Graduate careers: How to stand out

Career Advice
12 April 2018 | Career Advice | Guest Author

Looking for a graduate career, but don’t know how to get noticed? Here are all the tips you need!

Graduate employment is tough. With so much competition, it can often feel like a huge uphill battle for your application to get noticed, let alone get invited for an interview for those good graduate jobs. While we might have the degree, we’ve got very little, if any, real-life working experience, and even less evidence of applying our degree skills to real life. Couple that with the fact that most employers are looking for staff who can prove that they can interact with people within a workplace and will fit in with the specific company culture, and it’s easy to feel stuck.

My name is Hannah Tomaszewski and I work for Barnsley SEO Agency, Bigfoot Digital, as a Digital Strategist. Having secured my own job in digital marketing with a totally different degree - Creative Writing, if you were wondering – I know what it takes to get your foot in the door. No matter what career you’re after, the rules are the same: employers are looking for the whole package. In short, it’s hard to be a graduate. Here’s the lowdown on what employers are looking for, and how you can stand out to secure your first ‘proper’ job.

Show your value

It’s true that it all comes down to your CV and cover letter, no matter how boring they are to create and, while applying for jobs shouldn’t require gimmicks to stand out, having a unique cover letter or a seriously streamlined CV will make all the difference. Hiring managers don’t have time to read through every line of every application they receive - edit your CV to focus on the most relevant skills for the job you’re applying for, and always include examples. If you were captain of a sports team at university, how has it helped with your leadership skills? If you had a part-time job while studying, how has it taught you to manage your time? Showing you can apply your skills in real life makes all the difference to employers.

I must admit, when applying for my job, I was worried about my lack of marketing knowledge, my only real experience being a months’ work experience at a marketing agency a few years back. I knew, then, that I had to call on my writing skills to make sure my application was memorable and wrote a story about why they should hire me and what I could bring to the company in my own, humorous way.

Break the mould

Chances are, most candidates applying for the same positions will have similar, if not the same, degree to you, so you need to find a way to show employers that you offer something different. Go above and beyond – make a connection between what the company is looking for and your specific skills and accolades. Imagine yourself doing the job in question – what would you change? What would you bring to the job and the department? Very few graduates will have the confidence to attend an interview and be honest. While I’m not suggesting you go in there and criticise the company, being aware of some key issues or strengths and detailing how you’d go about fixing or highlighting them shows that you’ve put some effort in and are able to research and produce solutions to problems.

Don’t just tell your employer what you’ll bring to the role – show them. Just because you’ve not been told to prepare anything for the interview doesn’t mean you can’t. Why not come up with some short proposals, either for new products, or services, or even ways to streamline processes. If you’re not expected to prepare anything for the interview, the fact that you’ve produced some original ideas and had the initiative to present them, or even talk about them briefly, will showcase your potential impact if you were to secure the role.

Ask questions 

While it seems obvious, so many graduates come to interviews so nervous and on edge that they forget a main, and pretty important, human skill – conversation. Asking relevant and insightful questions is a great way to show how interested you are in the role and the company you’re applying to. By asking questions at the right time, you’ll be able to steer the interview into more of a conversation, which will show your communication skills and should make you more at ease. Try not to sit there in silence – often professionals don’t have long to interview candidates and, if you’re not giving them anything back, they’ll quickly forget, or dismiss, you as a viable candidate.

When I had my interview for my job, I probably spoke way too much, but I managed to get my personality across, and showed my boss that I’d be able to fit in with the rest of the staff. Interviews are designed specifically to get to know candidates, and for you to inject your own personality and skills into the questions – employers want to get to know you to find out if you’d be a good fit for the company as a whole.

Remember that recruiters are looking for students who don’t just have the technical skills to do the job, but who also have the soft skills necessary to succeed – think great communication skills, the ability to socialise with other colleagues, a positive attitude and a willingness to learn. Speak your mind, be yourself and relax – don’t act differently simply because you think that’s what the hiring manager is looking for! Remember your strongest selling point is you, show your interviewer your best self, always!

Hannah Tomaszewski works as a Digital Strategist at leading London SEO company Bigfoot Digital. She specialises in content creation and copywriting and loves sharing her knowledge and career tips with graduates who are looking for that next step up the career ladder.

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