Graduate Job-Seekers Guide

  | James Innes

From Fresher to Graduate

A degree course can zoom by at lightning speed, what with the whirlwind of societies, student union events, yet another beer promotion and ... oh yes, all those lectures, seminars, essays and final exams. As the final year comes to a close, after having spent several years honing your knowledge and meeting other like-minded people, it is time to step out into the world and launch your own career.


It can be a good idea to consider the direction you would like your career to take from the beginning of your degree course. Of course your plans and aspirations might change as you move through your course, but if you are aware of your ultimate goal from the outset, you should have far more opportunity to make sure you have acquired the skills your potential employers demand. This will also enable you to take more time when considering your career path, rather than being swept up into the frenetic rush for jobs as graduates emerge into the jobs market after their finals. It can also be a good idea to find out the application procedures of the companies/organisations well in advance of your finals to make sure you do not miss their application deadlines.

Work Experience and Internships

Some companies may well require industry specific experience in the workplace, in addition to your academic qualifications, and, with a little planning ahead, the potential of those long summer holidays could be maximised if you were to take up relevant work experience or internships. Contact employers in the fields you are considering early on in your course to find out which type of work experience they would consider most valuable in a potential employee. It can also be worth enquiring whether there are work-experience/internship opportunities in the very company/organisation you would most like to work within. This could also be an invaluable way to obtain an 'insiders' view of your chosen profession, to see if it really is the career path for you.

Internships and work-experience placements can also be useful ways of breaking into careers which are notoriously difficult to gain a foothold within, for example within the arts. Making a strong, positive impression of your ability to perform well in the workplace, as well as academically, may just give you the edge you need when competing against other graduates.

Extracurricular Activities

University life also offers the opportunity to experience a wide-range of extracurricular activities, giving you great opportunities to become involved in the many pursuits you have always wanted to try your hand at. However, you may also find that the variety of situations you found yourself in while undertaking these activities may also give you experience which an employer may perceive as valuable - leadership/organisational skills or your ability to perform well under pressure, for example.

Where To Search

Publications - Even if you are just beginning to consider which career you would like to move into, it can be worth subscribing to (or borrowing from your careers library) trade journals and publications relevant to the professions you are interested in. This should give you a sense not only of the positions available in the field but also a clearer idea of the news and current developments within the sector. Another, rather more obvious - but nonetheless important - point is to make sure you do not forget that national newspapers carry specialised careers supplements and recruitment sections. Find out which day each paper publishes recruitment pages for your area of interest.

Careers fairs, particularly those aimed specifically at graduates, can also be an invaluable source of information, and a useful opportunity to speak face to face with representatives of the companies you are interested in. Find out from your careers office if a fair will be coming to your university. If not you may well find there will be a similar graduate fair in a city close to you.

The Internet is of course also an invaluable tool in terms of careers research, not least in terms of being able to take a good look around the websites of companies/organisations you are interested in. In this way you should be able to find out more about how the company operates and check their application procedures and requirements.

There are also a host of 'job-board' sites on the Internet, some of which are industry specific and others which cover a wide range of positions. It is often possible to register with these sites in order to have employment opportunities emailed to you as they are posted on the sites, to ensure you don't miss new postings.

Recruitment agencies can also provide valuable assistance when job hunting and, once again, you will find that some agencies specialise in specific sectors while others are far more general. Temporary work can also be found through recruitment agencies and can be a flexible way to earn money while you are searching for something more permanent. 'Temping' can also be another method of 'testing the water' in a specific employment sector especially with so-called 'temp to perm' jobs. These can be particularly useful as they give both the employee and the employer the opportunity to see whether the position is right for you in the long term. Take a look at Temping Tips for Graduates, also compiled by The CV Centre UK, for further information on temping and recruitment agency procedures.

Alumni - You may find that your lecturers and tutors have kept in touch with recent graduates. If possible find out if a previous student has followed the path you are thinking of taking and see whether you could contact them to answer any questions you may have about the reality of the career you are considering.

Application Procedures

Once you have identified which sectors you wish to find employment within, make sure you have up-to-date information about their recruitment procedures and deadlines. Application procedures vary across professions but you are likely to need to tackle on-line application forms, traditional paper application forms and of course be able to provide a well written and well presented CV, in addition to producing a range of persuasive cover letters. It is vital that these documents are properly prepared.

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