By Sophie Phillipson, founder of student and graduate support network HelloGrads
Almost half of graduates (46%) who left university within the past five years are ‘underemployed’ and working in non-graduate roles that do not require further or higher education qualifications, according to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics.
The job market post academia is clearly competitive, which makes applying for your first full time job all the more daunting. You may only have your tenacity and creativity to help you stand out from the crowd, but these can get you far. Read these tips to find out how, and keep persevering...
Avoid carpet bombing the industry with your CV. Instead, narrow your search and focus your efforts on jobs that are relevant to your experience and field of study, companies that really appeal, and recruiters that specialise in your chosen field. Research companies before applying, even if the job seems like a perfect match. You need to make sure the work environment and company culture are good fits for you.
Spread the word
Use your friends, family and extended network as a resource. Tell everyone what you’re looking for and get them to spread the word. People who know you will want to help if they can.
If someone offers to put you in touch with a contact from the industry you want to get into, follow up immediately with a well-constructed email. Explain that you’re fresh out of university and would love the opportunity to know more about the sector. If you manage to get a meeting or call arranged, go in with some prepared questions and use it as opportunity to find out everything you can.
Many jobs are not well advertised, especially vacancies within startups and smaller businesses that don’t have the advertising budget. They tend to rely on sector-specific jobs boards, social media, their own websites and word of mouth to find talent. This means, you need to be all over the internet.
You can save some time by signing up to receive tailored email alerts for new jobs postings relevant to your industry and following potential employers on social media.
Use LinkedIn as a networking tool - it is specially designed for this. Your profile functions as an online CV, so make sure you advertise your skills, qualifications and experience that are relevant to your degree and the industry you are hoping to secure a job in.
Join groups and discussions that are relevant to your field of study and industry, and engage with them - there’s no point joining if you’re going to be a passive member. Post useful and insightful content to get yourself seen. You could even ask more experienced LinkedIn users to share their advice for breaking into your chosen industry.
Find a creative way to make your application stand out from the throng. Include buzz words that are pertinent to your industry as some larger companies use applicant tracking systems to scan for keywords and filter candidates out. Avoid this by reading the job posting carefully and using vocabulary in your application that appears in the job description.
Make sure your documents align with the industry in which you are applying for a job. For example, in creative industries like design and marketing, you could go for a non-traditional format that’ll get potential employers excited about interviewing you.
Remember that, when it comes to CVs and cover letters, one size does not fit all. It’s all about tailoring your application to the sector and the business.
If grad schemes are available in your industry, make sure you apply. The majority offer exceptional training and many can lead to permanent positions. Some grad schemes are filled up as early as November/ December before graduation, so early applications are key.
To put yourself at ease and boost your confidence, prepare thoroughly. Get copies of trade magazines from your sector and read them cover to cover, read online articles and memorise the headlines and key details so you can show off your knowledge, research your prospective employer’s main rivals and see if they’ve been featured in the press recently.
Think of ways to demonstrate your passion and knowledge. Have a list of questions prepared that demonstrate your enthusiasm, your interest in the company and your knowledge of their industry.
Email the interviewer thanking them for their time afterwards. This will show that you have good people skills, are efficient and are enthusiastic about the job opening, which will never go unnoticed.
Make sure you check your digital footprint before a potential employer does. You need to ensure that your public facing social media profiles present you in the best light possible, or make them private. Take the time to make sure that your online profile reflects your personal and professional interests.
For more careers tips, and post-graduation advice and support, visit HelloGrads
Sophie Phillipson, 26, is the co-founder of HelloGrads, which she started with her mum Julie when they realised the extent of the problem today’s students face on leaving university.
The mismatch between the growing graduate population and the availability of graduate-level jobs, student loans, an unaffordable rental market, and a lack of financial know-how can make the transition into the real world feel really overwhelming.
HelloGrads.com eases the transition from academia, with life skills, tips and shared experiences from grads and experts in-the-know. Covering personal finance, careers, renting, mental health, and more, it’s for anyone who feels underprepared for life after university.