The Calm After the Storm
After the bone-crushing pressure of the exams and the exhilarated relief of graduation, the dust is finally starting to settle upon the past academic year.
Unfortunately, the work is far from over. Many graduates are finding that competition in the working world is greater than ever, and that a decent degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee you work.
If job applications have you feeling like you’re swimming against the proverbial tide, never fear! If you’re smart, there are ways to distinguish yourself from the masses. However, there are a few things you’re going to need in order to get ahead.
Even though you’re eager to show off your newly-acquired skills in a brand new job, it’s worth noting that few people manage to secure something right away. That doesn’t mean that your perfect job isn’t out there – just that you might have to wait a little while for it.
Even if you do get accepted onto a company’s graduate scheme, be prepared for quite a lengthy application process. Many companies administer numeracy, literacy, accuracy and reasoning tests in addition to forms and CVs to ensure they find the best candidates possible.
If the idea of this makes you nervous, practice tests are available free online – why not try one and see how your skills match up?
Some students with more generalised degrees (like my own BA in English with Creative Writing) may be experiencing a sinking sensation right about now. The truth is, unless you have undertaken a specialist subject with a definite career in mind, you may find your employment casting-net is wide but full of holes. There are employers out there who will require your unique set of skills. However, to find them you may have to persevere and play the long game.
Try to provide yourself with as many reference points as possible. You could, for example, register yourself with all the graduate websites and employment agencies covering your area. Universities, too, often provide career development services and advice for their alumni, and will bend over backwards to help you find work (for if nothing else, it makes their stats look good).
LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are also great avenues to explore. The majority of companies nowadays are making the most of social media to extend both their client and employment bases, regardless of their size. There’s no reason why you can’t do the same!
Ever heard the expression ‘first impressions count’? Well, it’s never been more relevant than when establishing your career. That’s because prospective employers rely upon the candidate’s descriptions of their own abilities, and only meet face-to-face with you once they’re convinced. If executed correctly, your curriculum vitae is arguably the most powerful weapon in your arsenal – and be assured, the fight to gain employment is a battle royale.
You will have limited space available upon CVs and applications to sell yourself, so make each word count. Try to view yourself objectively: what are your strengths and most impressive achievements? What skills and experience did you gain during your time at University? Which of your personal traits compliment the role(s) you are applying for?
Bear in mind that even a potential weakness can be viewed as a strength, if it’s given the right spin. For example, an individual could be a painstaking perfectionist (a negative viewpoint), or alternatively, they could be determined, accurate and hold themselves to very high standards (a positive perspective).
Whatever industry you’re trying to break into, your potential employers will all have one thing in common: they’ll want to hire someone who’s excited about the job they’re offering! Though this may seem like common sense, many people overlook enthusiasm for the role or company entirely and focus on their professional credentials. Big mistake! No matter how well qualified you are, it’s important to let the company know that you’re genuinely interested in the role.
Try being proactive and finding out a little about how the business operates. You may find there’s more to it than meets the eye, and it never hurts to be well-informed! Having a clearer idea of how you would like to progress within the company shows forward-thinking and a genuine desire to join their fold – and when you’re asking someone to invest in your future, passion for their cause is an absolute must.
Like it or not, the time may come when you have to go back to studying of some kind to secure the job you want. Unless your degree specialises in computing, for example, you may find employers need some form of official certification as evidence of your IT skills. Though you will probably have used some (if not all) of the basic programmes you will need, you need to prove you are able to do so in a professional capacity.
This doesn’t necessarily mean months of study – many courses (particularly those covering MS Office) are free and can be completed in a matter of hours. However, this isn’t always the case, as I’ve found whilst trying to teach myself how to use Adobe Creative Suite (don’t laugh, I know I’m a little behind the times). Sometimes a little more elbow grease is what’s required… and after all the hard work you’ve already put in, what’s a little more?
This article is also available to view via http://blog.grads.co.uk