Business and Finance

Tips on how to kickstart your graduate career

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With graduate unemployment still high, it’s important to get ahead of the game when it comes to the job market. Here’s some advice on how you can prepare for your future at university.

1. Aim high
The graduate unemployment statistics may be worrying, and with 19% increase in job applications, competition is stiff. The demand for the best and brightest talent is, however, getting stronger and there will be a predicted 6% increase in graduate salaries at leading employers this year with 6% more vacancies out there.
2. Know your limitations
Also consider the restrictions of the job market. Some feel they should step into an office on their first day and feel instantly that this is the perfect job which ticks all the boxes. Unfortunately, that is quite rare.
There will always be some tough trade-offs and choices to be made; it will be your responsibility to react accordingly. It can be hard to know if something is right or not. Decide what your priorities are – to earn as much money as possible, get relevant experience to get you to your next job, or simply to enjoy your work as much as possible. Once you know what you want out of a job, you’ll know if it’s ticking the boxes. If you are finding something highly unsatisfying for over a month, however, it’s probably not the job for you, and it may be time to move on.

3. Get to know yourself
Create a personality profile and be brutally honest with yourself. When you first begin applying for roles, you shouldn’t be applying for a role because it is expected of you, you should be doing so because that role excites you.
Do you like meeting new people (maybe sales), crunching data (financial analysis) or solving problems (management consultancy)? School, university and part-time work provide ideal situations where you can find out more about what you enjoy doing, and what you don’t. Armed with this information, you will be in a better position to know what career you would like to pursue.
4. Understand the importance of internships and work experience
With 36% of graduate roles being filled by people who have previously worked in that organisation – with figures as high as 75% in the banking sector – the importance of spring weeks, insight days and vacation schemes cannot be stressed enough. Remember, all internships, at all times, are job interviews.
5. All experience is good experience
How do you know for sure that banking is for if you if you have never tried it? How do you know that start-ups won’t provide the best environment for career development when you only focus on corporate juggernauts? Understanding the value of experience, no matter how small, will stand you in good stead. Plus, it shows future recruiters you’re thinking about your career (remember to put these experiences on your CV).
6.Recognise the type of job you want
A lot of graduates get hung-up on the sector (eg finance) rather than the role (eg account manager), not realising that most organisations need a similar teams of people – people to win business, conduct research, write software etc. Another common misconception is that you will be pigeon-holed by your degree. As long as you can demonstrate transferable skills, future employers are more likely to take notice.
7. Network, network, network
Remember the six of degrees of separation idea? Use this to your advantage. Career networking has taken off over the last couple of years: recruiters will be running events on campus; most sectors will have professional bodies that run networking events, such as these by the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and there is Bright Festival on 17 September. Be broad with your networking to begin with – it’s all about keeping your options open and you never what useful contact you might meet.
8. Recognise the skills you gain from experience
A summer spent waitressing at corporate events may not be enjoyable, but it will provide you with any number of competencies – organisation, leadership and the ability to keep a cool-head in a potentially stressful environment. The more you develop these skills the less of a risk you are to recruiter – they know you can do what you’ll be doing in your new job, rather than you just saying you can.
9. Ask for help from your parents, but don’t let them do it for you
It’s great if you’ve got very supportive parents – use them to help your self-awareness and give you insights. But you need to drive things and make things happen for yourself – it’s your career and you’re the one that will have to sit through a job interview/assessment centre. There is nothing more likely to turn a recruiter off than being called by a parent inquiring with their child’s application (it happens).
10. Be as prepared as you can for the unexpected
Attend mock interviews (often provided by your university career service), think about interview techniques like STAR, practice online assessment tests and get your CV presentation sorted (remember, no more than one page). Draft a list of answers to possible questions with key examples that demonstrate all your transferable skills. Also, make a list of questions to ask employers – don’t go with just one as they might answer that during the interview.
It’s likely you’ll experience some setbacks and disappointments on the way but remaining positive and striving to improve every step of the way will only make you stronger.

Submitted by Thomas Kyeyune

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