Putting your signature under your degree and throwing your graduation hat in the air is an amazing feeling, years of hard work paid off, you graduated. As much as this is an amazing feeling it is also a bit daunting. The moment it starts to sink in that you graduated comes with the question; what’s next? It is the start of a new chapter and you have no idea what to do. You’re so used to the student life and entering the real world brings a lot more responsibilities and pressure with it. As happy as you were in the weeks after graduating, the unavoidable question always followed;
So, what are you doing with your life?
Don’t panic! Now is the time to get organised, get focused and get busy.
Of course, work might not be your first target. There are other options such as traveling or studying for a Postgraduate degree. But if your career is on your mind, what should your first steps be and how can you meet the challenges of the graduate job market?
Step one: starting your job search
There are many different ways to find a job, just to name a few; job boards, recruitment agencies, applying directly and LinkedIn. We would recommend using a mix of platforms to increase your chances of finding a job. As it will most likely be your first active job search after graduation and you are all new to the working world, making use of a recruitment agency is a good idea. Recruiters can talk you through the process and help you prepare for job interviews.
Very few people get the first job they applied or interviewed for, so you need to be patient and have a thick skin. (Find out more how to deal with rejection here). It’s important to learn from every interview that you do. Learn from the experience of interviewing.
Focus on the jobs you are interested in, match your skills and degree. Firing off applications in all directions will do more bad than good. By looking for work in fields and industries in which you don’t have experience, you’re more likely to get rejections. By narrowing your search, you can focus your energy on the jobs you really want.
Once you mapped out potential companies you would like to work for you need a killer CV (Find networking CV writing tips here). Set up a LinkedIn account or make sure your profile is up to date and that it is clear you are looking for a job. Many graduates don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet, so if you need any help setting up a profile, we have written out the basic tips which you can read back here.
So, you have written a good CV, set up a strong LinkedIn profile, then the one thing that is still missing is a strong cover letter. Yes, they can be a hassle to write but they are important. A cover letter gives you the opportunity to express your interest for the job and explain your CV and Experience into more detail. (Find cover letter writing tips here).
Then there is social media. While you are job hunting make sure all your social media profiles are set to private. You don’t want your future boss to see those drunk party photos from last weekend. It has happened several times that people got rejected for a job because the hiring manager had a little sneak peek into their social media profiles and then decided the person wasn’t the right fit for the job. Google yourself to see if there is anything about you on the web that should not be on there. Yes, employers really do check!
Expectations vs. reality
You worked hard to get your degree and you expect a decent starters salary. Unfortunately, the reality is a little different. As if it isn’t already hard enough to find your first job, graduate salaries aren’t always what you hope for either. Salary is many times based on experience and companies almost always ask for experience. You just graduated so the only experience you might have in the real working industry is mostly your placement year. Our advice would be to not aim too high with your first salary. Experience at this point is more important, as experience will make you go up on the salary ladder quickly. Of course, don’t just take any job as the job still has to fit your expectations and skills but it is important to keep in mind that your salary will grow together with your experience.
Employers don’t expect that graduates arrive at the job knowing how to do the job straight away but they want to see willingness to learn, passion and enthusiasm. These three are key qualities you need to get across during the interviewing process. Think about the reasons why you really want the role you’re applying for, and what you could offer that someone else can’t.
Stay up to date
When you are interviewing it is important to keep up to date with the news of the industry you are interviewing for. A common understanding of the industry you’ll be working in is vital. In between applying for roles and preparing for interviews take the time to consume national and international news. It is quite common for employers to ask industry or news related questions during an interview.