The transition from university to the working world can be incredibly difficult. There are multiple hurdles that you have to overcome but the first and potentially most difficult one is finding a job. From writing a graduate CV and cover letter to applying for jobs and impressing at the interview, we have great tips, tricks and advice for how you can land your first job straight out of university.
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1. Visit your university’s career centre
Something you might know is that your university will have a centre or department specifically dedicated to help make the process of finding a job easier. A good place to start a job search is by tapping into those resources. Take a trip to your university’s career centre and see how they can help.
Many career centres offer time with a professional career advisor. They can help discuss your options with you. If you are really struggling to figure out where or how you want to work you may be able to chat to a career counsellor. A counsellor can help you develop your CV, cover letters, prepare for interviews, and to formulate a job search plan according to your specific needs.
Most universities also have career fairs and host recruitment events. During your time at university make sure you go to these events and chat to whoever you can. That brings us to the next point.
Networking is all about making and leveraging connections to help you get what you want. An easy way to start networking is to visit the career days that your university hosts. You will have exposure to recruiters from companies that you may want to work for and even better – they are looking for graduates to hire.
The second easiest way is to get to know your lecturers. Building a relationship with your lecturers will help you in multiple ways:
- Firstly, more contact with your lecturers can mean more opportunities to ask them questions about class material, which can boost your performance on exams and assignments.
- Secondly, lecturers are often well connected to internship and job opportunities in their field of specialty. If you find yourself interested in that same field, you can ask them more about any possible positions to pursue now or in the future.
- Thirdly, over and above opening your eyes to job opportunities, they may be able to help vouch for you when you apply to a position by providing a letter of recommendation and serving as a reference.
Other ways to network while you are studying are to join clubs, do short courses, get involved with different programmes run by the university and see if there are any jobs on campus that you can do while studying. Getting involved at university can help you build not only your CV, but also friendships, and these relationships can often end up in job opportunities. You may be surprised by how these connections will play out in your career.
3. Create a LinkedIn Profile
The next step in networking is using a social network. As a student the last social media network you probably think about is LinkedIn, however, when you start working it is the social media site where you will probably spend most of your time.
When recruiters are hiring, LinkedIn is the first place they go after seeing your CV. They want to research more about you to confirm the information on your CV and to get know who they might be hiring. Managing your LinkedIn will help recruiters have a good impression of you, while also potentially introducing you to new job opportunities.
LinkedIn is a great place to search for jobs because you can see listed jobs, for which you can explore the company itself and reach out to people in those companies. It gives you far more access to potential employers than anything else and helps you engage better with them. Ultimately, increasing your likelihood of getting a new job.
4. Job Shadow (Again)
We know. You’ve done this before. However, job shadowing while wrapping up your studies could be far more valuable than any previous experiences. When you job shadowed during high school that was to help you figure out what you might want to do as a career.
While you are studying, however, it is to help you network and ultimately land a job after you have graduated. When you are still busy studying you are more likely to have the time to take a few days doing work at a company to learn more about the company and how your job role would actually look. It’s also more beneficial for the company as you may actually be able to assist and help out with the skill you’ve acquired in your studies.
You will have a new perspective on the industry thanks to your studies and will be able to use this to prepare for the working world. Job shadowing will help you figure out where you want to work and what you should look for in a future job. Giving you a better perspective while searching for work. To gain a similar experience and earn extra cash you could arrange a part-time job.
5. Get work experience while you study
One of the best things you can do for your career after university is to get a head start with work experience while you study. When you are studying there are a number of places where you can work part-time with a good number of businesses that are willing to work with part-time employees. This gives the company extra-capacity at a more affordable rate while providing a job for someone looking to gain experience.
If you start working while you are studying this will increase your chances of landing a job quickly after you graduate for a number of reasons. Firstly, you will have a better chance of getting a job at the company you have been working for. If you have a relationship with the company you have been working with, getting a full-time position may simply be a formality once you have graduated. Secondly, it will give you work experience that many of your peers don’t have. The work experience you gain while you are studying will help you stand out from fellow students that did not work while they were working. Thirdly, it should help you avoid having to do an internship once you have finished studying. Internships can be incredibly helpful, however, they can also be frustrating as some are essentially full-time jobs with a stipend as payment. If you have worked while studying you can circumvent this as you will have gained work experience, potentially qualifying for a number of full-time positions.
While you are studying this is probably the number one thing you can do to help you land a job straight out of university because you will have connections and work experience.
6. Writing your CV and cover letter
When you are looking for work you are going to need to have a great CV. You may feel that you have a lack of work experience to put on your CV, but there are ways to work around this. Here is what you can do.
Address the issue
You don’t have experience, so what? You can still be an incredibly valuable employee. When you are applying for a job the key is to be open and honest about why you don’t have experience. If you are in your early twenties and you have just graduated most employers will understand that. You need to be honest about that though.
Explain what you have been doing for the last few years focusing on why you would be a good person to work at their company. Employers do look at work experience, but character and the person they are employing is almost more important. Prove to them that they should hire you. One of the ways you can do that is by focusing on what you have.
Find experience you didn’t know you have
You can discuss extra-mural activities you have done during your studies, what you have done while studying, your personality traits, and include your qualifications. Explaining this during the job application process will help your potential employer get a better understanding of who you are and if you will fit in.
Recruiters are often intelligent and intuitive people, from what you write they should get a sense of who you are. If they like you as a person you are more likely to get a job interview, and once you are there you can further explain what value you will add to the company.
While you are able to do this, you are going to need to create a workable CV with some of what you have done. For this you will need to find experience you may not have known you had.
Find experience you didn't know you had
If you have completed a degree, you may think you have no working experience but in truth you probably do. When you are developing your CV, think about if you have done any work before. Have you worked as a waiter? Have you joined any clubs at university? Have you done any leadership? Have you tried to create your own website or business?
The truth is you probably have more experience than you think you do. You may not have experience in the exact industry you are applying to but if you have done some form of work there will be skills you have picked up that are relevant to that industry. For example if you have worked as a waiter there will be people skills or admin experience you have gained that you can apply anywhere. Employers take this into consideration. Make sure not to sell yourself short, and figure out what experience you do actually have.
7. Apply directly to companies and get to know job boards
The job search is tough. Finding an available job that is just right for you can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. To make this easier you should start by going to directly to the websites of the companies you want to work for directly. During your studies you should have gained some knowledge on the industry you are entering and potential companies you could work for. Go to the website of your favourite companies and look at their careers page to see if they have an available job. You can also email them to ask if they have anything available. Sometimes, companies will have jobs available but haven’t managed to upload to their careers page yet. A direct email will only help your chances.
During your job search there are few websites you are going to want to know. Here are some job board websites to keep an eye on:
8. Consider an internship
If you are still looking for experience and you need to gain some, you should consider an internship. Most internships are paid, but typically they will offer a stipend and not a full salary. This is one of the reasons why it is a good idea to try and work while you’re studying so you can skip the internship and go straight into a full-time position.
That being said, internships can be incredibly valuable and result in a job from the same company. If you need to gain experience and you want to learn what it is like working in a specific company this is the best way to do. Set up your CV and cover letter and apply for internships.
9. Don’t give up
Lastly, remember searching for your first job is difficult. You will apply to tons of jobs that won’t respond and you will get a lot of rejections. The key is to never give up. If you want to land your first job you will probably need to apply to a ton of available jobs. Don’t give up and keep applying.
Improve your CV and cover letter on every application, remember to tailor it to the job you are applying for. Keep optimising your applications, and don’t stop applying. Eventually, you will land a job.
If you are still studying and need help with funding while getting ready for the working world, Fundi can help!