Job market

So, you’ve graduated: What’s next….?

Well, graduation is nearly here (didn’t that time go quickly?) and soon you’ll be waving goodbye to Warwick. Some of you will have graduate jobs and mortarboards_skyinternships lined up, and will be enjoying your last few days – maybe weeks – of freedom (& late mornings) before the realities of as life as a working professional kick in. But don’t worry if you haven’t got your foot on the first rung of the career ladder. There is still plenty of time and lots you can do to progress your job search and put yourself in a strong position.

Don’t panic yourself into (in)action

When anxiety and worry builds – “this is too big, I’ll never get a job, it’s too competitive….arrgh” some of us find ourselves in the grip of panic and inertia. And end up doing nothing.  Others act impulsively and dive in, saying ‘yes’ to the first thing that comes up. If you can, try to steer a course somewhere between the two.  You can’t move forward in a vacuum, so you need to do something – just make sure you invest time productively. Here’s how:

  • Get your CV up to scratch. It’s easy to bury your head in the sand, particularly if you’re worried the sum total of the last 3 or 4 years might seem a little underwhelming on paper. But finding out where the gaps are is the first step to addressing – and overcoming – them. 
  • Develop your online profile or presence. Start with LinkedIn – if you haven’t already. Make the mental transition from student to professional, graduate job seeker. Don’t worry if it’s content-lite to start with: remember you’re just starting out.
  • Set yourself some realistic and manageable goals. Arrange an informational interview or make contact with industry professionals on LinkedIn. Assess your current position and then decide your plan of action. Are you ready to enter the (graduate) job market now, or do you need a little more time to develop your skills and get experience?

Don’t dwell on the negatives

Nothing sells like bad news and when it comes to the graduate job market, the media has been wallowing in a gloomfest since 2007!  Last week this was the headline: graduate vacancies at a 5 year high whereas today we’re reading this: fall in graduate vacancies. I suspect the truth falls somewhere in between with expansion in some sectors – IT, engineering, retail & consultancy – and contraction in others, e.g. finance.  But it’s worth remembering that the employers surveyed represent a small slice of the overall graduate  job market , so try to look beyond the headlines.  Also, consider the following:

  • Yes, you may have missed the boat for many 2013 grad schemes, but you can now take a little more time to consider your options and plan your application strategy.
  • Yes, applicant to vacancy ratios are eye wateringly high for some sectors – the average according to High Fliers research is 46 – but remember this: a good % of those will screen themselves out at the initial stage by sending weak applications. You don’t need to be a statistic. Just follow a few simple rules.
  • Yes, you might have applied for jobs and been rejected but this doesn’t mean you’re doomed to failure.  It doesn’t have to be a self-fulfilling prophecy!  If your application or interview strategy failed last time – change it. We’re here to help, so you don’t have to struggle alone.
  • Be open minded – look beyond the big graduate recruiters. You can find some really challenging, exciting roles with local SMEs and the recruitment process is often less protracted so you could go from application to start date within a week or 2!

Manage your jobs feeds

And if you haven’t created any, now’s the time to start.  This can really save time and allow you to keep track of opportunities and impending deadlines. Just don’t sign up for everything – many of them will cover similar territory and you don’t want to clog up your phone/inbox with duplicate info.

  • Start with myAdvantage. Reply to the automated email and follow the steps to convert your student account to a graduate one. If you want to receive targeted news about graduate jobs, work experience and internships you need to tick the relevant box in the my preferences section
  • Make use of established job portals like Milkround and TARGETjobs. They’ve got a wide reach and cover all the major sectors. If you’re still hoping to secure a graduate job this summer (and it *is* still possible), then you can check their forthcoming deadlines to see what’s available.
  • Are you following the right people and companies on Twitter and Facebook? Utilise career/jobs hashtags to help manage your search and use TwitJobSearch to look for vacancies.

Develop your commercial awareness

Yes, I can hear that collective groan as I type. This is rarely a popular theme with grads, but believe me you’ll need to overcome your distaste. Graduate employers – across all sectors – consistently cite commercial awareness in their list of ‘must have’ skills. You won’t be able to fabricate this knowledge or understanding at the interview stage, so take some time now to get up to speed. Here’s how:

  • Practical experience is best. Internships, work placements and volunteering can all expose you to the commercial realities of running a business or organisation. Even part-time jobs can generate useful experience –  you can learn a surprising amount from retail and bar work, so if you find yourself in a ‘filler job’ for a while, make the most of it.
  • Read a quality newspaper online and keep up to date with the topical financial news. Even a broad contextual understanding can help. But for more specific, sector based content make the most of Google alerts and RSS feeds. 
  • Get to grips with Stephanomics! No, not a new branch of economic theory, but the fairly readable blog of BBC Economics Editor, Stephanie Flanders. 

Grow your network

Now is  the time to make the most of all the contacts you made at university… and seek out new ones.  Networking is a dynamic, not passive networking activity and it doesn’t happen by osmosis. You have to put some effort in. Try to dispel that mental image of networking as schmoozing over lunch and brown-nosing the movers and shakers. As fans of the Apprentice will know, this strategy tends to backfire – spectacularly! Think of networking as making connections, forming relationships and gathering information – all of which can really enhance your career prospects. Grow your network by:

  • Joining relevant Warwick alumni groups on LinkedIn. Start with Ask Warwick Alumni –  a great way to connect, share and communicate.
  • Fully exploiting LinkedIn. Start researching companies and people and then identify a wish list of individuals you’d like to connect with.  See if there’s anyone in your primary network (1st connections) who could introduce you.
  • Using Twitter as a professional tool, not just a social one. Identify key people and influencers, find out what they’re saying and join the conversation.
  • Talking to people! You might just create your own career serendipity through an unexpected or chance encounter  with someone. After all, it often boils down to who you know and how they can help….

And if all that seems just a little too much, then why not start off by talking to us. We’re open all summer and Warwick graduates have free access to careers services for 3 years post-graduation. Don’t worry if you’re not local – just phone or Skype!

3 thoughts on “So, you’ve graduated: What’s next….?

  1. Good job Helen, useful article. Everyone knows that starting your career having no experience is very hard. I have been through this situation when I finished my studies. I searched for a job a long time and I didn’t find anything. It was very dissapointing for me to search a job without any results. Then I decided to ask for help. I found on the net this company CareerChoiceGPS which helped me find not only a job but also one that matched my skills. Now I’m well, found a job that I like and everything is perfect.

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