The first year or two after you leave college to enter the working world can potentially be the best years of your life, as you make your first major shift in your day-to-day lifestyle since you left secondary school a number of years before. However, sometimes the dream doesn’t always pan out as you hoped it would. It can often be hard to find a job and even those who do get one, discover quickly that it's not going to be something for the long-term.
Having now worked with over 2000+ graduates, we've talked with quite a few of them and noticed the same challenges coming up time and time again as they manage the transition from university to the working world. With that in mind, we've covered the most common ones we've come across and offered some simple tips on how to overcome them:
1. Unrealistic expectations ⭐
Great, you have a degree! But so do a lot of the other candidates, not only in your class but at colleges right across the country and around the world. Some initial obstacles graduates can face are a lack of experience in the field, a lack of connections and of other relevant experience that could be potentially applicable to your job search.
Hopefully, you don’t face all three and, on the bright side, if you’re only facing one of the obstacles, it’s likely that you won’t be too long in finding a job. Nice one. However, it’s still not realistic to imagine that you’ll land your dream job right out of college or be running a multinational in three years unless your second name is Collison. These things do, occasionally, happen — but they are the exception, not the rule. More often than not, you’re going into an entry-level job as you are an entry-level candidate.
If you know what industry you want to work in, start looking at entry-level roles in that industry and how you can tailor your skillset to what the day-to-day of the job entails. A simple example is the sales industry. If you’re looking to pursue a career in tech sales specifically, you should be looking at Sales/Business Development Representative roles posted on LinkedIn and Indeed (or wherever you search for jobs) so you can identify what the key skills are for that role and put a plan in place for acquiring them.
I'm all for chasing your dream but be aware that when you get into your perfect role/industry, you need to manage your expectations. You’re likely at or towards the lower end of the organisation. If you do good work in that role, you may land an elevated position and start to progress your career, but this is typically a much longer timeline than what many graduates expect. Patience is required.
2. Not enough experience ⏱️
So you found your industry and have applied for a few jobs but then you get this back. It’s an absolute classic and something we’ve likely all heard of one point or another in our professional career. You put a lot of work into applying for a certain role and then get the age-old response.
We’re looking for someone with a bit more experience.
Often employers prefer candidates with even a little bit of experience in their industry. Despite graduating with a degree knowing a lot about your chosen industry, real-world experience makes you more attractive to employers.
To gain some real-world experience, you should try to find an internship during one of the summers during college, if it’s not already built-in as part of your course. Still on the fence? It might be worthwhile reading one of our previous blogs, how a summer internship can accelerate your career.
If it’s too late to get an internship, reach out to lecturers you got on with over the years to see if they know of any companies looking for recent graduates. A glowing recommendation from them might catch the right person’s ear at the right time and before you know it, BOOM! You landed your first interview.
3. Poor Interview Skills 📞
So, you have enough relevant experience to get an interview but unfortunately, this is another area that university often does not prepare you for. Many students graduate believing that if they have the degree, the skills, and the drive, they’re good to go.
The reality is that the interview process is extremely important. The interviewers assess not only whether you’re a cultural fit, i.e if they think you’re sound or not, they’re also assessing your competency and whether they think you can do the day-to-day role. The process can sometimes be tough going.
A strong application based on your CV & LinkedIn will get you in the door but from the time you walk through it and into the room until you send a follow-up email, you’re being judged. It’s a difficult pill to swallow as one wrong answer may potentially mean you miss out on a great opportunity.
First thing’s first, I just want to clarify that I genuinely believe what’s for you won’t pass you. You will miss out on an opportunity because of a bombed interview at some point in your career and you’ll be disappointed but if you stick at it and do good work, you’ll get there at some point.
When it comes to interviewing, practice makes progress. If you have a friend, relative or family friend in the field you want to work in who you can practice with, take advantage of the opportunity. We have a number of resources on this blog that we think are a great starting point which I've listed below, however, don't be afraid to check out some other resources elsewhere to ensure you've covered every base.
- How to prepare for your next interview
- How to prepare for a remote interview
- 5 interview tips that will help you get the job
- How to answer the most common interview questions
- Should you ask questions at the end of the interview?
- How to answer behavioural interview questions
- Answering the 5 most common "culture fit" interview questions
- How to write a great thank you email after an interview
Graduating from college is a great accomplishment and you should be proud of having done it! But as with any life transition, it comes with its fair share of challenges. Are there any others you would add to the list? Have you experienced any of these challenges and if so, how did you handle them? To learn more about what we can help you with when transitioning from college to company, reach out to the Gradguide team, we’d be happy to help!