Graduating from university with the prospect of having to look for a job can be rather daunting. But if you feel you lack confidence to go out and get the job you want then you are certainly not alone.
Students are bombarded on an almost daily basis by media reports about the poor state of the economy and the lack of jobs for graduates. But this isn’t actually an accurate reflection of the current situation. Newspapers thrive on bad news and attention – grabbing headlines – preferably backed by suitably woeful statistics – which don’t always tell the whole story.
The economic crisis certainly has put a strain on the job market but actually, many graduate schemes are unaffected by the downturn. In fact, in times like these, graduate level talent becomes extremely valuable for employers and in some industries graduates are more sought after than ever. So whatever you want to do after university, your future is firmly in your hands. Whether you are thinking of working in the arts, in finance or in engineering there are things you can do to help you stand out from the crowd. Here are ten tips to show you how.
1. Use your university experience
Being involved in extracurricular activities such as sports and societies is a great way to show off some of the skills you have developed during your time at university. Be confident in the experience that you have gained and consider what skills you have as a result. If you were in a sports team, for example, you’re probably good at being part of a team. Helping to run a society, meanwhile, demonstrates good organisational and leadership skills.
2. Social media savvy
Make use of the fact that your generation has grown up with social media – you may be more familiar with it than your employers. Ensure that you use your social media presence in an effective way – by keeping an up-to-date profile and perhaps detagging your more risqué photos – and keep in mind that a lot of employers now use sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook as a recruitment tool.
3. Know your industry
Research the industry you want to break into to help you predict potential future trends. This will give you valuable knowledge about the skills that you will require and will show a prospective employer that you are forward thinking and willing to adapt.
4. Commercial awareness
Make sure you thoroughly research any organisation you are thinking of applying to; resources such as social media, newspapers and sector
specific magazines are very useful for this. Be sure to research the customer base, the competitors and what working in that industry entails. Having a strong general knowledge of the world you are likely to go into is crucial and is something a lot of employers consider when looking at who to employ.
5. Target your application
Never send off generic CVs or cover letters. Employers can spot a lazy applicant from a mile away and definitely won’t be impressed. Ensure each application is targeted specifically to the organisation or role that you are applying for. The person specification or job description can help identify which skills you will need to showcase in your application.
Networking helps you make contacts in your field and gets you noticed by people who may be able to help you in the future. It is particularly useful if you are thinking of a career in an industry such as journalism or writing as there are often collaborative projects that you may be invited to work on or be involved in. Remember that networking doesn’t have to be face to face – use social media and follow people or employers on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
7. Construct a skills audit
Make a list of every activity that you feel has given you valuable skills, whether through work experience or extracurricular activities. This is a useful way of getting an understanding of the abilities you possess and what you can offer a prospective employer. It also means that you can back up each of your skills with real world examples, saving you time when making applications and preparing for interviews.
8. Use your degree
Even if you don’t intend to pursue your degree subject beyond university, many skills and learning techniques that you used while studying are directly applicable to the working world. These skills are known as ‘transferable’ and can be anything from being good at analysing data to presenting in front of an audience.
9. Work shadowing
Shadowing someone in your desired area can give you valuable, first-hand insight into the sector and whether it is right for you or not. It is also relatively easy for an employer to set up and helps you to get your foot in the door.
10. Think outside the box
Not all jobs are advertised! Approach any contacts you might have or anyone who can point you in the right direction to see if you can help out on a project or do some work experience. Alternatively send off a CV and cover letter stating your ambition to work for the organisation and follow this up with a phone call. You can’t lose anything by trying and the organisation may remember your passion and initiative when a job does come up.
Chris O’Connor, Career advisor