As the end of your time at university hurtles ever closer, and your future edges its way over the horizon, one question sticks out amongst the cacophony of deadlines, exams, dissertation meetings and pens scrawling notes: what the hell do I do next? Searching for your ideal first rung on the career ladder can seem a daunting and stressful process, but it doesn’t have to be. So, here are some hopefully helpful tips on landing that dream grad job that will make it easier, quicker, and slightly less painful.
1) Don’t be afraid of spreadsheets
One of the hardest things I found when going through the graduate job search was keeping track of all the different schemes and all the different deadlines. Sometimes I’d find a really interesting opportunity but found the deadline didn’t open for another month and by the time it finally did open, I’d forgotten what it was.
Keeping a spreadsheet of all the different schemes your interested in applying to, as well as their deadlines, as you come across them, can help bring organisation and clarity to your job search and ensure you never miss a good’un. It can also help you keep track of what you’ve already applied for, which, trust me, is very useful.
2) Start early
With deadlines, revision and third-year stresses baring down on you, thinking about the next chapter of your life can seem light-years away. But take it from someone who has been there, it hits you in a flash. Many application deadlines open incredibly early in the year, some even begin in October/November, so take some time over summer and the beginning of term before college starts ramping up intensity to start your search.
Future you will be grateful, as applying for jobs during exam time is not something present you will want to be doing.
3) Learn how to write a very good e-mail
Some of the best opportunities, contacts and jobs I’ve gotten in the past have all begun with an e-mail.
If there’s a company you’d love to work for, it’s always worth sending them an e-mail to express your interest through this alternative channel. Companies always appreciate a brave self-starter who thinks outside the box and doesn’t take the usual route.
Find someone at the company who is in charge of, or works in, the relevant department, and send them an E-mail – almost like a cover letter – and attach your CV. Tell them why you want to work for them, what your key experiences are, and why you’d be the perfect candidate.
Be prepared that you may not always get a reply, and be prepared for rejection, but out of 10 E-mails, if one comes back with a positive response, then it’s been worth it. But, even if you do get a rejection, you can form a working relationship with that person, who may send you future opportunities, or be able to advise you on your next steps.
4) Do your research
Many graduate schemes have a long and arduous application process with many different tasks and steps to complete. Doing some research by looking at forums (like The Student Room), talking to friends and engaging in chat rooms can give you a huge advantage. Find people who have already been through the process, and reach out to them to see how they landed the job.
Getting as many tips, tricks and hints on how to pass the process and what to expect can greatly increase your chances of success, and get you as prepared as possible.
5) Spread your search
If you’re not quite sure which industry or sector you want to work in, don’t worry; the first thing you do after university doesn’t have to be the last thing you do after university.
If you’re stuck for what sort of graduate schemes to look for, take some time to really understand what is important for you to get from a job. Whether that’s helping people, money, creativity, or having time to do other things.
Make a list of your top three or four requirements, and search for graduate schemes that fulfil those requirements.
Realising the general things you want from your work means that you have a basis from which to start your search, and can have a wider diversity of schemes to choose from. The more the merrier!