A lot of interesting things happened in May 2016. Leicester City won the Premier League at 5000-1 odds, Sadiq Khan became the first ever Muslim mayor of a major Western city, and I turned 21 years old. It was a pretty good month, if you ask me.
May 2016 was also the month that I’d never felt more stressed. The end of my degree was right around the corner, and I had absolutely no idea what life post-university had in store. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted to do; in fact, I had a lot of ideas – probably too many to decide from! So, as lots of final year students find themselves doing, I started scouring jobs board online and firing off applications to any job that looked interesting and that I might be good at, without really thinking too much about the job or why I was applying. Pro-tip, folks – this is not a good strategy.
When the inevitable rejections came back, it was hard not to feel knocked back by it. Wow, was the real world really this ruthless? If they just gave me a chance, then I could show them just how perfect I am for the job and how they couldn’t find a better candidate! I’m sure I know everything there is to know about [insert job area here]! That’s how I felt, anyway.
Looking back, I’ve realised just how misguided I was coming up to the end of my degree. Since graduating, I’ve been working as a Student Communications Intern at The University of Manchester Careers Service, and to say that I’ve learnt a lot in the nine months I’ve been here is possibly the understatement of the year.
If I could go back and talk to myself a year ago, while I wasn’t really sure what the future held for me, there’d definitely be a few things I’d say. So in anticipation of our Grad Fair next week, and rather than hanging around until time machines are knocking about, I’ll share them here. I’ve also asked a few other recent graduates to share their experiences of entering the graduate job market, partly to give you some more useful advice, and also to give myself a dash of reassurance that I wasn’t the only one that had no idea what I was doing…
REJECTION ISN’T A REASON TO PANIC
This is easier said than done, but you don’t need to panic or stress about what the future holds for you. It’s really easy in your final year to see your friends getting on to graduate schemes or landing jobs and postgrad places, and to then immediately freak out at the thought that you’re not doing enough yourself. It’s important to remember that you’re only seeing other people’s successes – your friends probably aren’t jumping at the opportunity to shout on Facebook about how they just got a rejection email through! So don’t worry, rejection is common and is just another part of the graduate job hunt that you’ll have to expect.
Similarly, you should know that there’s no need to settle for any job. Once you get a few rejections through, it’s easy to think that you just have to settle for anything that comes along – this is why I think people believe that graduating can be really daunting, that you don’t really have any control over what you end up doing. This couldn’t be more untrue! There are thousands of opportunities out there, and it takes time and perseverance to find it, but the right opportunity is going to be out there for you.
Just so I know I’m not alone in thinking this, here are what some other recent grads have to say:
“All I’d say is prepare yourself as much as possible in terms of putting a few job applications out there, sending your CV out there for approval, because you’ll get feedback back from that and you can take that on board and then apply that to another application that you may have to put in, and don’t be afraid if you get knocked back at the first hurdle.” – Christopher, Criminology 2015
“Of course it’s important to apply for lots of different graduate jobs, but don’t feel like you have to accept the first offer that comes along. As a University of Manchester graduate, you’ll have skills that lots of different employers will look for.” – Anna, Music 2016
DON’T PRETEND YOU KNOW EVERYTHING
A graduate job is a learning process, and nobody will expect you – a fresh-faced, eager graduate – to know everything straight off the bat. Entry-level roles are usually treated as an opportunity for you to build up your skills and to learn what you enjoy doing, to inform what you’re going to do further down the line. Besides, once you’ve left university, your career is going to last for decades – wouldn’t it be quite boring if you’re not going to learn anything new in all those years?
“Even with working in a full-time graduate job, I still have a couple of avenues open and I’d recommend for anyone to try and broaden their horizons and skill set, and not just to have one career path they’d ideally want to go down but to keep their options open and decide what they want to do when they’re ready to.” – Christopher
YOUR FIRST JOB OUT OF UNI DOESN’T DEFINE YOU
This is a big one, and is something that I think every final year should have ingrained into them. It’s incredibly rare to find people that end up in their dream job straight out of university. Usually, graduates will take a slightly meandering path through a few different roles first, where they’re able to build up their skills and their contacts before moving into something they’re truly passionate about.
“I think the most important thing to think about is that you don’t need to find your perfect job straight out of university. What’s more important is that you find something that fits your skill sets, and allows you to develop as a person. Don’t forget that you’re only just about to complete your degree and you’re not going to set out your entire working life from this point onwards.” – Anna
“I would say you definitely don’t need to worry about finding your dream job for the rest of your career, I think when you come out of university it’s about finding what you enjoy doing, and what’s going to give you the skills and experience that you can use in anything you choose to do in future life, and you never know what it’s going to lead to in the future.” – Helen, Geography 2016
Next week, we’re hosting The Grad Fair, which is the perfect opportunity for you to throw yourself into the graduate job hunt, whether you’ve started looking already or not. We’re bringing over 140 exhibitors under one roof, so whether you’re looking for a graduate job, a postgraduate course or just want to explore what’s out there once you graduate, you can come and find thousands of graduate opportunities in one place. There are opportunities across all different kinds of industries, so keep an open mind and you’ll be able to meet countless employers all looking to give you the chance to learn some new skills, help their companies grow, and find the way to your ideal career.