8 top tips to help graduates gain employment after university

For many students, leaving university can be a very difficult time. After spending the best part of 15 years in education, moving into the working world can be a daunting experience but it doesn’t need to be…

“Preparation and forward planning is essential for any student who wants to make the best start to their graduate career,” explains Crystal Evans from graduate recruitment scheme GO Wales.

work (photo by will_hybrid)

work (photo by will_hybrid)

And I’ve got eight tips from GO Wales on getting into the world of work. Crystal says that by implementing a few simple essentials it will, “put you in a much better position when confronting the competitive job market after graduation”.

I’ve added my own comments below each tip to help you even further along the way.

Eight top tips to help secure employment after university

1. Get out there

Work experience is crucial when applying for jobs because it shows a non-academic interest in your industry sector. Being in the working environment that you strive to succeed in allows you to see what it’s really like. Many graduate jobs go to those who have completed relevant sector specific work experience.

[Martin’s note: You can even ‘get out there’ as you stay on campus… Jobs are often available within uni or your students’ union that can get you useful experience.]

2. Know what you’re doing

Taking an active interest in your career sector will help you stand out as knowledgeable and enthusiastic at the interview stage. Graduate jobs go beyond the skills you learn at university, so a thorough understanding of your industry will help you come across as keen, as well as dedicated.

[Martin’s note: To show your growing understanding, get blogging about the industry and build a portfolio of content that you can refer to at any time with ease. When you know your stuff, it’s valuable to show what you know!]

3. Keep your CV fresh

Your CV is like the window display inside a shop – it brings people in. A good CV must look professional and needs to be well tailored to the job that you’re applying for. Make sure your CV is up-to-date, demonstrates the skills and experience you can bring to a company, is accurate and spell checked.

[Martin’s note: Use LinkedIn so you can keep a living CV online. When you need to update, just add the new information. That way, you’re visible and you don’t have to start each CV from scratch. Job applications need tailoring, but that doesn’t mean you have to write a new CV every time. Also, LinkedIn lets you connect and network, as well as give and receive recommendations. Bonus!]

4. Go and get involved

Taking part in extracurricular activities will help you stand out from the rest. Participating in clubs, socials and sports at university will build your confidence and teach you team building skills that will ultimately impress an employer.

[Martin’s note: Just don’t get involved in too many societies and clubs. Aim for a managable amount that you can do really well, rather than loads of different activities that you hardly engage with.]

5. Network with others

Social networking sites present excellent opportunities for securing a graduate job; enabling you to communicate directly with people who work in the industries you’re interested in.  Following the appropriate professionals on social media sites like Twitter and Linkedin will help you to network in your industry; talk to professionals via social networks and don’t be afraid to seek advice from them.

[Martin’s note: Online networking is a big deal right now, and it’s easier than ever. Also, take your social shine to the next level and meet up with your online contacts. Attend seminars, conferences, and tweetups (put simply, meet with people you follow on Twitter!). Join industry groups online and check out what events they’re holding near you. Face to face encounters can be more memorable and more rewarding than online alone.]

6. Fail to prepare: prepare to fail

Turning up to an interview unprepared will waste all the work you’ve put in to getting to that stage.  Research the company beforehand to demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of what they do. Make sure you look professional and remain confident throughout.

[Martin’s note: Even after you have prepared, don’t be scared of failure. Every interview is an experience. You may have prepared extensively and still get thrown a curveball when you’re there. Far from knocking your confidence, let each failure boost you up for success further down the line. See the next tip for more on this…]

7. Don’t give up

Finding the perfect job takes time and a lot of effort. The graduate job market is very competitive and only 50 per cent of students find work in their preferred industry straight after university. Staying positive and realising that every failure has taught you something new will help you progress.  Finding relevant part-time work or volunteering will keep your industry knowledge up-to-date and you will also learn new skills along the way.

[Martin’s note: It’s also important to start early. Build up your strengths (both new and old) and tailor yourself as soon as you can. Don’t wait until you graduate!]

8. Use your resources

GO Wales works to help students and graduates secure work placements and quality work experience opportunities. Work Placements not only give you the chance to develop your knowledge and skills in a real work environment; you will also be paid a minimum of £250 per week. 65 per cent of their graduates secure long-term employment as a result of work placement schemes.

[Martin’s note: While GO Wales is aimed at students in Wales or graduates who are looking to develop their career in Wales, don’t stop if you’re not in that neck of the woods. Seek out other services either in your area or nationally. A good place to start is with your own uni careers services. Don’t be shy; they exist for you to make the most of them.]

Now go back to the first point. Time to get out there and be awesome!

20/20 – Day 16: 20 networking nuggets

You need other people.  Nobody succeeds alone.

Engagement is crucial in everything we do.  On your own, in a dark room, it wouldn’t take long before you came to a stop because you needed skills that you didn’t have.  From learning how to do it yourself, to finding someone who will do it for you, other people need you and you need other people.

How do you make contact with these people and begin a relationship?  It’s not that difficult.  Below, I list 20 top tips toward mastering networking.

  1. Don’t judge, remain open.  Opinions only seek to close off opportunities.
  2. You won’t know unless you try.  Don’t be afraid to make the first move.  Waiting for people to come to you doesn’t work.
  3. What have you got to lose? You won’t lose anything if you reach a dead end, yet you’ll gain so much if you find an in.  Your choice.
  4. Do it all year round.  Quiet moments can yield huge gains.  Busy times bring everyone out.  There is no specific networking season unless you count ‘always’ as a period of time.
  5. If networking with a specific purpose, prepare beforehand.  General networking is pretty open once you have a basic set of openers and ideas.  For more specialised pitches or a focus on targetted individuals, you need to have a plan.
  6. Don’t think of your contacts as useful, see them as people.
  7. Introduce other people to the conversation.  Have you ever heard that you should act like the host at events, even if you’re not the host?  I’ve used this trick a couple times before.  Not only will you be memorable (for the right reasons), but you network by bringing others together to network too.  When this technique works, it works incredibly well.
  8. Focus on the person, don’t let your attention slip.  I think of it as paying ‘Bill Clinton attention’.  When Clinton communicates with people, it seems as if his entire attention has turned to that one person.  It’s like he switches off the world around him, but not to the point where he’s just staring in an uncomfortable manner.  While I haven’t spoken to Clinton personally, I’m pretty sure if I did he would come across this way.
  9. Help others. Be useful.  Just take Twitter as an example. One of the best things about Twitter is when people help others by offering recommended links, answering people’s questions, and putting in a good word for others.
  10. Keep tabs and remain on track even when an association naturally ends.  Unless you don’t like the person and you’ve totally moved on from that line of work/life, there’s no point in burning bridges.
  11. Don’t expect from others without trying to make an impact yourself.
  12. By all means find as many people to network with as you want, but focus on the quality of the contacts rather than the number you’ve collected.
  13. Don’t expect the world. It’s not like you’re owed a favour. Asking isn’t ordering.  If you’re turned down, accept it.
  14. Don’t expect instant results. Networking takes time.  That person you’ve known since you were 6…who’d have thought they would be the perfect contact now you’re 34?
  15. Be kind.  People like to be complimented and like to know you care.  Don’t be false, but do be appreciative and thankful when you can.
  16. Talk about the weather. We’re human.  We don’t talk shop all day.  Smalltalk is not just reasonable, it’s required.
  17. Show an interest in others.  An interest…not an obsession.
  18. Go gently.  A pushy attitude won’t get you far.  You’re building a network, not recruiting soldiers.
  19. Change with the times.  It’s easier than ever to network.  You have access to millions of wonderful minds via an Internet connection.  You don’t need to leave the house. But wherever you are and whatever platform you use, be prepared to go where the people are.  They don’t come to you, you go to them!
  20. You are the key…Not your tools, not your business card, not the money spent, not the gifts you lavish upon them, not anything else.  YOU are the key.
Title image: original by tiffa130 (cc)  /  Bottom image: Lumaxart (cc)