Some graduates step out of Uni and into the grad scheme they always dreamed of after surviving some gruelling assessment centres and group interviews. Others struggle to decide what they want to do and take a Masters level course to put off the inevitable. However, regardless of when it happens, every graduate will face that first job hunt.
This is new territory. This isn’t the same as finding that retail job over Christmas, or the pub job you held over the summer. Of course, all that previous experience will stand you in good stead and help you when you come to the interview process, but this is no longer a job to “get by”; it’s got to be the job of your dreams, hasn’t it?
It’s incredibly easy, when searching for your first grad job, to rule out a lot of options because they aren’t the Cinderella shoe of occupations. Maybe it doesn’t pay your ideal wage (we all have that 25k figure in mind!), maybe it isn’t in the type of company you’re looking for, or maybe it simply doesn’t sound as interesting as sitting at home watching Netflix. Unfortunately though, in overlooking all the vacancies that aren’t “perfect”, we run the risk of missing opportunities that could provide excellent learning platforms. Fundamentally, you might need to make some compromises.
Fortunately, there are lots of jobs you can apply for that will provide you with a host of transferrable skills, which will make your next round of applications much easier. Perhaps you want to eventually go into finance; try looking for administration jobs that will provide you with knowledge of various software packages. If you’re hoping to win a legal training contract, try applying for a job as a legal secretary to get you some on-the-job experience to talk about in your application.
I realise I may be teaching you to suck eggs here – the real issue with finding a graduate job is striking the balance between something you’re reasonably qualified to apply for and something you’re incredibly OVER qualified for. Sadly, most recent graduates have to settle for the latter. There’s absolutely no harm in applying for jobs you think sound interesting and require more experience than you can provide, but in reality, your first post-uni job might make you want to scratch your eyes out with boredom. However, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to gain from it.
When beginning (or 6 weeks in) the job hunt, try to search for establishments that show room for progression. Do they provide any continued professional development opportunities? What’s the scope for progression? Is it an entry level job that might see you on a training scheme in a year? One of my friends even got a professional development budget to use to complete relevant training courses of her choice. We aren’t all that well treated – I’ve spend over £600 on CPD in the last 7 months – and it makes a difference.
My main problem when I was searching for job number 1 was that I was looking for a long-term solution to my short-term problem of lacking experience but holding a high level degree. I didn’t even really lack experience if I’m honest, but the experience I did have was only relevant to one career path, and that was a path I didn’t want to take.
My advice would be to look for a reasonable job that can provide you with a good learning opportunity, looks good on paper, and would be reasonable to leave in a year to 18 months. Now is the opportunity to find your stepping stone. I stumbled across a vacancy at exactly the right time that was only a school year long and provided me with some relevant experience, as well as an opportunity to determine the path I wanted to take. Off the back of that, I’ve landed a role I plan to stay in for a bit longer, while also taking on a bunch of other development opportunities to help me get to where I want to be.
I was under a bit of a misapprehension that once you finish Uni and graduate with the grade you wanted, you’ll land the job you want and work your way up the ladder. Sadly, graduation is only the beginning of your professional journey and sometimes it can feel as if you’re 10 steps behind the people you went to school with that chose not to study for a degree. It’s a longer journey to get ahead, but hopefully it’ll be worth it in five or ten years’ time.
Of course, the job hunt itself comes with a host of nightmares. It begins with tweaking your CV perfectly to suit a role, then noticing once it’s sent that you’ve made a glaring spelling mistake in the first line. You’ll get to a point where seeing another application form to fill in makes you want to cry, and when you haven’t heard yet again whether or not your application was successful, you’ll be just about ready to give up and apply for a Masters for something to do with your life.
Eventually, you’ll find something. An advertisement will pop up and you’ll think “yep, I can do that!” and you’ll finally walk out of an interview feeling good about it, and you’ll accept the job when they offer it. You might accept out of desperation, or because you realise that it’s a really good opportunity, but it doesn’t matter why. What matters is that you can use this as a platform to develop your career and progress to roles you actually want. After all, it’s easier to get a job when you already have one.