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The Prime of Your Life

Advice, Diversity, General advice, Job hunting October 17, 2011

The Prime of Your Life

A family, a few more years on the clock and friends in high places, mature graduates have so much to offer that other graduates don’t.

The challenge every graduate faces starting their career straight out of university is convincing an employer that they’re better than the competition. There are a few recognised hurdles; ‘is your degree relevant?’, ‘did you get at least a 2:1?’, but really it’s down to how well you can sell yourself. As a mature graduate, the same is true. But that’s not a bad thing.

Trying to convince a future employer that you’re a committed candidate to the company before you’ve joined, that you’re passionate about a particular job or even that you’ll be the most interesting person in the office is difficult. Eventually, you have to draw on your life experiences. And if those cover a period even twice as long as that of the other graduates then you’ve got that much more chance of finding the perfect argument to support your case.

You’ve got mixed-age experience

"Mature graduates tend to bring greater life experience with them," says Magdalen Attwater, careers adviser at the Careers Group University of London. This life experience is going to include working alongside people of their own age, but will also take in the years recently spent studying alongside, and maybe even being taught by, people younger than yourself.

This experience brings with it "a consequent ability to understand and work effectively with a wide range of people," says Magdalen. That ability doesn’t just lend itself to good office relationships, it suggest you’ll be better at networking, more empathetic with clients and generally have the communication skills that employers want.

You’ve got more work experience

Even if it’s in an unrelated field, having a few solid years of work experience to draw on means you have some concrete examples to back up anything you say in an interview or on a cover letter.

A lot of the skills employers are looking for are transferable. There are very few jobs where a good eye for detail, perseverance and team work won’t be seen as good things. So draw on past experiences heavily, it won’t make you sound old, it’ll make you sound experienced and that’s a good thing in an employer’s book.

You’ve got obligations

Having a family is often something which separates even the 30 year old graduate from the 21 year old. It’s understandable to think that the job offers are going to go to those without other responsibilities, who can work late at the office and who can put the company first.

But the point here is responsibilities. Pointing out you have some, and particularly that you were able to juggle them with studying for a degree, can show an employer that you’re able to manage your time and still produce results.

"The very fact that a mature graduate has chosen to go to University later in life clearly indicates their ability to be flexible when challenged by new circumstances," says Magdalen. That flexibility hints at everything from problem solving skills to sheer hard work, so take the opportunity to tell the employer what it meant for you and how it will be useful in your work.

You’ve got everything you need

The only real difference between a mature graduate and any other graduate is the age. As with anything when job hunting, this can be a powerful part of your arsenal or the lord of all let-downs, it’s all down to what you do with it.
Walking into an interview with an apology is going to give the impression that you have something to apologise for. On the other hand, selling the fact that you’re a mature graduate as something that sets you aside from all over graduates is likely to make the interviewer really listen to what you’ve got to say. From then, it’s all up to you.

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