Graduate Job Search Tips
If you are in your last year of university, well done! You made it through all the lectures, exams, papers, and projects. Now it's time to start your graduate job search and enter the working world.
You may have noticed things look a bit, er, different than how you envisioned them a few years ago. Don't panic if you're struggling to find a job after university. Yes, the world is a different place, but it's still full of opportunity. You just need a clear understanding of how to get a graduate job. We can help with that.
Follow this plan to stay positive and proactive about searching for graduate jobs today.
Your Graduate Job Search Guide
1. Identify Your Strengths and Interests
It's okay if you still don't know what jobs to pursue after graduation. This lull is a good time to reflect on the skills you've accumulated from past work experience, jobs, extracurricular activities, and classes.
Even if you haven't held relevant summer jobs or part-time jobs, you have more marketable skills than you think. Consider what you learned from activities like being on the entertainment committee of your student union, sports team, or other clubs on campus. Think about the skills you have developed during your studies. Typing an essay and getting it in on time? That's research, computer literacy, and effective time management. See what we mean?
Get started by taking out a piece of paper or creating a spreadsheet, and make three columns:
- Things you're good at, such as communicating, using numbers, or organising.
- Things you enjoy doing, like working with children or creative problem-solving.
- Things that are important to you in a job. Maybe that's a flexible schedule, opportunities to advance, or a good salary.
These lists will help give you an idea of the career path you should pursue and the types of jobs that will help you get started. The point is that you will likely be happier and more successful if you are doing a job that plays to your strengths and where you find meaning, so give it some serious thought.
2. Broaden Your Graduate Job Search
Here's a common complaint: Your ideal companies might not have openings that match your skills and experience level. Don't panic. Few people get their ideal jobs right out of uni; in fact, many don't even end up working in the field of their degree.
Plenty of folks dream about working as a software developer at Google or as a fashion designer at Gucci, but nobody starts at the top. Remember: it's a process to get where you ultimately want to be.
Stay open-minded about your graduate job search and apply to entry-level jobs that will teach you the transferable skills you'll need in the future—even if they might not be at your favourite companies or even in the industry for which you studied. You'll then be able to pivot and apply your newly acquired skills to appealing jobs in high-demand industries like logistics, education, healthcare, and technology companies.
3. Don't Limit Your Locations
It can be hard to plan your next move once you leave uni. The important thing is not to limit yourself when you're trying to find graduate jobs, either by title or location. Expand your search further by looking for contract jobs and part-time jobs in your current location, as well as full-time and long-term roles in the places where you'd like to be.
Lots of companies are working remotely, so you could start a role in Birmingham even though you are currently in Dundee. Explain in your cover letter if you're open to relocating, should that be a requirement. Even if you are hired to work remotely, accept that there'll probably be some occasional travel to a physical office for training, meetings, or corporate events.
4. Customise Your CV for Your Graduate Job Search
On average, your CV has just a few seconds to stand out, so you need to be able to sell yourself. Highlighting your experience and qualifications in a clear and concise way is critical in order to proceed to the next stage of your graduate job search.
Don't use the same generic CV for every job you apply to. Make the effort to tailor your CV to suit the requirements of each particular job. It's a time-consuming process, but it can greatly increase your chances of securing an interview.
Start by incorporating the right keywords into your CV so that it passes an initial review process. Certain companies use what's called an applicant tracking system (ATS) to screen CVs for relevant keywords. Find these keywords by looking at the language used in the job posting (example: "experience with commercial software development"; "extensive customer service experience"; "basic understanding of schematics and diagrams") and repeating it in your CV.
Another way to stand out is with a compelling three- or four-sentence personal statement at the top of your CV, which can be a challenge especially when it's your first graduate job search. A common mistake is regurgitating what's on your CV. Instead, write about experiences that illustrate your strengths so you present yourself as a solution to the company's problems and tell a story about the value you would bring to them.
Not sure what to say about yourself? Check out some personal statement examples and writing tips.
Formatting also plays a factor. While your CV may contain the necessary keywords, if you have a complex design (i.e., you use a fancy font, or a complicated graphic layout), it may prevent the document from translating to the HR person's computer or smartphone. Your CV needs to remain clutter-free and easy to read. For helpful examples, try our free CV templates.
5. Get Your Cover Letter Ready
With the amount of competition out there for each individual job, one way to stand apart from the crowd is by including a supporting cover letter with your CV.
While your CV will precisely list out your selling points, your cover letter will help make each area come to life and give you enough real estate to sell yourself.
Know the employer. Research the company, learn about their culture and business needs, and speak directly to those needs. This will help show your willingness to learn and pro-active attitude even before the first interview.
Be passionate. This is where you get to really talk about how your volunteer work/extra-curricular activities are directly relevant to the job in question and will help bridge the experience gap.
Understand what the role requires. Show a clear understanding of the role and how your real-life examples position you as the ideal candidate.
If you're still not feeling too confident about starting up your own cover letter, try one of our free cover letter examples to help you along.
6. Make Yourself More Marketable
Do you know how people say to dress for the job you want, not the job you have? Use this time to work toward the job you want. Even though you're about to graduate from university, you may not have all the relevant skills needed for jobs in your field. In that case, take classes and certification programs to keep ahead of the competition. You might find having taken an additional free online course—for example in common software—will give you the edge over other graduates with the same degree.
Another way to stand out during your graduate job search is to start a passion project like a blog, newsletter, or writing a business plan for a company. Be creative. Show off your work on social media, your own website, and other platforms.
For example, if you want to work in finance, start a website where you share financial advice for new grads like tips for creating a budgeting plan and saving money. If you want to work in the fitness industry, start a blog, host virtual workouts online, and share tips for staying active.
7. Clean Up Your Social Media
You can read all the tips for how to secure a job, but they won't do you any good if your social media pages are disastrous, or even a bit embarrassing.
See, employers do Google candidates and will check your social media profiles. So make sure to review your profiles thoroughly and untag any unwanted photos to help ensure companies are impressed by what they see.
Want to do yourself a favour? Post timely articles that show you are engaged with current affairs or the industry you're applying to work in. If they're confident you're in control of your personal brand, they're more likely to trust you with theirs. Take a look at this video on how to manage your online reputation for more information.
8. Tell Your Network About Your Graduate Job Search
When you're figuring out how to get a graduate job, know that you're not alone. Many people will be eager to help you during every step of your graduate job search. Ask friends, family, alumni, and past co-workers for email intros to hiring managers if they work at one of the companies you are applying to or know someone who does.
Additionally, reach out to your college or uni career centre and make a phone or video appointment with a counsellor. Attend any virtual workshops and classes that they host. Some schools host virtual alumni events and meetups, so add those to your calendar to connect with people who could be helpful. Ask if any older alumni are willing to be mentors; if not, suggest it to the careers office as this can bring valuable real-world experience and advice.
If you've had part-time or summer jobs and internships, or work experience placements, ask your former colleagues and bosses if there are any openings at their companies. They're more likely to hire you than the competition because they know your skills and work ethic. Even if they aren't hiring, they can be references for your other applications. Since they're in the industry, they may hear of additional jobs through their network, and they can recommend you.
9. Apply to Graduate Schemes
Graduate schemes are extended training programs to bring top-scoring graduates into the workplace, they can last one or more years, and have attractive salaries. Research graduate schemes in your target industries. Places can fill up fast, and the earlier you apply the better. The selection process can be lengthy, with most jobs starting in November or December following graduation.
10. Prepare for Video Job Interviews
It is normal to be nervous about a job interview, but remember that the company already thinks you're qualified; otherwise, they wouldn't have called you.
The best thing you can do to decrease your nerves and impress the hiring manager is to prepare. Draft smart answers to common interview questions by writing down bullet point answers for each. You'll feel more confident knowing what to expect and how you'll respond.
Don't forget that companies are counting on you to come up with impressive questions to ask at the end of the interview. For ideas, try the following:
- review their website
- check to see if they're mentioned in recent news
- read their blog posts and press releases
- look at their social media accounts
The "About" and "Careers" pages of their websites are often helpful sources to learn how the team defines what they do, the mission and values of the organisation, and the company culture.
11. Set Realistic Expectations
Now that you have a good idea of how to get a job when you graduate, you must remember that it takes time for your career to come together, and you likely won't find the perfect job straight out of uni. You don't have to settle for a job that you know isn't a good fit for you, but you also don't want to rush to reject an opportunity that just isn't 100% perfect.
Think of your first job as a steppingstone that gets you closer to your ideal job. You'll gain new skills, build your network, and learn more about what you like and dislike in a role and company. (Plus, you'll earn a pay-check.) And don't let any knockbacks dent your confidence.
Have a Successful Graduate Job Search
Yes, trying to find graduate jobs can be tough, but if you follow these key tips, you'll be better prepared for what lies ahead. Could you use some more help? Monster is here with excellent career advice, job search tips, and much more—free. We can guide you on writing your first CV, preparing for a tough job interview, negotiating a good salary, and much more.
Portions of this article were adapted from one originally published in the US by Elana Lyn Gross, a journalist and the author of "What Next?: Your Five-Year Plan for Life after College."