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Earlier this year, I wrote a blog offering some top tips for graduates entering the job market where I mentioned the benefits of beginning your job search early. However, I know from my own experience that it’s not always how it works out for many graduates.
If you are finding yourself in a similar situation to the one I was in, where you are still yet to secure your first post-graduation job a couple of weeks after finishing that last paper, don’t panic. The key to any job search is patience and the best thing you can do is start now (if you haven’t already).
In this blog I’m going to highlight four steps you can take to improve your chances of getting the job you’ve always wanted.
1. Understand What You Really Want
A fundamental element to starting your job search is to figure out what exactly you are looking for. This includes considering three factors:
Are you flexible with what role you see yourself in? For example, are you someone who studied marketing but would be open to working in a sales role? Or would you like to specialise in one area of marketing such as SEO, social media advertising or email marketing?
It is important to have an idea of what role you think would suit you best and that you would like to try. Sometimes people find themselves in a position where they get their “dream job”, only to find it wasn’t right for them after a couple of months.
If you happen to end up in this position, let it be a learning experience and pick yourself up to try something new. You will find that keeping an open mind throughout your career will only benefit you.
It is also worth mentioning that as a graduate, you may well be entering the job market with little to no experience. It may sound obvious, but I would suggest that you avoid looking at roles which require a couple of years experience as you will only be wasting your time by applying to them. Instead, look at graduate or internship opportunities as this will only increase your chances of successfully getting a job.
Can you see yourself working in a start-up, scale-up or maybe a larger, more established company?
If you don’t already know, I would recommend that you learn the difference between startup and scale-up companies (and why it matters). There are multiple benefits and downsides to each so it’s important to research and decide which environment would suit you best.
Recent trends have suggested that more and more young professionals are now choosing SMEs over larger corporations due to reasons such as work culture, remote working options and the ability to make a direct impact on the growth of the company. Yet there are still many who would prefer a more structured day-to-day working environment, to whom I would suggest looking at more established organisations.
There are multiple areas you should consider when choosing the right company as a graduate including independent research on the team you would be working on, the personal development opportunities that the company can provide and also the C-level executive team. Doing this will give you a much better idea of whether or not you and the company's values are aligned with your own and that you see eye to eye on growth plans, which will make your decision a lot easier.
You should also consider the idea that your ideal company may be hiring overseas. Would you be willing to move abroad if so? If your answer is yes, then I would suggest researching companies in the area you want to work in and see if there are any that stand out. It would also be wise to double check to see if you are eligible to work in that country or if you’ll need to apply for a visa.
Alternatively, if you would like to work from anywhere in the world, whenever you want, there has been quite the increase in remote working opportunities over the past number of years. Indonesia has been the latest to tempt the remote workforce to reside in their country, with the recent news that you can now live in Bali tax free as a remote worker. It all just gets a bit more tempting, doesn’t it?
2. Don’t Undersell Yourself
One thing I cannot stress enough, is to not undersell yourself. I have met a countless number of people who are full of self-doubt and believe that they don’t have the qualifications or experience for a specific role.
This is where you have to give yourself a bit of a shake and realise that there are so many transferable skills that you have accumulated over the years. Whether you have worked in a bar part-time throughout university, in retail during the summer months, or played sports for the majority of your life up until this point, you have skills that employers are continuously on the lookout for.
If you have been involved in any societies throughout university, done some volunteer work or have been on an Erasmus programme, these experiences have without doubt contributed to your personal development in one way or another - so make sure you use that to your benefit.
We’re all guilty of sometimes not realising our accomplishments and growth over the years. So it’s always good to take some time for self-reflection and appreciate how far we’ve come, to where we want to go.
“Remember how far you've come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.” - Rick Warren
3. Build Out Your Network
As the saying goes, your network is your net worth, so it is important to foster this attitude throughout your career. It’s a daunting situation, especially at the beginning, but I promise that you won’t regret making that first initial contact with someone.
You’re probably already anxious about the prospect of reaching out to strangers, asking for advice or having to type a message that you don’t even know how to begin. Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to grow your network which will ease the feeling of dread that you have.
By making a conscious effort to update your LinkedIn profile, sharing and creating posts which you find interesting and reaching out with genuine curiosity to people who’s profiles stand out to you, it will come back to benefit you in the long run.
You can start by looking at the companies you find interesting, finding and connecting with the employees who stand out to you whether it’s for the role they’re in, the posts that they share or because their career path is something you want to learn more about. If you reach out to these new connections and express your interest in their profile, it is a relatively easy way to spark up a conversation.
More often than not, you will find that when you reach out to someone and ask for some advice or guidance, they are happy to help. Many people before you, and many people after, will have shared a somewhat similar experience to what you are experiencing right now and you may be surprised at how much you will be able to relate with them. Just keep in mind that they are offering their time up for free, so be respectful and appreciative always.
4. Tailor Your Applications
If, like me, you have spent quite a lot of time and effort tailoring your CV to each of the roles you have applied to, only to not hear back or to receive an automated rejection email.
“We’re looking for someone with a bit more experience” is a phrase that is so disheartening as a graduate because it just leads back to the age old question of “how am I supposed to get experience if nobody will hire me without said experience?”.
After a number of these responses, you begin to wonder is it worth spending so much time to make each of your applications unique to a company? Ultimately, it is.
It will not benefit you to apply to every single job that you’re vaguely suitable for. Instead of applying to 100 generic jobs, aim to apply to ten that excite you the most. This process can be quite straightforward.
1. Identify the path you want to take
2. Find the type of company you want to work at
3. Tailor your CV to the positions that are genuinely a good fit for you
If you look at a job post and think it’s a good fit but you’re missing one or two of the required skills, don’t worry and just be honest on your application. It’s very rare that a candidate has every skill listed on a job posting at any stage of their career, yet you will still see them apply. As a graduate, you won’t be expected to know everything, being truthful about your strengths and weaknesses will be appreciated by the recruiter who sees your application.
If you can show a company that you are willing to learn and develop, you greatly increase your chances of getting hired. If there are areas where you feel you need to improve, it might be worth exploring courses which will allow you to upskill. There are plenty of free resources available online to do so.
Getting a graduate job is easier for some than others. You might see friends post up their new jobs, which can make you feel like you're falling behind the pack, but if you find yourself struggling try to remember that things will eventually work out.
Take a step back, evaluate your current situation and come back with a clearer and more efficient action plan. It’s not a nice place to be when it’s not going your way, but more often than not, it’s for the better. Everything happens for a reason and the right opportunity will eventually come your way.
You can feel free to sign up to the Gradguide Platform to get access to mentorship, career events, a graduate jobs board and to receive direct advice on your job applications.