It’s no secret that being a graduate in the current economy is hard and I can tell you that it is disheartening at times. Before graduation, I thought I had all the answers. I thought that as soon as I turned 21 and graduated, I’d immediately mature, stroll into a great job and love life from then on. How wrong was I? It’s now four years later and I’m still in my awful part-time job, still living with my parents and yet to get the job I always dreamed I’d have by now. The sad thing is that I’m not in the minority.
This is the life of a graduate during a recession, when jobs are scarce, competitive and people just don’t have the time to see what you have to offer them. Either that or there are hundreds of people out there offering what you’re offering. Graduates these days are fighting for jobs, with only half of all graduates working in the area in which they studied, but I think the more resilient you are, and determined, the more likely you are to eventually succeed. After assessing my own (slightly problematic) pathway from graduate to employed, I managed to work out where I have been going wrong and wanted to share my wisdom with those just graduating, in the hope you’ll learn from my mistakes. Here’s what I think is stopping us grads from getting that elusive interview we all crave so deeply:
1. Experience is a must!
This is by far the most important hurdle to overcome when trying to get an interview as a graduate. You already have evidence that you’re academic, so now an employer wants to see that you can apply your knowledge physically in a work environment. This is easier said than done, and it becomes a vicious circle – you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job. It seems these days that no employer wants to spend their time training somebody in a new job role and would rather pick someone who they know for certain can do the job they require with minimal effort from them, and this is what bothers me the most. Of course, from a business perspective, I understand, but this doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.
If your course offers a placement year, I urge you to do it. This will be the most valuable asset to you because it will put you further ahead than the rest of your graduating year. You will gain that experience that you need to get a foot on the career ladder before you’ve even left university. You can never have too much experience so my advice to you would be to flesh out your CV as much as you can, and volunteering is a good place to start. Volunteering is helpful because businesses have nothing to lose from letting you join them – you get experience, and they get help without having to pay you. I volunteered at my local Citizen’s Advice Bureau and found it very interesting. I gained office experience whilst meeting a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and walks of life, and I found it very helpful.
2. You are too generic
When you apply for a job, unfortunately there are going to be hundreds of applicants who are just like you. They may have your degree, your skill set and could have equal experience to you, so to an employer, they won’t care who they pick for the job because you’ll all be the same. The trick is to make yourself stand out and make sure they remember you, and cover letters are a good way to do this. A friend of mine applied for a job at Spotify and set her cover letter out as the Spotify home page and made her CV into a ‘playlist’. This got her an interview for the job because she stood out from the rest – she had already proven her creative ability and dedication, but also her desire for the job itself was evident. Your CV should be quite plain with just the essentials on, such as education, work history, courses and personal details. It is your cover letter where you can really let your true ability shine through, and this is where all your effort should be going. Another good thing to have is a portfolio of your work. Whatever industry you want to go into, a portfolio is going to help you and increase your chances of an interview because employers can then browse your work and gauge your ability and personality through it which can set you apart from others who may not think ahead enough to do this.
3. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know…
This must be the phrase I’ve heard the most in the past four years, and it seems to ring true. One word is applicable here: NETWORK. Networking is an important part of life these days and will help you out a lot in the future. Blogging is a good place to start – if you involve yourself online, and create a strong social media presence, networking is simple but beneficial. If you know someone who can get you an interview for a job, you should definitely take advantage of it. Exhaust every avenue you have because in this current job climate, there is no time for pride. Also take full advantage of what your university offers while you’re there, and even afterwards. I went to see a careers advisor at my old university who helped me rearrange and improve my CV, and also went to a day event there that covered everything from CVs to cover letters to interview tips and these things can help you immensely. I took a lot of notes that day which I can look back on at my leisure.
4. Know where to look for legitimate jobs!
There are certain job sites that are better than others at trying to find work. Agency websites are a waste of time in my opinion, as some agencies will screen your CV before sending them to employer that you’re applying to. This means that the agency will see whether your CV is worth sending to the employer and pass it on if it is, and throw it away if it isn’t. This is unfair for many reasons, but mostly because they are judging you before the actual employer gets a chance to. If you’re going to use a job agency, I would go into their offices and register in person, as this is much more useful than emailing a generic cover letter and CV to a random person who will never get back to you. The best place to apply for jobs that have a much higher chance of getting an interview is your university’s job website. They will only post genuine jobs that are always aimed towards graduates, not the general public, which is what agency jobs are aimed at. The LJMU Jobs & Placement website has been really helpful to me when looking for jobs to apply for.
5. Anxiety and lack of self worth
I’ll be the first to admit that looking for full-time employment causes anxiety, because you feel like you’re putting effort into something that will most likely come to nothing. I personally go through phases of extreme anxiety over my future and whether it will pan out the way I want it to. This is made worse by job rejection emails, which I can assure you that everyone gets, myself included, and you shouldn’t take it personally. However, after receiving such emails, you can begin to have low self esteem, and a lack of self worth because you think you’re never going to get the job you want, or you think that you’re not good enough for someone to employ you. You start to wonder how people less qualified than you can get a job and you can’t. These thoughts are natural, and your anxiety will pass. You’ll realise that you’re not just as good as you think, you’re even better. You know what you’re capable of, and no amount of rejection emails can take that away from you. Keep your chin up and believe in yourself.
I hope you found this helpful when trying to bag an interview, and if you feel like following my own grad journey, check out my blog at www.vickyfindswork.wordpress.com
Feel free to leave me a comment or any tips you may have yourself. Thanks for reading!
By Vickie Murphy