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How to Get the Best Graduate Jobs: Secrets Revealed
Nobody ever said that being a grown-up would be easy, but who knew that life post-uni would be so hard? Now that the cap and gown have been returned, it's time to burst the student bubble and get one of those job thingys.
Fortunately, here at Agency Central, we're on hand to reveal the secrets to a successful graduate job search and help you make the transition to full-time working adult.
Write a top graduate CV
Okay, so we don't want to tell you how to suck eggs, but having a strong CV is an absolute must for any graduate. Although this is the case for any job seeker, graduates typically lack the experience and contacts that a more well-travelled candidate might have. This means that your CV has to be particularly well polished and appeal to employers who may be on the fence about hiring someone fresh out of university.
5 tricks for writing a graduate CV
1. If emailing a CV, use your name in the file name. Simply labelling it 'CV.doc' isn't memorable and will make it difficult for employers to find.
2. Save the file as a Word document, as some companies won't be able to open other formats.
3. While it can be tempting to break CV writing convention in order to stand out, only do so if it suits the tone of the company. For instance, a marketing firm might appreciate some creativity, however an accounting firm probably won't.
4. Make your CV keyword friendly. CVs are often screened by online databases, so candidates need to think of terms that employers will be looking for.
5. Only include statements that you can back up in an interview situation. Make the most of what you've got, but remember that you're likely to be quizzed on anything you include as 'experience' or a 'skill,''
Is lying on your CV illegal?
Did you know that wild exaggerations and false statements on your CV are classed as fraud? I know this might seem a bit OTT, especially if you're just applying for that local shelf-stacking job, but lying about qualifications or skills can result in legal action if you're employed as a result of this fabrication.
A survey by the UK Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) found that around a third of graduates have lied on their CV. 40% were found to have falsified their grades / qualifications, while some had even made up a degree altogether.
...the UK Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) found that around a third of graduates have lied on their CV.
The punishment for CV fraud? Well, potentially, candidates can be given a prison sentence of 10 years. Okay, so this if for the more extreme cases, but a prison term time of 6 months or more isn't uncommon for the offence.
Consider a graduate CV writing service
If you're not confident in your ability to write a professional looking and effective CV, there are services available that will happily do it for you (paid, of course). CV writing services for graduates are now commonplace in the world of employment, with countless solutions out there tailored to your budget.
A CV writing service is designed to help you present yourself to employers in the best way possible. They will be able to format your CV correctly, write it effectively and tailor it to the job you're applying for. All of this will come at a cost, with some offering more comprehensive packages than others.
If you can't justify the cost of a professional writing service (or you just want the satisfaction of doing it yourself), you will find a seemingly infinite amount of CV templates with just a simple Google search.
Why not read our guide to writing a CV?
Use social media
Social media is essentially the virtual face of your real-life self, so it pays to invest some time into making your profiles as attractive as possible. These little snapshots of you will be the landing page for employers and recruiters, meaning that you might want them to portray a fully functioning grown up, rather than someone who's no stranger to a little traffic cone theft (it's a student rite of passage, right?). Polish your profile
Every social network, from LinkedIn to Instagram, has what is known as a 'profile' and all can be edited to make them fit for purpose. Profiles are predominantly split into two main components:
1. Profile picture
Your profile picture is likely to be the first time that a prospective employer sees you, so make sure that it's not too damning.
Photographs of drunken debacles and holiday hijinks aren't likely to be looked upon too favourably by the HR department, so it's best to play it safe. Graduation pics are fine, as are smiling headshots. Basically, anything you wouldn't be too embarrassed for your grandparents to see.
The bio part of any profile is your little 'about me' section that gives people an insight into who you are (or who you want people to think you are). Although there is a limit on how many characters you can use, there's enough to paint a picture of what you're looking for and what you've got to offer.
Think of your social media bio as a headline that employers will potentially use to decide whether to read on or not. Unsurprisingly, employers aren't really looking to hire 'legends' or 'ninjas' and are instead on the lookout for graduates that appear at least somewhat professional.
When constructing a social media bio, think of the following:
What have you got to offer to employers?Does your bio TELL people what you can do, or SHOW them?Have you included overused buzzwords such as 'innovative' or 'guru'?Do you appear as an expert in your chosen field?Are there keywords that will make you searchable?
There isn't a formula as such for writing a good bio, but the best ones tend to be positive, original and most importantly ... HUMAN. A little wit is also welcome, but get someone else to read over it first. You're obviously going to find yourself funny, but someone else might not!
The best way to use social media is to start making connections. These public networks afford users access to billions of people worldwide, including companies, industry influencers and recruiters. Each platform has a different term for 'connecting,' but they all essentially do the same thing. By connecting, you're filling up your home screen / news feed with content from that user. This enables you to expand your knowledge of your industry and communicate with those that are in it.
There's no real trick to following or connecting with people, just do it! The only thing to consider is who exactly you want to appear on your feed. Organisations that you would be interested in working for are a good place to start, as they will often advertise vacancies through their own social media accounts. Big names in the industry are also wise to follow, as are like-minded professionals.
Don't just be a passive social media user though, get involved and engage with the people you're connected with. Have an opinion, share an article and get people used to seeing your username. This can go some way to helping you develop a brand in your chosen field.
Make the most of each network
If you want to know how you can make the most of each individual platform, take a look at our handy infographic below.
Don't be afraid to start from the bottom
Just because you now have this super duper degree, it doesn't mean you're suddenly above an entry-level position. Sometimes, playing the long game is the key to a good career, so getting your foot through the door (even if it is in the most menial of menial jobs) might put you on the right path.
In 2015, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reported that nearly 60% of graduates are overqualified for their position. Now, while this may be a reflection of the current job market, it also shows a need for university leavers to enter the school of hard knocks, after leaving the cushy bubble of student existence.
When referring to jobs at the bottom rung of the ladder, newspapers are quick to throw around the term 'low-skilled,' but this doesn't mean that you can't learn a thing or two working on a latte conveyor belt or moving a few boxes around.
Employers want experience
While you should no doubt be commended for getting that degree, employers are often more interested in what you've achieved in the 'real-world.' Although three years and £30,000 can teach you quantum ideas, it doesn't necessarily afford you the skills that employers are looking for.
Craig Tomlinson, Managing Director at Esca Recruitment Limited, believes that a lack of work experience is what holds some graduates back from finding work. He said: "Although a healthy mix of experience and qualifications is perfect, experience is valued more by employers. Why? Because experience teaches graduates transferable skills that makes them more adaptable and work-ready."
The graduate market has always been competitive, however employers are finding it difficult to recruit 'work-ready' candidates. The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) showed that in 2014, 45% of employers had unfilled vacancies, despite the fact that graduate unemployment remains high - around 7%. This means that while employment can still be difficult to find for graduates, those who are willing to take on a so-called 'lesser' role, will likely be more sought after than those who are holding out for their ideal job.
Consider an Internship
An internship can be a great stepping stone for graduates who are willing to trade a high paying role for skills and contacts. Internships are offered by companies to provide work experience for candidates, with the possibility of full-time employment at the end of the period.
The benefits of doing an internship are clear; if the organisation likes you, they're likely to offer you a permanent position. If they decide against taking you on (it might not be personal), you've gained valuable experience that will look impressive on a CV.
With time on your hands, it wouldn't be completely out of left field to consider a spot of volunteering. As well as 'giving back,' a little voluntary work can provide you with the tools to find a future career - perhaps one that you'd never even thought about.
Volunteering has long been a favourite CV buzzword amongst employers. It implies people skills, selflessness and a willingness to leave one's comfort zone. In addition to adding some considerable weight to your job application, volunteering can put some much-needed names into your contact book. When looking for a job, it's often a case of who you know rather than what you know, and volunteering can put you in touch with some very useful people. You never know, what starts as a voluntary position, could soon become a paid role.
For some people, starting from the bottom simply isn't an option. While there are obvious benefits for landing that entry-level role, freelancing might provide a more attractive alternative for those that favour a less conventional career path.
Freelancing is a form of work where you aren't exclusively tied to one company. As a freelancer, you'd essentially be your own boss and may be hired by a number of diverse businesses to perform a particular task.
Developing a top graduate freelance brand is all about finding your niche, promoting yourself and consistently adding value to clients.
Some professions are better suited to freelance work than others, with the creative sectors typically dominating the field. While anyone could potentially become a freelancer, graduates with skills in writing, web development or SEO will be more in demand.
Who will your clients be?
As a new entrant to the world of freelance, clients will inevitably come from your own network of connections. Your recently established graduate status probably won't be enough to entice top organisations just yet, so reach out to the people you already know and see if they'll take a punt on you. Eventually, you'll be able to develop a portfolio and a reputation that people outside of your friendship circle will be interested in.
Money, money, money
Of course, the main challenge for a freelancer is money. When starting out, jobs are likely to be infrequent and rates are likely to be low. In an effort to attract projects, you may be tempted to work for nothing (or for as good as) but this short-term tactic may lead to longer term issues. Once you've established yourself as a low price service, it can be difficult to suddenly up your rate, so try and be realistic with your fees from the onset.
Do you have a personal brand?
When trying to make it on your own, building a personal brand is absolutely key to any potential success. In the beginning, attracting work will be difficult, but learning to market yourself effectively should hopefully ease the strain. Developing a top graduate freelance brand is all about finding your niche, promoting yourself and consistently adding value to clients. Not only this, you need to be able to differentiate yourself from other freelancers - something that isn't necessarily easy if you're all offering the same thing. Social media and online forums offer the chance to sell yourself as an 'expert' in your field, while networking can help you get your name out there.
- You are your own boss
- There's more variety than your standard 9-to-5
- Choose your clients
- Can work from home
- Minimal job security
- Infrequent income
- Responsible for EVERYTHING
- Can be isolating
- Have to market yourself
The life of a freelancer is tough, but can potentially be so much more rewarding. Think carefully before diving straight in though, as this career path certainly isn't for everyone. Fortunately, this method of working can be done while looking for a more permanent role (or even if you're already in a job), allowing you to dip your toe in the water without fully committing.
Consider graduate recruitment agencies
If your search for graduate employment is constantly leading you to dead ends, then it might be time to enlist the help of a recruitment agency.
Simply, a graduate recruitment agency specialises in placing university leavers into job vacancies. They will work alongside employers to find the best graduate candidates within a particular location or industry.
So how does it all work?
After getting in touch with an agency, you will have some form of consultation with a recruiter. This could be face-to-face, over the phone or via email, and is designed to give the recruiter an insight into your skills and ambitions. Your CV will then be sent out for the positions that you're most suited for.
How much will it cost?
Here's the best part...using a recruitment agency to find a job will cost you absolutely nothing! Technically, the agency is working on behalf of the employer, so it's they that pick up the bill, not the job seeker. What this does mean, however, is that the agency's goal is to find candidates for the employer, not the other way around. If you're the right person for a role they're trying to fill though, then this doesn't really matter.
Why use a graduate recruitment agency?
Because graduate recruiters tend to have relationships with a large network of employers, adding them to your job hunting arsenal should increase your chances of finding employment. These links between agencies and employers also afford you access to vacancies that you might not have found on traditional job boards, with many firms preferring to go straight to the recruiter. Furthermore, agencies are always on the lookout for top graduates, so if you consider yourself a strong candidate, your approach will certainly be welcomed.
Even if you don't find a job this way, the no-cost nature of the service means that you have nothing to lose, so why not go for it? You can find graduate recruitment agencies here.
There are few guarantees when it comes to job hunting, and even less when you're a graduate. Just follow our simple steps though and you'll hopefully boost your chances of landing that dream career. Good luck!