If you’re graduating next month (well done!), chances are you’ve been sending off job applications left, right and centre. If you’re lucky, you’ll have had a couple of interviews and maybe even been offered a job. But unfortunately employers only have a finite number of positions to fill, which inevitably means that some candidates will be disappointed.
This time last year I’d just finished my degree and couldn’t tell you how many jobs I’d applied for. By the time of my graduation ceremony in mid-July I’d had five interviews and was only offered one of those jobs (my current Marketing role here in The Careers Service).
When it feels like you’re just firing off CVs into the void and not getting the responses that you’d hoped for, it can be tough to stay motivated and keep persevering. However it’s important to keep in mind all of the skills you’ve gained from your degree and all of the things on your CV – whether that’s part-time jobs, work experience, internships, volunteering, society membership, etc. – and remind yourself that these make you unique, interesting and, ultimately, employable.
In January of my final year I applied for my absolute dream job: a really exciting graduate scheme with The Engine Group, a huge marketing agency whose clients include Coca Cola, Disney, Sky, Santander, Unilever and Warburtons (the Muppets and Giant Crumpets advert? That was Engine). I got through the first stage – a CV, cover letter and application form – and was excited to face the second stage – a creative brief that required you to creatively present part of your CV. But this was where the dream ended. I was rejected after my creative piece and never made it through to the third stage – an interview.
Three months into my current job in The Careers Service, I met with Engine again at one of our October Careers Fairs. Putting my bitterness aside, I approached their representatives and explained how I had applied and missed out last year. The reps were great and gave me some really constructive feedback on how I could do better if I applied again.
So I did.
I applied for the 2016 scheme and this time – with their feedback in mind and the experience from my current marketing job under my belt – I made it through all four stages of the recruitment process (including a gruelling 10am-6pm assessment centre in London) and was offered a place on the scheme to start in September 2016.
Although it had been hard to take at the time, the fact I had been unsuccessful in my first attempt made it even sweeter when I was offered the job on my second go. The truth was that I hadn’t been ready for the graduate scheme when I first applied, but after a year of working in a professional environment I was more confident in myself, my strengths and what I had to offer Engine.
Sometimes rejection can be a sign that it wasn’t the right job or company for you. You can sense this yourself during interviews when you hear more about the position on offer and ask your questions about the company and the role. Other times rejection means you’re not quite ready yet – it’s a push to go away and get more experience and try again, as with myself and Engine. Persevere and you will find something that will help you get to where you want to be.
- Do your wider research – Alongside researching the company and the role, read up on the sector or industry the job or company operates in. Know what this line of work involves. Be aware of current news, issues and recent trends.
- Tailor your CVs and cover letters – Don’t just send off fifty of the same applications. Recruiters will see right through it. Take the extra time to target your CVs and cover letters to the specific job and company you’re applying to, and in doing so show your enthusiasm for this opportunity in particular. Find out more about CVs and cover letters.
- Be clear on why you want this job or want to work for this company – Review the skills required on the job description and emphasise your development and enjoyment of these skills. Consider what it is about this company that makes you want to work for them. How are they different to their competitors? What work have they done recently that you have really appreciated?
Interviews – Learn from your previous interviews. Self-reflection is tough, but really ask yourself what you could have done better. Request feedback from the interviewers for the jobs you didn’t get and use this going forward. Make sure you’re asking good questions at the end of (and, where appropriate, during) the interview to show your enthusiasm for the job and company. Ask about the company’s future plans, their thoughts on current industry trends, what the best and the most challenging things are about the job, and what it really involves day-to-day. If you’re stuck, Google some. Get help with preparing for interviews here.
- Persevere – Don’t give up! If job hunting is getting you down, you’re not alone. Talk through your concerns with friends, peers, family, and us! Find us in The Atrium (1st floor, University Place) every weekday 10am-4pm during the summer, or if you’re away from Manchester you can contact us by phone, email, live chat and even Skype.
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