That time of year is here again, and this year’s graduates-to-be are under pressure. Alongside the need to revise & complete dissertations, the growing fear of unemployment in the months to come makes this a stressful time for even the most composed of students.
What should you do?
First of all, don’t panic! Yes this is a scary time, but you’ve worked hard to make it this far in your studies. How many students dropped out in their first and second years? You’ve stuck it out, and that already shows you’re made of better stuff than the drop outs. You’ve got something to show for the past 3 years meaning no employment gap, (even better if you worked within those three years, more so if the work was associated with the work you now seek)and you have an air of intelligence.
- The first thing you should do is read job adverts. Find adverts for jobs similar to those you imagine you would apply for, and look at the requirements. How suitable do you feel you would be for this role? Could you rework your current CV to better suit an advert like this? See our ‘Anatomy of a job advert’ here.
- Rework that CV. If you’ve not touched it since pre-uni, or worse – you’ve never had a CV- then you’re going to have a lot of work to do. Add on the time spent/experience + qualifications gained at university, plus any work experience or placements, important modules or extra-curricular activities you deem relevant. More on CV’s here
- You should prepare a covering letter – perhaps the most underrated application tool. So many job applications consist of simply a job title and a CV, and whilst this is most likely due to the setup of the employer’s website, you should strive to send them across as a pair when possible. (Is there a contact email on the website you could send this to?) Your cover letter should be used as your introduction – who are you? Why are you sending your CV? Why are you applying for this job in particular? You can use your covering letter as a way to humanise your application. More here
- You should be aware of the setup of the company you’re applying to work in. Do you know what it would be like to work there? Do you know about things such as working hours, typical pay, extra commitments, working conditions etc?
- You should research the industry the business works within. For example, with Recruitment, do you know anything about the process, how recruitment works, who is involved, what kinds of people you would likely to be dealing with and what kind of tasks would you be likely to undertake?
When it comes to applying for the roles you’ve chosen, make sure that you really do pay attention to the details. Read the job description carefully, pay attention to the duties and requirements described. Address these details in either your cover letter or CV – either by listing similar duties under previous jobs held, demonstrating experience of similar tasks at university etc.
Be mindful of the small details in your cover letter, as they could make the recruiter feel you haven’t fully paid attention to the advert, and therefore aren’t as competent as they would expect from a graduate. An absolute must is spelling & grammar, followed by correct names (of business and recipient).
Don’t forget the small to medium companies (SME’s). Whilst you may hit a salary ceiling much earlier in your career, you may experience better working conditions, with perks such as knowing everyone in the company, a bigger sense of worth (and therefore achievement when something is done right!) and responsibility – allowing you to grow much faster than if you were low on the chain of command within a big company.
Whilst awaiting the call
If you’ve not heard back from any of your applications by the time your exams end, it is important that you do not let your unemployment gap grow too much. A short while is ok, but the longer the gap gets, the harder you’ll find your situation. Consider temporary work to fill in the gaps. This shows great work ethic, and a good attitude. It can even lead to permanent work or other opportunities, so it is definitely not something to turn your nose up at!
Whilst unemployed, you will have plenty of time to add to your portfolio. Whilst this may not be an option for every career path, some will greatly benefit from a pool of work you can draw upon to demonstate your skill to an employer. For example, if you’re in the field of marketing, you could begin a blog, which will improve writing skills, demonstate your capabilities and give you experience of this type of work. If you’re in the field of engineering, could you draw up a design or engineer prototypes? Demonstrate your capabilities to the fullest extent possible, showing knowledge and passion.
If you’re not in the position to be building a portfolio, consider learning a new skill in your spare time. A new language could open doors for your career, as could learning how to use new software or researching your chosen industry.
If you’ve made a large amount of applications, or you’ve been out of work for a long time, consider changing your strategy. Perhaps your CV isn’t working for your industry, perhaps there are better composed applicants out there. Perhaps you don’t know enough about the industry or you don’t have enough experience. You should definitely request feedback from any companies which have rejected your application, as this should help you address the issues which are preventing your employment. Failing this, read your own CV and ask “would I hire myself?” Aim to impress yourself.
Lastly, good luck!