Finding a graduate job can feel like a daunting exercise in numbers. On the one hand, opportunities seem to be everywhere, in every sector, with every type of organisation. On the other, you’re competing with everyone who graduated along with you. Through it all, you’re just looking for one job—any job, you might sometimes think. Don’t worry. There are ways to make your search manageable and to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Let’s look at how it’s done…but first, let’s spend a moment on what not to do.
How To Not Find A Graduate Job
This isn’t entirely cheeky. One of the biggest obstacles to any graduate job search is a lack of focus in the face of an honestly bewildering range of options. Knowing how not to conduct your search will help you focus your efforts on techniques that will help you land a graduate job that gets your career off to a flying start.
If you find yourself doing any of these things, take a step back and re-calibrate your graduate job search. Do not:
- Apply for just any graduate job. Your time and energy are too valuable.
- Expect to land your dream graduate job straight out of university. We all pay some dues at the start of our careers. A graduate job helps you get the most out of the dues you pay, but it won’t match your idea of where you’d like your career to go.
- Apply for any role before you know what you can offer an employer.
- Limit your search to prestigious roles or organisations. Just about any employer—including ones you’ve never heard of—can help you build the skills and experience you’ll need to develop your career.
- Focus on a single geographical region, unless personal or family issues truly force you to.
- Neglect the finer points of your application and interview tips to land your graduate job. Each demands a good deal of preparation.
Now that we know what to avoid, we can take a close look at how to organise your graduate job search. Your first step has nothing to do with prospective employers and everything to do with you. Make a list of the skills and abilities you can offer an employer—include any skills you’ve used at a job or in a volunteer capacity, along with those you developed through your academic training. Then think seriously about how you’d like to use those skills on the job, what kind of salary you expect, the sort of organisational culture that best suits you, and so on. This is the true basis of your graduate job search: what you can do for an employer and what you expect in return. Your search will be more efficient and effective, and your communication with prospective employers will be more poised and impressive if you know exactly why you’ve applied for every role you pursue.
Surveying The Field
You may have friends who pride themselves on the sheer volume of their applications. That sort of approach is a fine way to reassure yourself that you’re putting an honest effort into your search, but it’s not the best way to actually find a graduate job. To make each application count, you’ll need to do plenty of research beforehand. This can involve studying specific roles or entire industries, along with the careful research you’ll want to perform on any company to whom you consider applying. This isn’t just a good way to decide which roles might be right for you—it’s also your first step toward standing out as an exceptional candidate. Far more graduates enter the workforce each year than in previous decades, and those numbers can work against you if you’re not prepared. People also expect to change jobs more frequently throughout their careers than in the past, which only broadens the field against which you’re competing for a graduate job. Fortunately, more companies than ever, including small- and medium-sized enterprises, are seeking to hire graduates these days.
You can research roles and industries on your own. Discovering the actual graduate jobs currently on offer can be a bit trickier. Let’s look at some of the resources that can help you with that aspect of your search.
Graduate recruitment consultancies, or agencies, such as Graduate Recruitment Bureau, help clients understand what they have to offer employers, how those skills speak to their individual needs, and which available graduate jobs might make suitable matches. Most recruitment agencies also help applicants with the application process itself and with interview preparation and how to write your graduate CV. If you’re just getting started and need some help establishing the parameters of your graduate job search, a recruitment agency can be just the thing.
When organisations need to cast a wide net for job candidates, job boards are still a good way to get the word out. Reputable job boards are free for job-seekers to use, and most provide the details you’ll need to apply directly for roles that interest you. Some job boards are all-encompassing, while others focus on specific industries, or on the public or private sectors.
Many universities host graduate careers fairs two or three times a year to help students connect with employers and recruiters. The representatives you meet at a careers fair might have a graduate job or two on offer, but the real value of a careers fair is the opportunity it gives you to learn from people who know their industry well, and know how graduates fit in to the larger picture. Have your CV ready just in case, but above all be ready to ask questions, take notes, and make connections at your university’s next careers fair.
All universities provide career-planning support. Your careers services office can help you map your skills and interest to the labour market, prepare your CV and cover letters, and point you toward recruitment events. They might also be able to connect you with local and regional employers, or with alumni working in your fields of interest.
You can polish your CV and interviewing skills until they shine, but nothing quite takes the place of actually knowing people who work in the field you’d like to join, and being known by them in turn. Networking can help you understand the current opportunities and challenges facing your chosen industry, supply you with impressive details for your cover letters and interviews, and even uncover graduate job opportunities before they’re announced to the public. You’ll need to be patient and persistent—not everyone has time to talk shop with a newcomer—but the benefits of a professional network are worth the effort.
The Direct Approach
Every idea we’ve discussed so far uses an intermediary, whether it’s a job board, a recruiter, or an established professional in your network. But you can also contact employers directly to offer your talents and ask whether they’d be a good fit. Before doing so, you’ll want to study everything you can about your target company, its strategic vision, and its personnel. It’s a time-consuming approach, and there’s no guarantee that a given company has a spot open for a graduate hire, but you’ll impress potential employers with your initiative and strength of purpose. At worst, you might add a name or two to your professional network.
The Six Keys To A Successful Job Hunt
You probably know a classmate or two who seem to have landed graduate jobs just by snapping their fingers. Luck almost certainly had little to do with it: everyone who finds a job does so through connections, diligence, and preparedness, in whatever combination.
Successful job-seekers tend to be organised, diligent, and persistent. To help build your graduate job search around those qualities, follow these six principles…
1. Remember Your Purpose
You might feel that you need to land a job, any job, as quickly as possible. That’s an understandable response to a crowded labour market, but it’s counterproductive. You’ll land a more suitable job more quickly by starting with your own talents and interests and looking for roles that fit your strengths and values. If you shoehorn yourself into an uncomfortable role, you might be right back where you started in a year’s time, with precious little to show.
2. Prepare for success
When an opportunity comes your way, you shouldn’t find yourself scrambling to learn about a potential employer or a specific role on offer. A brief chat at a careers fair might just lead to a recruiter calling to discuss your background at greater length; your networking efforts might lead to an interview opportunity you never expected.
When those little bolts from the blue arise, you want to be ready. That means spending some time each day learning about the roles, companies, and industries you wish to work in. Two hours spent reading trade publications and industry-specific web resources can be more valuable in the long run than two hours spent feverishly sending your CV to anyone who’ll have it.
3. Make A Plan And Stick To It
Your graduate job search will involve quite a bit of work, with precious little payoff by way of interviews and job offers. Over time, even the most stalwart of us can feel like we’re just wasting our energy. To avoid that trap, be sure to plan a firm strategy and a detailed course of daily and weekly action. Knowing what you’ll do each day toward finding a graduate job will help remind you why each little step is so important.
4. Follow Up Thoughtfully
Each substantial interaction you have with an established professional, from little networking chats to formal interviews with prospective employers, deserves a follow-up. You might write a quick note in response to a brief discussion, but an interview deserves a fuller response. Briefly confirm your interest in the role while touching on an interesting point or two that you discussed during the interview. You can even mention ideas that struck you after the interview’s conclusion, or that you didn’t have time to raise in person.
5. Build A Peer Network
Networking isn’t just a way to meet people who are doing the work you’d like to do. It can also be a great way to share ideas and commiserate with other graduate job-seekers. Look for job clubs at your university or in your area, and give them a try. Just one word of caution: if your local job club seems to cater to whingers and emotional vampires, you should slowly step away—job clubs can be black holes of negativity.
6. You Are Not Your Job Search
Remember that your goal is to find a role that’s right for you. Not to beat yourself up or to burn yourself out by spending every possible moment frantically searching for, applying for, and worrying about your next job. You’ll get more done by remaining calm and remaining the curious, well-rounded person you’d want to hire if you were an employer.
Be sure to make time for friends, hobbies, and sheer idle enjoyment. If it helps, think of these non-search activities as ways of clearing your mind, restoring your energy, and preparing you for the next steps of your job search.
Managing Job Offers
Sooner or later, you’ll be offered a job. Congratulations in advance! Before you accept any offer, though, you’ll want to view it with a bit of a sceptical eye.
Is the job truly a good fit for you? Do the terms of the offer match what you have been led to expect? Any binding job offer will be presented to you in writing, so you’ll have time to read through it and note any conditions that strike you as problematic. If anything stands out, feel free to contact the employer for clarification, or even to negotiate terms closer to the ones you want. There’s no reason to rush the process, and most employers will honour your request for a bit of time to consider an offer. Be forthright and transparent about your concerns, and prospective employers will often respect you all the more for being so savvy and professional.