Applications / Interviews / Job market / Work experience

A few career FAQs…

I’ve decided to take the path of least resistance with this post and tackle some common career questions and pervasive career myths. Just think of it as a meta blog post!

Do I need a CV?

Good question, to which the answer is ‘maybe’. In some sectors: banking, law, consultancy you will need a CV (and cover letter) but don’t assume this is always the case. Curriculum vitae  concept in word tag cloud I can see why students like to focus on the CV: it feels tangible and concrete, but sometimes the benefits are illusory. Some students come to appointments waving a CV, but when asked whether they need one simply reply in the negative or with a shrug. Check the application procedures beforehand; time is limited, and you don’t want to waste it. It is useful to have a CV but many graduate recruiters use online application forms, or sometimes both.

Spend some time drafting answers to competency based questions; it will pay dividends later on. Even if you do find the application mode is CV/cover letter then you’ve given yourself a head start at the interview stage. Never underestimate the time and energy it takes to ‘illustrate and substantiate’ your examples on a form, or at interview. Compiling a CV is painless by comparison!

Do I need relevant work experience?

It can certainly help, but it’s not the holy grail of graduate job success. I spoke to a number of graduate recruiters at the Impact Fair recently (from finance, retail, education, energy and engineering sectors) and not one of them isolated relevant experience as an essential.  They recognise that demand for work placements and internships outstrips supply and many students’ search for relevant experience will end in disappointment.

Recruiters appreciate a range of experiences and confer real value on student participation in societies, volunteering, project work and entrepreneurial activity, so don’t assume it’s game over without an internship. If you can’t get relevant work experience, then keep your sector knowledge up to date by reading professional news, following companies or key individuals on Twitter or LinkedIn and arranging to shadow someone at work.

Ultimately you will succeed because you have a broad range of skills, a can do attitude and a strong work ethic.

How many jobs should I apply for?

Quality generally trumps quantity, so keep this in mind when you start the application process.  It takes times, energy and effort to produce a polished application. Firing off hundreds of generic applications will make you feel proactive, but it won’t yield the desired result. Employers have a low tolerance threshold for boring, generic applications so the likely outcome is rejection. That said, if the sum total of your job search efforts is hovering in single digits, you’re probably not trying hard enough.

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There isn’t a quantifiable number that will guarantee success, and you do need to balance your job search activity with all your other commitments (there are only 24 hours in a day!) so strive for the Goldilocks zone, and get it just right.

Why is there nothing for humanities (etc) students?

There is, but you also have to accept the nature of the graduate job market and the Warwick student population. The big corporates have big budgets and big quotas which equals high campus visibility. Throw the significant numbers of Warwick students who do choose to work in these areas and it’s a perfect recipe or perfect storm, depending on your point of view. We go to some effort to develop niche events for students (check our our ‘job sector‘ events for starters), but we’re also mindful of job market realities.  In non-commercial sectors there are fewer vacancies and many organisations including NGOs, charities, museums and galleries simply don’t have the resources to plough into campus recruitment activities. Part of demonstrating your suitability for these careers is developing the resourcefulness and tenacity required to succeed. And that means finding opportunities beyond the domain of the careers service or milkround.com.

In some ways big grad schemes offer the path of least resistance: you don’t have to work hard to unearth opportunities. By choosing to bypass these schemes your career path may be less linear, but no less rewarding.

Do I need to network to get a job?

Many people get the chills at the very thought of networking, drawing associations with corporate schmoozing and shameless brown nosing. And I’m sure there are still shades of this – you probably don’t have to look too far to find a Gekko-inspired clone (for those old enough to remember Wall Street!) in the workplace, but the reality for most of us is rather different.

The advent of social networking has forced us to reconsider what it means to connect and engage, and also given a more elastic meaning to the term ‘networking’. Whether consciously or otherwise you’ll be ‘networking’ every day, so just see your job search activities as an extension of this.  Talking to recruiters at the careers fair – networking. Connecting with alumni following a departmental talk – networking. Following companies on Twitter – networking.

At this stage in your career, the chance of leveraging your network to secure a job is pretty remote. Headhunting and internal referrals favour established candidates, not entry level grads. But, extending your network will give you access to information, advice and useful contacts. Everything you need to succeed in your job search.

This is just a canter through some of the common career questions. I’ve got plenty more up my sleeve, but I’d love to hear what you think. Why not tweet us @WarwickCareers.

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