New York, USA.
According to the Financial Times, employers are increasingly mentioning that their new graduate hires are not ‘work ready’ and have left university with little experience or work-life knowledge. The key point to take away from this is that university students and graduates need to make sure they are doing their due diligence on studying beyond the classroom and gaining valuable interpersonal and soft skills. Here’s how to prepare…
1. Know what you’re getting yourself into
Online resources can help close gaps between your expectations of a company and what is required of you. University career services can offer tools and provide information to get into the world of work. Mentors are also a great source of information and can get you started right from researching the company, to getting your CV up-to-scratch, and even help you get that graduate job that you’re after.
2. Networking is key
Always ask for advice from others, be it your friends, family, LinkedIn contacts, or your mentor. When asking for advice rather than for a job, you’ll find people are a lot more helpful and can steer you in the right direction of opportunities, and if the time is right, it can end up in an interview or even a graduate job offer. Networking is key to getting your foot in the door, so make sure you keep your contacts warm and check in every now and then.
3. Get a graduate job that suits you
This is always important to remember, getting a graduate job that suits your skills and piques your interest is significantly more important than how much money you’re making or how high up the ladder you are and employers can see through that (sometimes)! “There is a fresh focus on the importance of ‘heart, hand and mind’ rather than simply intellectual ability” – Financial Times. If you’re pushing yourself towards a graduate job that you are unsure of, go with your gut feeling and change paths to match your passion.
4. A graduate job is not forever
Most careers are not lifetime commitments anymore, your decision today may take you to a completely different route down the line. Remember that! University graduates can prepare for roles that have not yet been defined or created; most careers involve multiple duties and employers and can take you places that you never thought you’d end up.
5. Soft skills over hard skills
Although having good literacy and numeracy skills are very important for a graduate job; university graduates tend to forget that critical thinking, communication and creativity are just as, if not more, important. Having great time management, communication, and being able to get on well with others in your team will make a huge difference in your work life and can, sometimes, get you much further than being able to use Excel to an expert level. Be proactive and take matters into your own hands by learning those soft skills before you get that graduate job.
6. Experience is just as important as qualifications
Let’s say, you’ve excelled at university, achieved top grades, and you’re on your way to a PhD. That is an incredible achievement, but you haven’t immersed yourself in the practicality of your industry; that means, no work experience, no placement year, and no volunteering. Once you leave university, it will be difficult to get into your industry with no experience. Whilst at university, make sure to throw yourself into all types of work experience and volunteering. Although relevant work experience is key, you can also gain transferable skills if the job is not relevant to your degree – implement those skills in your graduate job, whatever it may be.
7. Learn, learn, learn!
Needing to keep up-to-date with technology, algorithms, and new skills is a must. Education can only get you so far, but putting in the time to learn what’s not on the syllabus will benefit you greatly when it comes to interview time; and once you get that graduate job, don’t stop self-learning.