3 key career questions answered by experts

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My degree classification is lower than I anticipated – how will this affect my job prospects and how can I ensure that it doesn’t hinder my chances of finding a job?

I can speak from experience on this one as I missed a 2:1 and got a 2:2 which, although disappointing at the time, only served to spur me on to prove myself – and set up my own business. Some people may not have this reaction but is vital to remain positive, even in a tough job market, you have to have faith that the job for you is out there and you may have to take a few twists and turns to get there but your persistence will pay off. If, however, you had applied for a job requiring a 2:1 before your results and received a conditional offer you may get lucky and the employer may take you on regardless – I have heard of these cases – but for some it could rule you out full stop.

Whilst 78 per cent of larger graduate scheme recruiters (source: AGR) will stipulate a 2:1 as minimum entry that leaves 22 per cent that do not. Add in the thousands upon thousands of other recruiters that silently recruit graduates every day and your chances are increasing. This ‘hidden’ job market is untapped by graduates and many of these employers have close ties with specialist recruitment consultancies to source graduates, so think about registering with one – it’s free.

In addition to your strategy tell as many people as you know that you are looking for a job as you may be surprised to get a call from a friend of a friend with an interesting offer. Job boards could help but are popular now so choose carefully to avoid the amount of spam you might get. The key is not to take the first job due to pressures to pay off your loan, instead take a broader view of the job market, target your applications and feel free to experiment with different jobs until you find the right one for you.

Dan Hawes, marketing manager, the Graduate Recruitment Bureau

FDM group

I’m in my final year at university and starting to apply for various graduate schemes but aware that the competition for these schemes is fierce. How can I make myself stand out from the thousands of other applicants?

New research has found that the average number of applicants per job has gone from 15 to 20 so it is crucial to set yourself apart from the rest. Last year alone, we received 25,000 CVs and applications for our graduate programme and I cannot stress how important it is to spell check your CV and covering letter and to ensure that your writing is grammatically correct.

If you have used cut and paste, make sure that you’ve sent your application to the right person and the right company! Many of these CVs say: “a confident and hardworking graduate with excellent communication skills, able to work alone or in a team” – they all sound the same and you are all so different, so make it individual to you. It is imperative to only apply for jobs and graduate schemes that you have relevant qualifications for.

Madeleine Field, recruitment manager, FDM Group

 Career Wales

I’m a graduate who has applied for a number of jobs and been to a handful of interviews but frustratingly been unsuccessful due to a lack of experience – how can I gain experience without securing a job first?

You could contact relevant businesses and organisations to enquire into work shadowing opportunities. Also The Year in Industry website advertises placements in engineering, science, IT, business, marketing, finance and logistics. Internship programmes are another great way of gaining work experience, and making links with employers. There are a number of organisations that advertise internships. For example, the Graduate Talent Pool is a government website advertising internships for graduates. It is also worth looking at volunteering opportunities.

You can go about organising this by contacting your local voluntary council. Another option would be to consider opportunities abroad. There are a number of organisations advertising both paid and unpaid opportunities abroad, such as the Year Out Group, which includes 35 of the leading gap year organisations. The British Council runs an English Language Assistant programme allowing graduates to work abroad and improve their language skills.

You could also consider approaching recruitment agencies, to look for temporary work. Furthermore, postgraduate courses can be a great way of gaining knowledge, skills, and experience in a vocational area. As a recent graduate you are entitled to access your nearest university careers service. They will be able to advise you of opportunities relevant to your career goals and help you devise a career plan.

Lisa Pearson, careers adviser, Careers Wales

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