Graduating from college or university and transitioning into the working world is one of the most significant moments of your life – and everyone handles it differently. Some of the more proactive people who had a clearer idea of the career that they want to pursue have had a job sorted for quite some time now and are moving straight into full-time work. Others who either weren't as sure what they wanted to do or missed the boat on graduate programmes are now facing the possibility of spending weeks or months searching for a graduate or entry-level role.
For those in that situation, the process of looking for a job can be quite challenging. Even with all the online resources available, many grads lack familiarity with the basics of job searching or know how to sell themselves to employers when they don't have much work experience. Thankfully, we're here to help. In this article, we’ll cover some of the best strategies for finding a job for recent graduates, including advice on:
- Managing your expectations
- Investing time into your CV
- Building a network
- Cleaning up your online image
1. Manage your expectations
Unless you are extremely lucky, it's unlikely you'll find your perfect job straight out of college. For the vast majority of people, this is largely down to the fact they have no idea what their perfect job actually is. That's not to say that you shouldn’t do everything you can to land your perfect job. However, it's important to remember that there are thousands of other recent grads out there applying for them too. You may subsequently find that there are limited opportunities on offer with your preferred company or in your ideal role. If that's the case, it's important to be flexible and be open to other opportunities that vary slightly from your dream job.
For example, you may want a Sales Development Representative position within a tech company but they're not currently hiring for that role. However, they are hiring for Customer Support roles. With these two roles in particular, there are many transferable skills that mean if you start off in a support role and prove your abilities, you could then potentially make the leap to a sales role. This career path is becoming increasingly common, as wonderfully demonstrated by Gradguide's own Dave Martin below.
2. Investing time into your CV
It seems obvious but before your start your job search, you should ensure that you have an up-to-date CV to send to companies. As a recent grad, if you’re serious about landing a great job, your CV should look the part. The Word document you created when you were on a J1 and applying for jobs en-masse unfortunately just won't cut it anymore.
Even when people update their CVs, a common but crucial mistake we often see is when they use the same one over and over again for every job they apply for. From talking to recruiters at partner companies, we've found that one of the fundamental elements of creating an eye-catching CV is to build it with the requirements of the job description in mind.
With that in mind, the best approach is to create an initial version that you can adapt to fit the different positions you will be applying for. To ensure you're not a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, each time you want to apply for a job you can make minor adjustments based on what the company is looking for. We've already written pretty extensively on CV writing best practices which you can take a look at below.
- How to write a graduate CV
- How to make your CV stand out from the crowd
- 3 simple steps to build your sales CV
3. Building a network
It's vital for every graduate to try to harness the power of networking, as often an introduction or referral can help you get a leg-up in the application process for highly-competitive jobs. Unfortunately, many grads often don't know where to begin.
As a starting point, you should try and research the companies or positions that interest you, and then map out a networking path that will lead you to that job. By proactively connecting with employers, you give yourself the chance to establish a relationship with people who can help you get to where you want to go.
Admittedly, it can be intimidating to reach out to strangers so it might help to start off by identifying people you already know who work in the industry that interests you. While they might not necessarily be recruiters or hiring managers, they may be well-positioned to offer you advice or insights on their career and may work in or have contacts at some of your target companies.
Once you've identified these people, the next step is to get their attention. We would suggest putting together a simple message introducing yourself, explaining that you are getting started in your career and would like to learn more about the industry or role that they're in and finish off by asking for 15 minutes of their time. It could look something like this:
Hi [their name],
My name is [your name], and I’m a recent [your course] graduate from [your college]. I have recently started looking for a job and would love to learn more about [their industry] from your perspective given the experience you have working at [their company].
If it suits, it would be great to have a 15 minute to chat on Zoom or on here to get some insights into “do’s” and “don’ts” as I try and break into [their industry].
Please let me know if you’re free over the next week or two to discuss. I’d really appreciate the opportunity!
Should they say yes, the next step is to schedule what's known as an “informational interview.” As the name suggests, this chat isn’t about asking directly for a job, it’s about getting information that isn't readily available online and could help lead you to job opportunities. They are ideally carried out on a call at a time that is convenient for them, although messages back and forth over chat will suffice if that’s all they can do. Remember, their time is valuable.
On that point, it's important to be smart with the small amount of time you have so be sure to have questions ready that give you a real insight into what it’s like to work in that industry, including which skills and traits are highly sought-after.
Depending how the conversation goes, it may lead to talking about potential job opportunities. However, don’t force it. If the conversation hasn't quite gone in that direction, a nice and subtle way to finish the interview is to ask “As someone looking to get started in the [industry name], is there anyone else you think I would benefit from speaking to?”
At this point, they may point you in the direction of other people that you can have further informational interviews with, or they may offer to refer you directly to someone who makes hiring decisions at one of your target companies.
Regardless of the outcome, you will be left with plenty of insights into how you might improve your attractiveness as a job candidate and you will have a network of people who will keep you in mind for jobs that come up within their company or industry.
If you're looking to go a little bit deeper on this, we've written a blog post before on 4 simple steps you can take to grow your network.
4. Cleaning up your online image
The last thing going through many graduate’s minds when they tag themselves in a Facebook photo or give a strongly-worded opinion about an issue on Twitter is that it could cost them a job in the future. However, according to a 2018 survey, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process with almost 1 in 5 employers admitting to having turned down a candidate for a job because of their online activity.
The reality of the modern world is that now you're looking for a job, you need to look and play the part. That means being conscious of the image that you present of yourself online. Social media can be a powerful tool to use as part of your job search, with LinkedIn in particular being a fantastic platform to try and build out your network, but it can also be your downfall. Before you start applying for roles, it's crucial to do a full audit of all of your online profiles and review your privacy settings so you know what potential employers might see if they search your name.