Our recent blogs have looked at the experience of recent graduates in the labour market and how they have secured their roles since graduating. This month we have decided to look at graduate job search from the perspective of one of our Careers Consultants as Paul Sheppard shares his experience and offers the following tips and pointers about being proactive in securing your next role.
I need direction
Many students and graduates feel a pressure to have their careers planned out years in advance. Life doesn’t usually work out to plan and the previous blogs show people make effective career decisions at different stages of their life and change tack but if you are struggling the Prospects website is a great starting point and has a couple of career planning quizzes to help you generate ideas and it’s always worth looking at their ‘what can I do with my degree’ pages as a starting point. My colleagues Fiona Christie and Eileen Cunningham have written an excellent ’21 day to Career Success for graduates’ programme that offers advice and practical activities to anyone looking for some inspiration. We would strongly recommend you combine any online research with a conversation with one of our Careers Consultants (and yes, unfortunately, we do work over the summer!)
Rip it up and start again
We often see graduates who have made numerous applications without much or any success. One successful early career graduate I spoke to recently has just secured a fantastic job with the civil service but only received one interview and one job offer out of 32 applications made around the time of graduating. A lack of success in the labour market can be because the industry you wish to enter is very competitive but it can also be partly down to shortcomings in application techniques and candidates prioritising quantity over quality in their applications. CVs need to combine style and content and ‘show not tell’ in terms of evidence and achievements. Often students will simply update an old school or college CV when a total overhaul might work better. Cover letters as well as CVs need to be targeted to the role and evidence the relevant skills, knowledge and experience required. Too often candidates fail to demonstrate in-depth research into the organisation they have applied to. Similarly online applications require time and effort if they are to be of a high standard and, where appropriate, should use techniques such as STAR to help structure answers and examples (and if you don’t know what STAR is you should take the time to find out!).
I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
Generally speaking when I ask graduates who have been struggling to find suitable roles where they have been looking they will often reel off the usual suspects: Indeed, GraduateJobs, Reed etc. This is the equivalent of shopping in a huge supermarket rather than a delicatessen. The university’s online jobs portal Advantage is a good starting point and in addition to looking on company websites job-seekers can sign up to sector specific jobs boards and websites that will do some of the work for you by alerting you to vacancies based on your preferences. https://jobs.theguardian.com/ and https://www.jobs.ac.uk/ are good examples of websites that can do some of the work for you if you set up profiles and email alerts. Over recent years networking and finding jobs through personal contacts remain popular techniques and recruitment agencies now account for a higher % of graduates finding their first role and a good recruitment consultant can match you to a suitable role and organisation. Again your university Careers and Enterprise team can help with any of this if you need signposting.
I’ll sail this ship alone
Self-employment and freelancing now account for approximately 5% of first graduate destinations nationally. Obviously this is an option that requires hard work and research but our Enterprise colleagues https://www.salford.ac.uk/askus/work-and-careers/enterprise specialise in advice for those thinking of setting up on their own and offer a range of workshops, Business Boot Camps and masterclasses to help with topics such as blogging, networking, pitching and effective use of social media. Talking of which….
Bigmouth strikes again
There is increasing evidence of employees ending up in avoidable trouble due to comments made on social media so it’s important to be aware of one’s online presence across all platforms. However, networking can be incredibly useful for job search but too many students and graduates have a LinkedIn account that they make little use of. If you fall into this category feel free to book an appointment or attend one of our workshops to learn how to see what others who have studied your course have gone on to do, join groups and network effectively to make the most of the platform. If you feel you already have a reasonable profile come and see us so we can review it for you. Join Twitter lists as well as following people and organisations of interest. You don’t need to have a Twitter account to look at a company’s feed when researching roles and looking at Instagram accounts can be useful ahead of an interview, especially if you are looking at a sector such as marketing.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
There are a whole host of ways in which an employer might interview candidates these days. Don’t make the mistake of under-preparing for a telephone interview or thinking an ‘informal chat’ will involve reminiscing over Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat and its role in England’s first world cup penalty shoot-out win. Increasingly employers are using video and Skype interviews at the earlier stages of the process and there are plenty of tips available online through various websites and https://www.graduatejobpodcast.com/ has some excellent guests sharing tips on a range of career related topics. Similarly you can seek support for assessment centres and taking psychometric tests and if you feel you could benefit from a mock interview you can book one via firstname.lastname@example.org by providing your availability and details of the role.
The best things in life are free
Some graduates are surprised to know Careers and Enterprise staff are available to throughout the summer and beyond and it tends to be easier getting an appointment at this time of year. Not only are we available all year round but our graduates can access our services free of charge for life so if you need support with anything career related please feel to make an appointment to see us or use our wide range of online resources https://www.salford.ac.uk/askus/work-and-careers. We have not even touched on the importance of geographical mobility, opportunities for postgraduate study or issues facing international students looking for graduate work. The overview provided here is a starting point and in the same way that you should tailor each application we would recommend personalised advice for your situation so please come and see us sooner rather than later….