What I know now about graduate employment*

*Disclaimer – I am only 4 months on from graduation so I definitely don’t have all the answers just yet and this is just a few things I’ve learnt on my way out of the student bubble and into the real World.

Hi everyone, I’m Sophie, I’m new to the Careers Service and this is my first attempt at a blog post. I say attempt because the only writing I’m used to is essays, so I hope I’m not too waffly!

Throughout my 3rd year and after graduation I applied to a big variety of jobs from corporate graduate schemes to small agencies and I found the whole experience quite overwhelming. I never quite felt like I knew what I was doing. Since landing my first job (a 12 month internship as a Marketing Assistant) I have begun to understand graduate recruitment a lot more and want to share a few of these things with you.

I should point out that I want to go into advertising so my advice may be slightly skewed towards the communications industry but I think it is relevant for everyone newly navigating the job market.

The biggest realisation I’ve had:
Graduate schemes are not the only way into graduate employment
(This is where my skew towards communications may come in as I realise that for some disciplines like finance, grad schemes are often the most common way in).

I’m sure you have heard this before and it seems like quite basic advice, but when I was told this in 3rd year by friends a lot more savvy than myself, I didn’t really listen. I wasn’t sure how else to get a job and it seemed like the route everyone was taking.

Grad schemes can offer great fast paced training for the right people but they are not the only answer.

There was a great article a few weeks ago about working for small companies which can be a great way of getting experience and figuring out if the job you thought you liked the sound of is actually for you. There is no one perfect way to get a job with a smaller company and I’m sure you’ve heard it before – look for internships, work experience and smaller roles as a way in the door.

Don’t feel pressure to find ‘the one’ perfect job straight away, you’ll learn valuable skills in all roles and learn what you like and don’t along the way. Contacting companies who are not officially advertising positions can also lead to great opportunities.  Have a look around for advice on making speculative applications, here’s a Guardian article to get you started:

Build your personal ‘brand’
Really think about what you’re good at, and, as cheesy as it sounds – your unique selling point.

I know this idea fills me with dread and it’s very easy to think you are just like every other job seeker, but a unique selling point doesn’t have to be that you single-handedly restored world peace over a summer; it can be as simple as a strong personality trait that you think is really relevant for the job.  There are a lot of articles out there on this topic and although you may think it is more important for students going into more ‘quirky’ industries, it’s a good way to show you know yourself and have invested time in thinking about why you’re right for a job.

Develop your commercial awareness
No matter where you apply you will need knowledge of the industry the company operates in. This doesn’t mean you need to know the company’s share price on the exact minute you walk into an interview (well, maybe for some roles) but it does mean understanding the main things happening in your chosen industry.

So for example, if I were to go for an advertising role I would be aware of any big campaign releases (such as John Lewis’s new Christmas advert) because this could be a conversation starting point. There are all sorts of publications out there that can give you specific info; I won’t insult your intelligence with a guide to googling but here are a few examples:

By brushing up on your commercial insight you’ll feel more prepared, appear genuinely interested and it gives you confidence in your ability to do the job.

Don’t panic and keep going
And finally the biggest piece of advice I could give you is don’t listen to all the people and news articles saying there are no jobs for grads, there are! It may just require a bit of strategising to find the right one for you…

2 responses to “What I know now about graduate employment*”

  1. Hey Sophie – great first post! You’re absolutely right about graduate schemes not being the only way into employment. They’re just one way which some students and employers find easy/ convenient, but there are plenty of other routes.

    Developing self-awareness is pretty darned important, and if I could offer one little piece of advice it would be to spend a bit of time on that. Prospective employers need to believe that you know (and understand) yourself – your limitations, your capabilities, your likes and dislikes, your motivations etc.

    Good advice in the final paragraph, too. There are certainly jobs for graduates, but I think it is well worth being selective. Take time to make decent applications to the ones you really want. The “spray and pray” approach to applications doesn’t work.

    And finally – I don’t think you needed the disclaimer at the start of your post! None of us has all the answers and since you’re living through it right now, you are probably better qualified than most.

  2. Great post! Building your personal brand is definitely an important point. When an employer recieves hundreds of graduate CVs, you need to make sure yours sticks out from the pack. And NOT with huge colourful font and a massive photo of yourself, be clever and creative!

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