With thousands of students about to complete their university courses in only a couple of months’ time, the graduate jobs market will again become saturated with people scrabbling to take that first step on the career ladder. It’s an extremely competitive environment where the average graduate could spend up to six months searching before finally securing a full time job. That’s a long time when you have loans to pay off.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to ensure that this isn’t your experience – just don’t tell everybody! Here, with advice from Jamie Wall – Consultant and graduate recruitment specialist – are six ways to succeed in the graduate jobs market:
1) Get started early
One of the best ways to increase your prospects is to get in there before everyone else. Being proactive and starting your search early is key for finding some of the choicest graduate vacancies. We’re not just talking a couple of months, mind; start making plans as you hit your final year. Talk to careers advisors, refine your CV and start making your presence felt online – i.e. follow your preferred employers, read industry blogs and contribute to forums. You could make some powerful contacts via LinkedIn, so if you don’t have an account on the professional networking site, do so now.
To raise your chances further, register with graduate recruitment agencies. Not only will the consultants be able to give you advice on your CV, and help you find short-term temporary placements in the holidays, but they’ll have access to some of the best roles before they hit all the other jobs boards – so you’ll be well ahead of the pack.
2) Stand out from the crowd – but not too obviously
Numerous studies have revealed that employers will spend just six seconds reviewing a CV before deciding whether or not to progress the application. Six seconds. That’s practically the same amount of time as it takes to yawn. Obviously, yours needs to stand out, so give the reader a reason to keep reading.
Before you start panicking about creating a video application or creating some incredible mock web advert, rest assured that the traditional CV is still effective and acceptable. It goes without saying that spelling, grammar and presentation are important, but so is the content. Go through the job advert /description to identify exactly what the employer is looking for in the ideal candidate – then emphasise how you have those essential qualities. Put these at the top so that they can be clearly seen. Do stick to two pages and add more detail in your cover letter or on LinkedIn.
Jamie says: “A short, simple and precise CV is easy to understand and grabs a recruiter’s attention. Make sure you include dates, job titles and companies. If you want to jazz it up a bit, include a picture or unusual format.”
3) Make use of social media
We’ve alluded to this already, but given that 94 per cent of recruiters check social media sites during the hiring process, it makes sense that you use this free tool to your best advantage. LinkedIn is the go-to website for recruiters, who access it to find more information on a candidate to strengthen their application. As such, you should make sure your profile is not a copy of your CV. Instead, obtain testimonials from past employers, colleagues and lecturers; talk in more detail about the things you’ve done; maybe even explain why you chose the degree subject you did. It’s your chance to show your personality.
Twitter’s another great tool and equally viewed by recruiters. With that in mind, try to keep your tweets sensible and update your bio with your career aspirations so you can be found in any searches. Do take part in online discussions, too – that shows the recruiter you have a genuine interest. As far as Facebook goes, ensure that your privacy is locked down so that those personal and incriminating photos from Sunny Beach won’t stand in your way of getting that graduate marketing job!
Jamie says: “Linked in and Twitter are great tools to find candidates, especially graduates, so make sure you have a professional Twitter account and your linked in is up to date.”
4) Don’t panic about your results
For many years, there’s been almost a kind of snobbery about exam results. Anything lower than a 2:1 and you might as well forget it. While specific businesses may specify a certain level for entry on their graduate schemes, the majority of graduate employers really only care that a) you completed the course and can therefore organise yourself and b) you have other skills to offer.
Don’t panic if you don’t get the grade you wanted, it’s more than likely you possess attributes that are more valuable to the business. Take heart in the fact that, for a while now, employers have been placing more importance on work experience and extra curricular activities than whether you achieved four A*s and a First.
Jamie says: “Although a 2:1 does look good on a CV, don’t get too hung up about the result. Relevant work experience can show just as much determination.”
5) Develop a thick skin
The fact of the matter is that applying for a graduate job will be a long and hard task. The only real way to survive it is to develop a thick skin and be resilient. There will be times when you spend three days on an application only for it not to be so much as acknowledged by the employer. Doubtless, you will be rejected a few times and the process can be really disheartening.
While it’s probably the singularly worst cliché in the job hunting book, it is all good experience. You will learn from your knock-backs, you will gain confidence at interviews and eventually, you will get that job. Accept from the outset that it’s going to be a tough slog that requires commitment, determination, persistence and the ability to quickly bounce back, but don’t ever let that stop you. It’s easy to let a rejection put you off your game, but don’t indulge it; instead learn as much as you can from the situation. Ask your graduate recruitment consultant for feedback and use this insider information to make your next application all the more impressive. You might even want to consider widening your job search to other roles to raise your chances even more.
6) Do something else
Eh? Something else instead of applying for a job? Well, not entirely. To become an even more attractive prospect than you clearly already are, why not take up a new activity that can further enhance your CV? Volunteering naturally looks wonderful on any application and it’s also a great way to develop some new skills.
Alternatively, you could do some freelance work or do a short course – why not brush up your French or learn basic coding? It all adds those strings to your bow. Travelling is another fine way to spend your time, demonstrating to employers that you have ‘get-up-and-go’ – even better if you spend your time working at an orphanage or building a school, etc.
Here’s one last piece of good news: the BBC has reported that graduate recruitment prospects in the UK are at ‘an all time high’, so there are roles available. Bearing our advice in mind could really make a difference, too. Good luck!
Jamie’s top three tips for graduate job hunters:
- Don’t be too selective when looking for your first role – be open minded and try and see the bigger picture
- Make sure your CV and social media accounts are well presented and impressive to employers
- Do your interview prep!